It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

The movie begins with everyone in the small town of Bedford Falls praying for George Bailey (James Stewart). It's Christmas Eve, and the hardworking banker is thinking about killing himself.

The supplications of his family and friends are heard, and an angel is sent to rescue him.

Director Frank Capra and screenwriters Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Jo Sworling, and Phillip Van Doren Stern don't pull their punches in this tale.

In order to prevent George from committing suicide, the angel gives him “a chance to see what the world would have been like” if he had never been born.

The payoff is satisfying when the angel tells George: “You see, you had a wonderful life.” “Please God, let me live again,” George tearfully asks.

It's A Wonderful Life demonstrates the power of goodness to change lives and the difference each individual can make if he tries.

Bishop's Wife (1947)

Based on Robert Nathan's novel, the film was redone as The Preacher's Wife with unsuccessful results. In the original, Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The stress of raising money for a new cathedral has done him in, leaving his work and his relationship with his wife seemingly without meaning.

In answer to desperate prayers, a suave angel named Dudley (Cary Grant) appears, but the bishop has trouble believing he's genuine. The prelate's wife, Julia (Loretta Young), is impressed by the angel's kind way of dealing with her friends.

The prelate's personal and professional problems all come to a head on Christmas Eve, and Dudley must work hard to bail him out.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Macy's department store in Manhattan hires as Santa Claus an old man from a retirement home who calls himself Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwen). When shoppers can't find what they're looking for on the premises, he recommends other establishments that might carry the merchandise. At first Macy's officials try to make him change his ways, but the old man is adamant.

Eventually Mr. Macy himself backs Kris Kringle because his open-minded generosity attracts more customers to the store. The old man isn't satisfied, though.

Director George Seaton and coscreenwriter Valentine Davies handle each twist and turn of the plot with skill and charm, and in the end you'll probably find yourself agreeing with Kris Kringle that “Christmas is a frame of mind” and “faith is believing things that common sense tells you not to.”

Miracle on 34th Street has been remade for television and as a feature, but neither has the power of the original.