Marlo Thomas' first mistake was optioning the classic It's a Wonderful Life for this TV remake; her second was starring in it herself in the Jimmy Stewart part! This gender switch aside, It Happened One Christmas follows the original virtually to the letter. Thomas is a young woman who dreams of leaving her small town to see the world, but circumstances force her to remain in town as head of the local bank--and in so doing she enriches the lives of everyone around her. In a moment of financial crisis, Thomas contemplates suicide, but is rescued by her guardian angel (Cloris Leachman, overacting her way--complete with British accent--through the old Henry Travers part). The angel shows Thomas what life in her town would have been like if Thomas had never been born. You know the rest. It was already hard to believe in the original film that Donna Reed would have become a spinster had she never met Jimmy Stewart; it was impossible to believe in the remake that Wayne Rogers (in the equivalent to the Reed part) would not only have remained unmarried, but also would have become an embittered failure without Thomas' presence. Only Orson Welles, in the Lionel Barrymore role as the villainous Potter, comes across with any credibility.
by Hal Erickson synopsis