IN 1943 Philip Van Doren Stern wrote a short story – The Greatest Gift – about an unhappy man called George Pratt.
A number of his friends told him how much they had enjoyed it, so he published it privately (remembering to protect it by personal copyright) in 1945: a copy of it then ended up in the hands of a senior executive from the RKO film studios. He bought it for $10,000 (an enormous sum at that time) and tried to work it into a project for Cary Grant, before selling it on to Frank Capra, one of Hollywood’s most famous and influential directors. The 1946 film version of The Greatest Gift is now known to most of us as It’s A Wonderful Life.
I think all of us have, at some time, felt like George Bailey, owner of the Bedford Falls Building and Loan Society. He’s always wanted to brush the dust of the town from his shoes and explore the world: but as every opportunity beckons another obstacle gets in the way, leaving this talented man to spend his life struggling along on a small salary while trying to keep his business and clients out of the greedy hands of an avaricious banker. And when, through no fault of his own, he faces bankruptcy and scandal, he contemplates suicide and wishes he had “never been born”.