Jimmy Stewart made me cry — twice!

If you don’t like hearing about men crying while watching sappy Christmas movies, this post is not for you.  But if you appreciate that movies, even sappy ones, can make you cry even if you have seen them 10 times, this post may be for you.

On Sunday morning I sat with my two youngest sons and watched “Mr Krueger’s Christmas.”  I expected them to be bored — anything that is not animated usually turns them off — but they were not.  They were actually riveted as Mr. Krueger gave his thanks to the baby Jesus, while their dad sat holding them, tears streaming down his cheeks.

It seems to me a scene of ultimate humility, getting on your knees with clasped hands to thank a young baby repeatedly, as Mr. Krueger does.  That this act is carried out by the mentally challenged and sometimes creepy-looking Mr. Krueger is even more touching, a reminder that even “the least of these” is a giant in God’s eyes.  I also love the fact that the movie concentrates on things all Christians can appreciate, the central roll of Christ in saving and uplifting us all.

Afterwards, my four-year-old boy said, “Daddy, that movie is all about love!”  Yes, my son got it.

Later that night my wife and I sat down to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” probably for the 10th time (at least).  A younger Jimmy Stewart plays a very different role, of course, but interestingly he portrays human fraility incredibly well.  He is filled with endless drama — stomping around the house and in his climactic scene destroying his living room as his family watches — but we always feel that he is essentially a strong character because he makes so many selfless decisions during his lifetime.

Seen from the perspective of 2009, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is an unapologetically religious film.  It is filled with angels and miracles and people praying and mentioning God constantly.  I’m not sure Hollywood would make such a film today (but it is worth mentioning that there are many independent filmmakers doing such things every year).

In the end, it is George Bailey’s selflessness that turns him into a hero and saves him.  His friends and family pouring into his house are a reminder of a life’s review, and I couldn’t help thinking, “what will my life’s review be like — will I have touched as many lives in a positive manner as George Bailey did?”

So, Jimmy Stewart’s characters remind us of selflessness and humility, friendship and love — the characteristics of our Savior.  This is why I cried twice on Sunday.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

14 thoughts on “Jimmy Stewart made me cry — twice!

  1. Mr Krueger is one of my favorite Christmas shows. I like It’s a Wonderful Life as well, but only every 5 years or so. Glad your son “gets it!” 🙂

  2. I watched the last hour of It’s a Wonderful Life on Saturday night, and I wished I had watched the whole of it. Beyond being an incredible actor, Jimmy Stewart was a great man in many respects, and is one of my personal heroes for several reasons, including his rare devotion and fidelity to his wife during his Hollywood years, and his multiple missions as a bomber pilot and leader in Europe during WWII (he retired from service as a Brigadier General!).

    Also, he can make grown men cry, including me the other night.

  3. Ok, I knew that Stewart had sereved in WW2, I have a great pix of him in his uniform I keep in my journal. But I didn’t know he was a Brig Gen!! That is AWSOME!

  4. I’ve never understood why “Mr Krueger’s Christmas” is so beloved. Even when I was a little kid, I found it one of the most painful things to watch. As I grew to adolescence and then adulthood, I’ve ended up having to watch it at least once every other year, and it’s still horribly sad. The last few years I’ve managed to avoid it. It’s so depressing! It, more than anything else, has made me ache for the loneliness of elderly and fear my own inevitable lonely aging decline.

    Horrible, horrible movie. I mean, wildly effective at illustrating loneliness, but not exactly something I want to watch more than once.

  5. Geoff:

    I never had the sense that Mr. Krueger was mentally challenged — just old, lonely, dirt poor and sad (missing his wife who passed away long before him). I agree with you that the scene where he offers thanks to Jesus in his daydream is packed with humility and a proper perspective of gratitude and submission that perhaps only an old man at the end of a mundane and unremarkable life can show us. I really enjoy it as well. Thanks for bringing it up. I still haven’t watched it this season, or It’s a Wonderful Life, for that matter.

    Last year I watched Mr. Krueger with my daughters and they really “got it” as well. It was touching when, during the scene where he envisions himself witnessing the birth of Jesus and offering thanks to Jesus, my five-year-old daughter said “Nobody can see Mr. Krueger except Jesus”. I pointed out to her that it wasn’t like that only in his daydream but in his day-to-day life as well. We talked about the other daydreams that Mr. Krueger had and noted how in each one Mr. Krueger imagined himself as someone important, someone that people cared about. this was because it was presumably something that he had not experienced in real life, working as a janitor in an old building (although we do not know that this is what he did for his whole career). My daughters wondered if Mr. Krueger had his own children and, if so, why he was alone on Christmas.

    I must say, though, that my daughters were kind of embarassed when Mr. Krueger was talking to Jesus in his daydream, i.e. they were embarassed for him. I think that bit of awkwardness is fully intended in the directing of the film and works well to create a little bit of emotional dissonance that reflects the situation.

  6. I can’t get into Mr. Krueger, but my family did enjoy watching it after church on Sunday. I actually liked the Motab music videos that are on the same DVD much more.

    I did however start crying during the the first ten minutes of UP yesterday, just like I did the first three times we watched it.

  7. A few months back we watched “The Far Country,” one of Stewart’s Anthony Mann westerns, were Stewart plays an unpleasant, selfish cowboy. I realized too late that this was the first Jimmy Stewart performance my sons had ever seen. I guess if I wanted to cement their image of this actor as someone who played SOBs, I could rent “Rope,” but that one would bore them.

  8. Love ’em both, and one of the benefits of living alone is that I can bawl all I want when I watch ’em.

    Next time you have the chance, enjoy the opening scene of IaWL when all of George’s friends and family are praying for him, and the senior angel is explaining to the junior angel what is happening. That senior angel is Moroni Olsen.

  9. I feel bad for Mr. Krueger up until the snowbirds (persons 65+ who migrate to Phoenix Metro for the winter) and I have to navigate the same roads and grocery aisles as they do. Humbug!

    Mr. Krueger should have been required to take a driving test and only use Schwanns to shop for food. Humbug! 😉

  10. Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is a family tradition in our home. I have to fight my family to sit down with me an watch it every year. But it is worth watching, because I cry every time.

  11. What a great film! It is a classic. It is so inspiring that it is not a film one should remake.

  12. I love both movies — IAWL is my answer every time someone asks for my favorite movie. I haven’t watched either yet this year, but I will be watching both. I just love all the little touches in both stories, and Stewart’s amazing depth and likeability.

  13. I can’t think of any movie that has made me cry, but It’s a Wonderful Life has gotten to me emotionally since I was a kid, and it gets worse as I get older.

    In case not everyone knew this already, the things Mr.Krueger said to the Christ Child were completely unscripted. The filmmakers had an idea of what would happen in the scene, but what was said came straight from Jimmy Stwart’s heart.

  14. It’s a Wonderful LIfe and Mr Krueger’s Christmas both make me cry every year. I am not surprised the scene with the Christ Child was unscripted. What a wonderful testimony. It shows Jimmy Stewart had a personal relationship with his Savior. I met Mr Stewart very briefly in Dallas, TX once. I stood in line with hundreds of people to have him sign copies of a book of poetry he had written. I told him how wonderful his book was and usual gush. He nodded his head and next. Lovely man, Quite elderly at the time, but he just radiated.

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