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Article updated: 12/14/2012 8:30 AM

Clergyman takes closer look at 'It's a Wonderful Life'

By

Christmas came early for me this year.

In April I was contacted by a publisher asking if I'd be interested in writing a book on the classic Christmas movie "It's a Wonderful Life."

Although they were unaware "It's a Wonderful Life" is my all-time favorite film, they were not unaware of my immediate response. "Absolutely!"

In the process of writing "Finding God in It's a Wonderful Life," I discovered there's a George Bailey in each of us.

Like the movie's protagonist, it is common for everyone to question the value of having been born. But when we feel like a failure, the back story of IAWL just might prompt us to press the pause button and render our self-critique premature.

"It's a Wonderful Life" was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1947: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Editing and Best Sound Recording. By the time Oscar's long night of celebrating was over, the Frank Capra film had been shut out. It didn't win one little gold statue.

The outcome was a real disappointment to Capra. The previous winner of multiple Oscars believed the movie was his best effort to date. But some critics thought the film too Pollyanna against the backdrop of the realities exposed in the war.

Although moviegoers were mostly positive about the film, it was not a smash hit and lost just shy of $500,000. The movie debuted in only a few theaters the week before Christmas, 1946. It was not released nationally until July of 1947. By that time, Frank Capra's Liberty Films had been sold to Paramount Pictures.

When all the statistics had been tallied, "It's a Wonderful Life" did not have such a wonderful life. Variety's list of movies released in 1946-47 found the Capra castaway in 27th place.

But as both "The Wizard of Oz" and "Citizen Kane" proved, movies thought to be disappointing flops when first released can be prematurely (and wrongly) judged. Such was the case with Capra's gem. But then something unexpected happened.

In 1974, almost 30 years after its release, the film's copyright protection expired due to a clerical error. As a result, the movie fell into public domain and television stations were able to show it without any royalty fee.

By 1994, when NBC TV purchased exclusive rights, "It's a Wonderful Life" had become a timeless Christmas classic.

Today, some seven decades after its debut, "It's a Wonderful Life" is on the American Film Institute's list of "100 Greatest Movies Ever Made" (coming in at 11) and was awarded the top spot on the list of "Most Inspiring Movies of All Time."

Isn't that amazing? The movie, just like its main character, illustrates the value of patience. When tempted to prematurely evaluate the impact or success of our performance on the stage of history, it is easy to jump to less-than accurate conclusions. And while easy, it is also wrong.

The right reaction in times of self-doubt and despair is to take a leap of faith and trust God with the scenes of our lives that are still in the process of being written.

The words of the Divine screenwriter recorded in the Old Testament spotlight our cause for optimism. "I know the plans I have for You, declares the Lord. Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Ÿ "Finding God in It's a Wonderful Life" by Greg Asimakoupoulos is available in print and Kindle form through Amazon.com. An audio version of the book read by the author is also available.

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