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The Extraordinary Censorship of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

With Notes on Its Academy Awards Snub in Favor of The Best Years of Our Lives; and the Film’s Striking Parallels to Another Inspiring Classic

9 January 2019

JAMES PERLOFF — Although the holiday season is behind us, I believe there are some remarks long overdue concerning the suppression of It’s a Wonderful Life, arguably America’s most beloved Christmas film of all time.

I first became aware of the movie nearly half a century ago when I was around 20. A local station happened to air it, in no connection with Christmas. It’s a Wonderful Life was, at that time, just another piece of forgotten cinema, not regarded as “a holiday classic.”

Yet even though I was a jaded agnostic youth, I found myself weeping uncontrollably as the life of Jimmy Stewart’s character fell apart. And I was a person who almost never cried at the movies. But there was something so endearing about George Bailey, it transcended the emotional barriers of all but the most hardened cynic.

When the movie was over, I knew I had experienced something special, several cuts above “standard Hollywood fare.” For me, the breaking point was when George began kicking and smashing things in full view of his children. It was a display of vulnerability that just wasn’t seen in Hollywood, where heroes were perennial tough guys with none of the everyday human “chinks in the armor” that the rest of us have. […]

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