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It's a Wonderful Life

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Angels are man’s and the movies’ way of dealing with the idea of God. They look like us, for one thing, so a casting call isn’t out of the question. For another, they allow directors to answer our prayers under the guise of eternal truths.

The hoary yet still affecting Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life, for instance, posits an angel for the aftermath of World War II: Clarence (Henry Travers) is old, tired, fuddly, but capable of nudging hero Jimmy Stewart toward renewed faith in the verities of small-town life. It’s Capra’s way of saying Why We Fought, and it’s a measure of how enervated the country felt in 1946 that he had to call on God to back him up. A