Lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

My talented wife has written a set of lesson plans for It’s a Wonderful Life, the immediate occasion being our local professional theatre company’s production of the musical version. (See Stage Right Greensburg calendar.)

Based on Philip van Doren Stern’s story “The Greatest Gift” (1943), Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life celebrates the life of George Bailey, a good-hearted man who once dreamed of getting a college degree, travelling the world, and building big things (bridges, skyscrapers, airfields!) in the big world, but whose compassion and commitments to family, friends, and neighbors keep him in the small town of Bedford Falls. On the night when George feels most desperate and worthless, his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody intervenes and shows George an “alternate timeline” in which he never existed—leading George to a new appreciation of his town, his people, and himself. The story has been retold since in multiple radio plays, a gender-reversed film remake It Happened One Christmas (in which Clara Odbody helps one Mary Bailey, who wed George Hatch), and finally, in Sheldon Harnick and Joe Raposo’s popular stage musical It’s a Wonderful Life (1991). — Leigh Jerz, “It’s a Wonderful Life Lesson Plans”