I promised a lighthearted post about a dead filmmaker, a man who wanted to be dead and an exemplary wife. You probably guessed…the dead film director is Frank Capra. The fictional character who wanted to be dead is George Bailey and Mary is George’s exemplary wife. In a previous post, ‘Yours, Mine and Ours – Not’, I divulged my passion for old movies. My favorite movie of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Frank Capra certainly doesn’t rank with my previous Puritans and other dead men, but he is dear to my heart (and he was Sicilian Italian American, like me!). No, he was not a Reformed Presbyterian, but the film has some good lessons and Christian morals if your eyes and ears are open.
Interesting fact: “In 1945, Frank Capra visited Seneca Falls in the state of New York to look for inspiration for the town of Bedford Falls. The two towns are very similar as they are both mill towns, they both had a grassy median down the main street (Seneca Falls does not anymore), both communities boast Victorian architecture and a large Italian population, and they both have toll bridges very similar to each other. The locations are both close to Buffalo, Rochester, and Elmira.”– from Wikipedia.
Another reason to love Frank Capra – he was inspired by my beloved New York!
But let’s get back to my main focus: what is the true ideal of a godly Christian wife? My previous post featured J.R. Miller’s The Christian Wife, so let’s refer back to that here. Let’s examine Mary Bailey and see if we can plug her character into Miller’s attributes of a godly Christian wife.
- Faithfulness – Mrs. George Bailey certainly was a faithful wife. Her faithfulness went beyond mere commitment. She loved George for a long time. In fact, several years before she walked down the aisle with him she said, “George Bailey, I’ll love you ’til the day I die.” Mary was more than committed; she was devoted. So many people stay together because they took a vow. Because they must lie in the bed they made. Because they both agree to peacefully coexist. Commitment is a cold word. I don’t want to be committed. People are committed to institutions. I’d rather be devoted. Mary was devoted.
- A good housekeeper – Mary Bailey loved that old Granville house even in its decrepit state. She created a honeymoon suite for George when they were unable to travel for that honeymoon. Hens were roasting in the fireplace, posters and curtains were up, candles were glowing. She cleaned that old house up, hung wallpaper, and created a welcoming (albeit drafty) nest for George and her children. We see her bustling about the kitchen on Christmas Eve, preparing a meal while the house was invitingly decorated and ready for company.
- Generous and warmhearted – Mary’s excellent household management on the meager salary George earned at Bailey Building and Loan was phenomenal. The Baileys had four children who were well-dressed and fed. As for generosity that extended beyond her own roof, remember it was Mary who held up her own honeymoon money when there was a run on the banks. She was willing to help others and sacrifice her dreams of a getaway with George. You can’t get more selfless and generous than that.
- Keeps up her personal appearance as well as her inner life – Mary always looked attractive when George got home from the office. We never see her in sweatpants. She looked lovely as she accompanied her husband to Bailey Park to present new homeowners with a blessing of bread, wine and salt. As for her inner life, we don’t know about that. But she did direct her children to pray when they saw their daddy looking so troubled.
- Character – Mary Bailey had strong character and values. She was not materialistic. She wished to live in that old Granville house years before she was actually able to do so. We never hear her complain about her old house, their lack of money and extravagant vacations. Mary is a picture of contentment. She is an encouragement to her husband. It is not made known whether she finds her wisdom and strength in Christ, but I like to think so.
In one of the scenes where George is apparently non-existent, he wants to see his wife. Clarence tells George that without him, Mary became an old maid who works at the library. Let me rewrite the scene. If Mary never met George, I could imagine her curled up in a corner of the library reading the Puritans on marriage – and praying!
Mary Bailey is a wonderful wife for a wonderful life. Though there is much to love about this movie, It’s a Wonderful Life offers a weak moral at the end – no man is a failure who has friends. I think that’s so lame! No man is a failure if he has JESUS CHRIST. Friends fail us all the time. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24. Jesus is that friend that sticks closer than a brother. And He never fails. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” — John 15:13-15
The world is not immeasurably better because George was born, or I was born. It’s not all about the brotherhood of man. Of course, Hollywood doesn’t include Christ in anything. The world is better because Jesus Christ was born, Emmanuel, God with us. I hope He is your Savior, King and Friend. Merry Christmas!