Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” is often dismissed as just another sentimental, feel-good Christmas classic. But, in my opinion, it contains one of the most gripping and compelling dramatic scenes ever captured on film.
As Christmas Eve revelers drink and laugh in a crowded tavern filled with festive music, the camera slowly zooms in on a desperate man at the bar, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). He is an extraordinarily good man, but at this dark moment, he is facing ruin, scandal and jail, none of it deserved. Talking to himself and staring down at his drink, he whispers to himself, “Dear Father in Heaven, I’m not a praying man. But if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God.”
This harrowing close-up comes two thirds through this 1946 film that is still so familiar to so many of us. Indeed, some might say too familiar. Indeed, so many of us have watched this movie over the years—or passed on multiple opportunities to do so—that more than a few now roll their eyes at the prospect of committing two-plus hours to a syrupy, 67-year- old, black-&-white parable.
But if you’ve never seen "It’s a Wonderful Life," or have not watched it again since you started caring about character education, then let me suggest that you set aside the time to do so this year.