I am an endangered species, one of a rare breed. I have never seen "It's a Wonderful Life" all the way through. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, you can take comfort in knowing, as of yesterday, I have now seen the movie. Every year at Christmas time, NBC would show this movie (usually on Christmas Eve, if not 55 other times between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and I'd start the movie but by the time George Bailey sings with Mary "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" I'd lose interest. Those who know me best are aware that my all-time favorite Christmas flick (from the classic genre) is Holiday Inn, followed closely by Miracle on 34th Street (original version, in black and white) and White Christmas. But, I know there is this faction of Bedford Falls followers that would gasp in disbelief that watching this movie wasn't a tradition of mine. You would think I'd have defamed Rudolph or something.
Every summer the Louisville Palace hosts a summer movie series. On Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening, for two months in the summer, they show a genre of classic movies for a mere $5 a ticket. Past series have included Hitchcock movies and movie musicals. This summer the theme is Jimmy Stewart movies. The Palace is located on 4th Street in downtown Louisville and the perfect venue for a classic movie series. Built in 1928, it was originally built to be a movie theater and was restored some years back to its original ornate and beautiful decor as a location on the National Register of Historic Places. Now it hosts many a concert and theaterical production, and the annual classic movie series. This series includes all of the well-known Jimmy Stewart classics - Rear Window, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey, Vertigo - and others...including It's a Wonderful Life. Since it's July and hotter than all get out here in the Ville, it seemed appropriate to go with some friends to see what is traditionally known as a Christmas movie. Consider this my version of Christmas in July.
For those other rare species like myself who may not have seen the movie, it's the story of George Bailey. George has big dreams, but things always seem to keep him from getting to those big dreams. This movie theme alone hooked me in as I'm a lover of Mr. Holland's Opus and any movie that shows a life traveling an unplanned road, but when looking back, you see how you have touched and changed many a life. George was that kind of guy. From saving his brother from a death via falling in a frozen lake to marrying the love of his life who had loved him since childhood. Yet, all along the way, he felt like his life was worth nothing. George even gets to the point that he decides the world is better off without him and he decides to jump off the bridge and leave his wife with his life insurance policy. But, Clarence, the angel, jumps in and George feels compelled to save him and thus begins Clarence's journey to get his wings. He does this by showing George what the world would be like without him. Needless to say, the movie ends happily and for those few Whos in Who-Ville who haven't seen the movie, I won't completely spoil it.
Sometimes it's nice to stop in the middle of the hot, sweaty summer and watch a story that normally life is too busy to truly allow me to let it soak in during the holiday season. This is just that movie. And, I can hear Clarence say to George, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" Thanks, Clarence, for the reminder that no matter how big or small we seem in life, or no matter if we live out our wildest dreams or not, our lives touch others and make a huge impact, even when we think not. That's a lesson that should ring true throughout the year, not just when the Christmas bells are ringing. Maybe I'll make this my new Christmas in July tradition.