It's A Wonderful Life is a film that has consistently kept a spot on my own personal "Top 5 Films of All Time" list (the others include: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Lars and the Real Girl and Amelie) since I was nine. My Mom had me watch the entire 3.5 hour film beginning to end, and I thought it was the most beautiful movie about friendship. I probably watched it three times every Christmas season as a child...at least. I've caught onto different aspects of this film as I've gotten older though. I suppose that's what makes a great film.
Everyone always concentrates on the character of George Bailey, but his wife Mary was just as kind and just as sacrificial as her husband if not more so. She patiently waited for George to get past his aversion to marriage, and then willingly suggested they give up their honeymoon and their wedding money to save the Bailey family business. She chose to live in an "old abandoned drafty house" with her new husband fixing it up as nicely as she possibly could. When the war hit, she volunteered her time as a nurse on top of her motherly and wifely duties. Mary loved George, Bedford Falls, their house, their children, their friends. Everything about their life. Unlike her, George lived in a state of discontent and when his eyes were opened to the truth that success is not found in a high-powered job, through education or because of travel experiences. When he recognized that he was successful because he had a steadfast wife, children that adored him and faithful friends, he was finally able to give the "wonderful life" Mary deserved.
Donna Reed, although a woman that had the difficult task of balancing motherhood with marriage, work, and charity involvement, didn't possess the almost impossibly angelic wifely patience of her character in It's AWonderful Life. She went through three marriages, had four children, won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1953 for From Here to Eternity, wnet onto star in The Donna Reed Show, but then went onto entered into extreme career lows when she sued the nighttime eighties soap Dallas for firing her.Through her highs and lows, I'm confident she felt thankful for having the chance to prosper as well as triumph through trials. After already taking her seat on a plane in January 1945 when she was just 24 years old, Reed was bumped off when a military officer needed her seat--a seat on a plane that would crash in Burbank, CA and kill everyone on board. She was granted a miracle that day. She got to live her own wonderful life...and we got to see her play the perfect wife, mother, neighbor and friend every Christmas season.