Meaning of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

* Like many other Angelenos, my wife and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” as part of our holiday ritual. It is a beautiful, meaningful and uplifting film. The Christmas Day story in The Times about psychoanalyzing the characters and deconstructing the film was both amusing and frustrating.

The story and message are really quite simple: We are all children of God; each of us is equally important; what we do with our lives has resounding effects beyond our awareness on others; love of family and respect of friends are greater values than wealth; the true measure of individuals is how they helped others, not how far they have traveled, the sights they have seen or what they have accumulated.

These are the truths told by all religions. Strange that the film psychiatrists don’t get it.





“It’s a Wonderful Life” originated as a Christmas card/present by fiction writer Philip Van Doren Stern, and I was privileged to “cover” it as a story analyst at Columbia Pictures in 1944. It was titled “The Greatest Gift.” Stern had had it privately printed in a tiny hardcover booklet for his friends. One went to his agent and she submitted it to the studios. I recommended it to Columbia, but RKO bought it for Frank Capra.

Stern later wrote, “I thought the studios were crazy for buying it.” RKO paid $10,000.

Let psychologists and others analyze this property. It was written during the pain and depression of early World War II (lunch was 25 cents at the diner across from Columbia, if you could afford it). I believe Stern created all the characters and situations only to provide the setting for his theme: “Don’t despair. Your life has value. You have made the world better.” That was his Christmas message. May we all be motivated by it.


Century City


How fitting it is that during what is supposed to be a season of hope and goodwill, God helps us to forget the terrible events and terrible people of 1995 by reminding us of a wonderful, good, heroic person living right in our midst: Jimmy Stewart. Yes, God brought Jimmy back to our attention (Dec. 23.) when he stumbled in his home and banged his head on a table, causing him to spend a few days in hospital.

He was a B-17 bomber pilot flying dangerous Allied bombing missions over Nazi Germany, a B-17 group commander, an Air Force general, a legendary actor. Most important, he is a man who epitomizes integrity, honesty, moral courage and goodness of heart.


Long Beach