I must’ve seen the holiday classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE over a hundred times but watching it this holiday season I thought of something that never hit me before. In the movie the angel, Clarence, repeatedly mentions that he’s reading THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER and in the end he leaves a copy of it with an inscription to George Bailey. I always assumed that the director, Frank Capra, and the writer chose this book as a ‘folksy’ touch and a way to take the focus off of any religious feeling we might have about an angel. Instead of having him holding a bible or some other more spiritual book.
But then I got to thinking how, in Twain’s book, Tom Sawyer is perceived as dead and he wanders back to town and observes his own funeral. Tom hears how much his family and friends loved him…just as George realizes how much he is loved by seeing what the world would be like if he had never been born. I can’t believe I never made this connection before. A beautiful one hidden in this great classic. Now I love this movie that much more for the realization. “No man is a failure who has friends.” Indeed. Thanks Mr. Capra and Mr. Twain. And Merry Christmas, one and all.