Monday, December 28, 2020


A few nights ago, I watched the original version of, It's a Wonderful Life, a movie I'd seen countless times and admired. The dialogue, the direction, and the performances of those wonderful unsurpassed Hollywood actors never fail to engross me. Clarence, an angel from heaven, is sent down to convince George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, that his life is worth living. George, who is on the verge of committing suicide, asks, 'why me.? Clarence answers to show you what it would be like if you hadn't been born

Shortly after the movie ended, I turned off the television and went to bed but not to sleep. The movie had awakened the 21 Aldgate story, which was never far from the surface of my mind. I asked myself the question Clarence asked George Bailey. What if I hadn't been born?  Clara, on whom the story of  21 ALDGATE is based often mused about her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who would not have existed had she lost her life during the bombings in London during the war and in my mind, similarly my offspring.

Neither would there be a 21 Aldgate in any of the versions and different formats I've attempted from its inception. Each one finished, re-edited, and returned to publishers. I waited for positive results. They never came. Oh yes, it still had possibilities but needed a lot of work. It began as a musical, for which I composed the music and helped write the dialogue. Unfortunately, the producers presented it at the wrong time - a show called Blitz had literally just bombed in London's West End, and no one wanted to take a chance on another World War II content production. 

Never being one to give up, my agent suggested I write it as a play; which attracted much interest but no takers. For a while, it lay dormant in my computer documents. Occasionally, I'd play the musical CD, but mostly I concentrated on writing another book, a memoir Letters from Wankie. Then, one day, while looking through boxes of earlier writings, I came across one-labeled 21 Aldgate - pages of it with suggestions from editors all of which I had tried to no avail.  I called my agent.  She, a forthright no-nonsense woman, with no holes barred, stated, "forgot about the musical, dump the play, and write it as a novel". And so I did.  And the rest we know, except now 21Aldgate has taken on yet another life.  It has the interest of a director and the expertise of a competent LA  producer, and once Covid19 leaves us, it will have added another dimension, a TV series.

It's not a wonderful life, the one we are living in now.  It is a sad challenging one, but then so it was in the 1930's- 40's era of 21 Aldgate. With the help of Clarence, George Bailey came through the challenges that were set before him. I believe, there's a Clara watching over us who will help 21 Aldgate do so, too.

Paticia Friedberg

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