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“It’s a Wonderful Life”: What This Almost Forgotten Film Teaches About Resilience and Success

“It’s a Wonderful Life”: What This Almost Forgotten Film Teaches About Resilience and Success

“It’s a Wonderful Life”: What This Almost Forgotten Film Teaches About Resilience and Success 2560 1706 Alicia East

Every year during the holidays, my mom starts hunting for a movie companion. The memories around this ritual stand out to me because my mom is allergic to sitting still. This, of course, presents an obstacle to family movie nights. For my mom, that meant that as she was setting up “It’s a Wonderful Life,” she was also setting up an ironing board and some baskets of clean clothes to be folded and pressed. Having a task to multi was her only way of making it through. Still, make it through she would.

By the time the film had reached its climax, the piles of laundry would be stacked neatly and she’d finally sit just long enough to shed a few tears and have a sentimental moment about the sweetness of life. The film was a staple of the holidays in our house, which is why I took extra interest in a podcast episode from The Journal that details how this beloved film’s journey to fame was paved by failure.

The film’s journey offers a lesson in how apparent failures can pave the way for enduring success. As a testament to resilience, it makes it that much more fitting that it remains my mom’s favorite holiday tradition.

A Not so Wonderful Start

Upon its release in 1946, expectations were high. Director Frank Capra had some successful films under his belt and the lead actor James Stewart was already a bonafide star. Still, critics gave it mixed reviews and it faced accusations of being overly sentimental. The film lost half a million dollars (a large sum for the time) and quickly faded into obscurity. It seemed destined to be a forgotten piece of cinematic history.

Finders Keepers

The film’s resurgence began in the 1970s, almost by accident. Due to a clerical oversight and the very fact that it had been so forgettable, its license was not renewed and “It’s a Wonderful Life” fell into the public domain. Television stations began broadcasting the soon-to-be-classic frequently during the Christmas season because they didn’t have to pay the usual fees for the rights. It became a staple of the holiday rerun factory and reached millions. It found its way into my mom’s living room (and heart) just as she was starting and growing her own family in the 1970s and 80s, so its message of hope, community, and the value of each life rang especially true to her. And so, what was once seen as a failure transformed into one of the most beloved and enduring films in American cinema.

Life Lessons From “It’s Wonderful Life”

The story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” mirrors its own narrative – the idea that value and success are not always immediately apparent. Its journey from a forgotten film to a cherished classic offers lessons about patience, resilience, and adaptability. So as we get ready to head into another year, we can remember what the film’s journey demonstrates: 

  • Success may not come immediately. Time can provide a new perspective and opportunities for appreciation.
  • Initial failure is not the end of the story. It can be a stepping stone to greater achievements.
  • Adaptability leads to rediscovery. The film found a new life in a different context. Sometimes, success comes from adapting and finding new ways to connect with an audience.

The Bottom Line

This film exemplifies how apparent failures can be reframed as opportunities for future success and encourages us to persevere through challenges, remain hopeful, and believe in the enduring power of our contributions. This holiday season, grab some laundry and have a (brief) seat: It’s a wonderful life indeed. 🌟🎄