It's a Wonderful Life

directed by Frank Capra
Category: "Drama"
Year of Release:1946
Date Added:04/22/2005
Date Watched:12/20/1997
Description:An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would had been like if he never existed.

James Stewart .... George Bailey
Donna Reed .... Mary Hatch Bailey
Lionel Barrymore .... Mr. Henry F. Potter
Thomas Mitchell .... Uncle William 'Billy' Bailey
Henry Travers .... Clarence Oddbody
Beulah Bondi .... Ma Bailey
My Rating:8

Reviews for It's a Wonderful Life

Review - It's a Wonderful Life

George Bailey grows up in Bedford Falls with high ambition. He wants to explore the world and then be an architect. But things never go was planned. When he gets out of high school, he doesn’t have the money. He works for four years and saves the money just as his father dies. George is elected as the head of the savings and loan that his father ran. He doesn’t want the job, but if he doesn’t take it, the business will be taken over by Henry Potter, the richest man in town who cares nothing for the working man and only wants to make money.

George gives his college money to his younger brother and stays in the town, expecting to go to college when his brother returns to take over the business. Four years later, his brother comes home married with a great job in his father-in-law’s business. George marries Mary, a younger girl from the town. On the evening of their wedding, there’s a run on the banks and the couple have to give away all their personal money to keep the savings and loan from defaulting. They work hard and rebuild an old house and have several kids.

George’s brother becomes a big hero in WWII. On the night he is scheduled to return home (Christmas Eve), George’s Uncle Billy who works with him, loses $8,000. (It’s actually Potter who finds the money and keeps it to drive George out of business. He’s also the one who phones the bank examiner and tells him to have George arrested.)When George realizes what the shortfall means, he goes berserk, has a tantrum in front of Mary and their kids, gets drunk, crashes his car and heads for the nearby river to end his life.

Enter Clarence, an incompetent angel sent to help George. Clarence jumps into the river ahead of George, knowing that George would rescue him. He then shows George how valuable he is by showing him what town would be like without him. Named Potterville, the place is full of sleazy joints. Mary is an old maid librarian. The townspeople all live in slums, unable to buy homes because Potter won’t give them the mortgages that George gave them. In despair, George heads back to the river.

Clarence changes things back to reality. George realizes this when a cop calls him by name. He goes home to find that Mary has rallied the townspeople who have made donations totally far more than George needs to stay in business. He now realizes that riches and worth come from family and friends, not money.

Review - It's a Wonderful Life

It was corny, but the characters were so sweet it is impossible not to like them. There were a lot of laugh lines and a lot of sappy scenes intended to make me cry (I resisted). It certainly isn’t a classic, and the theology is woefully bad, but it’s fun to watch as often as I watch it — about once every 15 years. I gave it an 8.

Here's some interesting stuff I found out on IMDB:

• The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) is showing at the movie house as George runs down the street in Bedford Falls. Henry Travers, who plays Clarence, the angel, starred in that film as Horace P. Bogardus.

• For the scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock into the window of the Granville House, Frank Capra hired a marksman to shoot it out for her on cue. To everyone's amazement, Donna Reed broke the window on her first throw without the assistance of the hired marksman!

• The raven, named Jimmy, appeared in all of Frank Capra's movies.

• Two of "Sesame Street" (1969)'s most famous Muppets, Bert and Ernie, share their names with the cop and cab driver in this film, but this is said to be just a coincidence.

• The scene on the bridge where Clarence saves George was filmed on a backlot on a day where the temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why Jimmy Stewart is visibly sweating in a few scenes.

• At the first appearance of Bert and Ernie (after George has gotten his suitcase), the headline on the newspaper Bert is reading states: "Smith Receives Nomination," a reference to Capra's earlier film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).

• There was a skit on Saturday Night Live years ago with an ending in which Potter got his due. Everyone is in the living room getting ready to sing Auld Lang Syne and suddenly Uncle Billy says "I remember what happened to the eight thousand dollars! It was in the newspaper that I accidentally gave Potter!" The crowd turns into an angry mob and storms Potter's office where they beat him to a pulp.

I watched it again on December 25, 2019 with Sally, Lindy, and Beth.
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