Christmas Countdown: It Happened One Christmas

I am going to write something that might possibly upset a lot of people:

I like It Happened One Christmas more than It’s a Wonderful Life.

Made for TV in 1977, It Happened One Christmas is from a period where It’s a Wonderful Life had yet to be resurrected as a Christmas staple. It reverses the gender of the protagonist — now, our lead is Mary Bailey (Marlo Thomas).

While it is a pretty straightforward remake of It’s a Wonderful Life, there is just something really heartbreaking at Mary having to watch everyone in her life (all men, by the way) get the opportunities she wanted. It does seem like it’s about the sacrifices women are asked to make for men and their families and I can see why Thomas was interested in this.

The cast is good — Orson Welles as Mr. Potter is a particularly good touch. While it suffers from 70s made-for-TV production values (especially with the costuming), it’s charming and well-done. The sequence where Mary sees what life was like if she hadn’t lived was fun and garish.

As much as I understand It’s a Wonderful Life is a masterpiece, I just related to this version more.

It Happened One Christmas seems to come and go off streaming services. It was on Amazon Prime last year but has once again disappeared. The whole movie is on YouTube, though.

It’s a Wonderful Life is available on Amazon Prime (the colorized version is also there — why?) and also can be rented on various other services, plus on DVD and Bluray. It’s also on E! all day today (Dec. 25, 2021).