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Catholic director’s festive classic voted Britain’s favourite Christmas film

Catholic film director Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life has been voted as Britain’s favourite Christmas film in a new poll.

The 1946 festive fantasy drama narrowly beat 2003 Christmas comedy Elf to the accolade in the survey of more than 7,000 people by RadioTimes.com.

Starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, the film tells the story of George Bailey (Stewart), a man who has devoted his life to helping others and who is shown the value of his own life by a guardian angel to stop him killing himself.

The film, baced on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture, and has become a seasonal staple across the world.

Capra was raised in a Roman Catholic family but considered himself a ‘Christmas Catholic’. However, his faith grew much stronger after an anonymous man told him his talents were not his own, but God’s.

In his 1971 autobiography, The Name Above The Title, Capra recalled the man’s words: ‘The talents you have, Mr Capra, are not your own, not self-acquired. God gave you those talents; they are His gifts to you, to use for His purpose. And when you don’t use the gifts God blessed you with, you are an offense to God — and to humanity.’

Following this incident, Capra re-evaluated his faith and it became an underlying foundation for much of his work, with many of his movies presenting good overcoming evil. In It’s a Wonderful Life, Capra shows lead character Bailey in a desperate state, turning to God – “Lord, I’m at the end of my rope!” Bailey says.

Capra said: ‘My films must let every man, woman, and child know that God loves them, that I love them, and that peace and salvation will become a reality only when they all learn to love each other.’

Tim Glanfield, RadioTimes.com editor, said: “If there’s one thing that’s certain to bring the whole family together, it’s a good Christmas film.

“And our 72-year-old winner, It’s A Wonderful Life, sitting effortlessly alongside more modern classics like Elf and The Muppets, proves just that.

“It turns out there’s no sell by date on Christmas spirit – and a film that encapsulates it will stay with us for generations.”

The poll was conducted by RadioTimes.com between November and December 2018, and received 7,242 responses.

The Top 20 Christmas films

1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
2. Elf (2003)
3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
4. Love Actually (2003)
5. Home Alone (1990)
6. Die Hard (1988)
7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
8. The Polar Express (2004)
9. White Christmas (1954)
10. Scrooge (1951)
11. A Christmas Carol (1984)
12. The Snowman (1982)
13. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
14. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
15. The Holiday (2006)
16. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
17. The Grinch (2000)
18. Scrooged (1988)
19. Nativity! (2009)
20. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Picture: A scene from It’s a Wonderful Life.