The winner of the advent calendar is Diane Sallans! Thanks to everyone for dropping by to comment.
It comes about a third of the way through the movie. George has had one romantic night with Mary, danced with her and told her he’d lasso the moon for her, but then he’s been called away from her by his father’s illness. Mary goes to college. George gives up his own trip to Europe and his college education in order to save his dad’s Building and Loan from being shut down. He sends his kid brother, Harry, to college instead. Now, finally, Harry has graduated, and it’s George’s turn to leave—except that when Harry comes back to town, he brings a wife with him. She reveals to George that there’s a good opportunity for Harry in her father’s glass factory.
We know George well enough by this point to understand what the news means. All George wants—all he’s ever wanted—is to leave. But he’s incapable of putting what he wants in front of what’s good for the people he loves. George will stay so Harry can go.
But he is not happy about it.
Frustrated and stuck, he goes for a walk and ends up in front of Mary’s house, dragging a stick along the picket fence like a six-year-old boy looking for trouble. She asks him in. He’s surly and rude and horrible—but obviously attracted to her, all the same. “Where’d you get that dress?” he asks.
“Do you like it?” Her voice is full of hope.
His response is sullen, just this side of cynical. “It’s all right.”
They exchange awkward small talk. Mary tells him she was homesick at college. She might as well be wearing a sign that reads I am going to stay here forever. I am a human trap. I am the embodiment of Bedford Falls, with beautiful skin and a beautiful heart.
George is a clenched fist, pure frustration.
Things go downhill from there. Her nosy mother is upstairs, trying to get George out of the house because Mary’s about to get a long-distance phone call from her suitor, Sam—one of George’s high school friends who’s left town and become a successful businessman while George stayed home and stagnated. Sam calls. George tries to leave, but he forgets his hat, and he ends up getting pulled into the phone call. He shares a receiver with Mary, listening to Sam tell them both about a plastics factory that’s the chance of a lifetime.
And George—poor George—he’s so stuck. He loves Mary, he loves Bedford Falls, and he can’t turn it off. He can’t figure out how to stop being a decent person and just leave, and he’s so angry about that. The camera pans in tighter and tighter on their faces, so close because they need to be able to hear the phone. Desperation is coming off George in waves. He tells Mary he doesn’t want to get married, ever, to anyone. He says her name like a plea. And finally, finally, he kisses her so hard that she drops the phone. He kisses her with everything he’s got. It’s an assault and a capitulation, all in one brutal, desperate kiss.
Oh, man, it just kills me.
For me, George and Mary’s first kiss is what passion looks like. The connection, the compulsion that George feels around Mary—it’s not convenient or even pleasant for him, but he needs it. He needs her.
When my editor asked me if I wanted to write a Christmas novella, It’s a Wonderful Life became my inspiration—and this scene in particular. There’s something so compelling about the story of a man who wants to leave and a woman who makes him want to stay—and who helps him reevaluate what it really means to make the world a better place.
In the end, the message of the film is that it isn’t easy to be a decent human being. It requires sacrifice, and sometimes it’s gut-wrenching to give up what you want to do for what you know you should do. But the reward, for George, is Mary. It’s family and community, friendship and belonging, and all the good he does in his town. The reward is love.
It makes me cry just thinking about it.
As part of the Twelve Days of Christmas promotion, I’m giving away one copy of Naughty and Nice at the Happy Ever After website today. The winner can have a digital copy or a paperback ARC, whichever they prefer. Drop by my post at HEA to enter.
Here, I’m offering a different gift: a handmade, reusable cloth advent calendar from Etsy. I’ll admit, I bought this because I have advent calendars on the brain. I wanted it for myself. But instead, I’m giving it away to you! Because this is the sixth day, I need six gifts, so I’m also throwing in four movie-quote Christmas cards and one little surprise in an advent calendar pocket.
To enter, just leave a comment below. If you feel like it, tell me what your favorite holiday tradition is — or, heck, your favorite movie kiss. Winners for all the Twelve Days of Christmas giveaways will be announced on Monday, November 26, and I’ll contact my own winners by e-mail (so fill in the e-mail comment field, which will not be visible to anyone but me). Also, be sure to check out the other posts at HEA for a chance to win books, and visit each author’s website to enter their gift giveaways!