It's a Wonderful Life was shown in a charity preview at New York's Globe Theatre the day before its official premier on this day in 1946. The film was directed by Frank Capra and starred Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore. It became an instant holiday hit.
Based on the story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, it focused on a man who believed he was a failure in life--all because he never left the small town where he grew up. George Bailey, ran his family's small-town savings and loan, something he swore as a child he’d never do. George, a decent and good man who served his town well, struggled to make ends meet at a job he never really loved. When disaster strikes, Bailey decides to commit suicide. But then, in a Christmas Carol-like twist of fate, an angel named Clarence helps George see what life would have been like in the town if he had never been born. In the process, he rediscovers all the things that matter most--and realizes that he has actually had them all along.
The film's emotional ending, vindicating the values of hard-work, community, faithfulness, service, loyalty, friendship, faith, family, and true love, is an undoubted classic.
It's a Wonderful Life was reportedly the favorite work of both actor Stewart and director Capra from their long and illustrious careers. And, as you might have guessed, it is one of my all-time favorite films as well--holiday or otherwise.