Would It Be a Wonderful Life?
Think we'd be better off if Hillary had won? Think again.
I’ve watched It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas season for as far back as I can remember. I’ve seen it so many times I can almost recite every line. I’ll probably watch it again sometime over the next couple of weeks. What I didn’t realize until recently was the film’s inauspicious beginnings:
Initial tickets sales were disappointing, and reviews mixed. Though it [It’s a Wonderful Life] received five Academy Award nominations, it did not win any Oscars. The film did not even come close to breaking even. Years later, the movie lapsed into the public domain, which allowed it to be broadcast without royalty fees.
The basis for director Frank Capra’s 1946 masterpiece is The Greatest Gift, a self-published short story by Civil War historian Philip Van Doren Stern, loosely based on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. But it wasn’t until television audiences rediscovered the film that the holiday classic made a stunning turnaround, becoming one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time:
It’s a Wonderful Life is now considered one of the greatest films of all time. It is No. 1 on the American Film Institute’s list of most inspirational movies. In 1990, the Library of Congress added it to the National Film Registry.
The film stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up on his dreams, remaining home to help the fictional hamlet of Bedford Falls. When a series of unfortunate events push Bailey to the brink of suicide — and wishing he’d never been born — his guardian angel intervenes. In a pivotal scene, the angel reveals to George how dramatically different life would be in Bedford Falls had he never been born, not just for the Bailey family but for the community as well.
I intended to write a different approach to Capra’s nightmarish vision of a Bedford Falls without George Bailey. As our democracy teeters on the edge of fascism and authoritarianism, I wanted to write a “What if Trump never was elected?” story, illustrating how wonderful things would’ve been had Hillary Clinton won the presidency in 2016. But as I gamed out this theory, things in an alternate timeline weren’t as rosy as I anticipated.
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