I have told you that The Polar Express is my favorite Christmas movie. But now I am going to confess that it was difficult to write… because I love It’s A Wonderful Life so much. I wasn’t quite sure which I loved more.
Of course, Jimmy Stewart is the heart and soul of the movie. But this year, something else jumped out at me as I watched the film for the millionth time.
Talk about an unsung hero.
There are funnier characters. There are prettier women. There are better actors, to be honest. But as a character, there is something appealing about Mary.
So I’ve identified a list of qualities in Mary that I admire.
1. Knows what she wants
Right from the start, Mary is the one who knows what she wants. In contrast to Violet, who selfishly wants everything, Mary has set her sights on George Bailey.
That’s quite a bit of vision for a seven-year-old girl, isn’t it?
Not only that, but she holds onto this dream all the way into her teen years. And when she sees that old abandoned house, she knows that’s where she wants to live.
I admire Mary’s decision, determination, and goals. And that she lets herself dream.
2. Doesn’t make herself ridiculous in pursuit of it
Again, there is such a contrast between Mary and Violet. Violet truly does make a fool out of herself in pursuit of George. And though he perhaps a bit distracted by Violet on occasion, I like to believe that he is never stupid enough to fall for her act.
Mary mentions at the dance that George “passes her in the street every day.” The implication is that he never noticed her. And that doesn’t exactly seem complimentary, does it? But if you think about it, it is. Tacitly, this implies that Mary was not like Violet – not trying to catch anyone’s eye, not trying so hard to impress that she looks silly in the process, not trying to flaunt herself.
Personally, I think that’s something to be proud of.
Something else that stands out is that Mary is dating Sam Wainwright when George and Mary get engaged. Now, we do get the impression that Mary’s mother is pushing for this, but you have to admire the fact that Mary isn’t “conveniently single” whenever George is around.
3. Has a sense of adventure
Living in a shabby house in your small, boring hometown doesn’t sound particularly exciting. At least, not to a person like me. Like George, I want to do things, go places. So I can’t say that I relate to Mary’s contentment.
But she does have a sense of adventure.
That house is seriously spooky. She has the spunk to be willing to fix it up and turn into a livable home. And she seems completely happy about touring Europe.
Maybe I can relate to this woman, after all.
4. Is generous with her own money
When the bank crashes and the people are in a panic, it’s Mary who holds up her wad of cash – money that was to be spent on a luxurious honeymoon – and offers it to the scared citizens of Bedford Falls.
Every time I see this scene, I am struck by how sweet this gesture is. How many wives would be angry with their husband of only a few hours running off and leaving her on their way to their honeymoon? I’m gonna venture a guess that most of us in Mary’s shoes wouldn’t react the way she does.
5. Is not afraid of poverty
This might be the most obvious of Mary’s admirable traits.
Mary honestly believes that as long as she has George, she doesn’t need anything else. She’s happy to live in an old house someone else abandoned, in a sleepy little town she has lived in her whole life.
She doesn’t aspire to see the world, the way George does. She doesn’t dream of changing the world, the way George does. He is all she wants.
She’s not scared of a hard life. George cannot comprehend this.
6. Has a sense of humor
There’s this one scene where George comes home, feeling like a failure. Mary wakes up and George asks her point-blank, “Why did you Mary a guy like me?”
I adore her response. It makes me laugh.
She says, “To keep from being an old maid.”
She’s got spunk!
7. Protects her children
At the end of the movie, George is distraught and is taking out his frustration on his wife, his children, and his daughter’s teacher. And his daughter’s teacher’s husband.
I’m always impressed by how Mary is willing to absorb his anger toward her – but she refuses to let him scare her kids.
I can’t help but think, “Good for her.”
She understands that he is scared and frustrated, but she has to protect her children.
What say you? Who is your favorite character in It’s A Wonderful Life? Anybody for Mary? Anybody for Violet? Are there any other admirable traits I missed? What is your favorite Christmas movie?