You have no doubt seen the greatest film ever made, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed and directed by Frank Capra. Stripped down to its essentials, it’s a story about the intercessory prayers of a woman named Mary…

Imagine my astonishment when I got an email from a daughter (I’ll preserve her anonymity) of Mrs. Reed who thanked me for this essay about the masterpiece that launched her mother’s career.


From left, Edward Arnold, Barbara Stanwyk, Gary Cooper, and Walter Brennan.

But you probably have not seen Capra’s other Christmas classic, the movie he made prior to going over to World War II, Meet John Doe (1941) starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.

Personal sidebar: two actors in this fine film happen to be buried near by daughter Naomi Rose in San Fernando Cemetery in Los Angeles — Edward Arnold who plays D.B. Norton; and Walter Brennan, who plays the Colonel. Oh, and Mr. Brennan is one of only three actors to win three Academy Awards (Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis are the other two).

Here is my Cinephile column on this strangely unknown Christmas classic. Both films build to emotionally satisfying (to say the absolute least) climaxes on Christmas Eve. Both merit Kleenex alerts.

In past Best Christmas Movies lists, I’ve been justly chided for neglecting Die Hard, starring the unredoubtable Bruce Willis. Like both Capra films, the tap root of Die Hard‘s impact is its Christmas Eve setting and its pro-marriage premise. If you’re looking for last minute recommendations, those are my go-two Christmas Eve picks. What are yours?

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Merry Christmas!