It's a Wonderful Life
Year:
1946
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Family
IMDB rating:
8.7
Director:
Frank Capra
James Stewart as George Bailey
Donna Reed as Mary Hatch
Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter
Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy
Henry Travers as Clarence
Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Bailey
Frank Faylen as Ernie
Ward Bond as Bert
Gloria Grahame as Violet
H.B. Warner as Mr. Gower
Frank Albertson as Sam Wainwright
Todd Karns as Harry Bailey
Samuel S. Hinds as Pa Bailey
Mary Treen as Cousin Tilly
Storyline: George Bailey has spent his entire life giving of himself to the people of Bedford Falls. He has always longed to travel but never had the opportunity in order to prevent rich skinflint Mr. Potter from taking over the entire town. All that prevents him from doing so is George's modest building and loan company, which was founded by his generous father. But on Christmas Eve, George's Uncle Billy loses the business's $8,000 while intending to deposit it in the bank. Potter finds the misplaced money and hides it from Billy. When the bank examiner discovers the shortage later that night, George realizes that he will be held responsible and sent to jail and the company will collapse, finally allowing Potter to take over the town. Thinking of his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. But the prayers of his loved ones result in a gentle angel named Clarence coming to earth to help George, with the promise of earning his ...
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Reviews
It's Really A Most Wonderful Film!
"It's A Wonderful Life" is the most wonderful film I have ever seen. It's most inspirational movie I have ever watched and it's very perfectly made movie in my opinion. Performances, script and dialogs are so perfectly done that you don't have enough words to appreciate them. This film by Frank Capra is a gift to the world. Strange enough it was a box office flop when it was released and it failed to win an academy award.

The performance by James Stewart who plays George Bailey is one of the greatest on big screen by anyone anytime in the history. George Bailey makes you so engrossed with his emotions that it naturally calls for your empathy and you start living moments with him and start thinking for him. Even if you don't believe in the angels and God, the part where that comely angel starts alleviating suffering of George Bailey makes a profound impression on you and instills feelings of goodness in you. The second half just emphasizes the importance of life whereas the first one underscores the great character of George Bailey right from his childhood.

You witness some instant karmic clean up in the second half and you see how the good deeds George Bailey had done come back to him saving him and making him realize the importance of life he had. Prior to that he lives with the impression of having sacrificed a lot for everyone else and that had some inner lack of satisfaction in his life and the accident which renders bankruptcy to him and his organization just evokes this karmic burden to the fore and then it seems that all the wrong things start happening with him, but then his good deeds come to his rescue. There are so many well-wishers who pray for him and then he realizes importance of life and accepts it the way it's and with this acceptance miracles start happening and money for which was about to end his life; comes rolling on its own and his brother says "To George, the richest man in the town". The colored restored version made it look even more exquisite than it would have been when it was made. It's indeed a most wonderful film with a most inspiring climax.
2012-01-26
"Aah!" or should that be "Argh!"
Watching this film in the wake of the banking crisis, it is apt to have a different effect on the viewer than that intended. The actions of George Bailey and his father amount to a long justification for "sub-prime" mortgages,"sub prime" being a euphemism for "lending to people who have no chance of paying you back" which has lead to the present day bank bailouts which means that responsible people now must pay for the actions of the irresponsible. Why does doing this make George and his dad the good guys?

Why, for that matter, are we told that George's father only made enough money to send one of his kids to college? Is that meant to be good? Surely, in the real world, that would make him a poor father? He has clearly never heard the truism "charity begins at home" although he did have enough money to hire a black servant..perhaps he should have saved the money he spent on her to put his kids through college? Just a thought.

Obviously Hollywood will never get to grips with the real life implications of the Bailey's irresponsible lending policies, ie people being lumbered with unpayable mortgages and losing their homes. No, this is the land of magic pixie dust where good intentions always lead to good outcomes. The reality is transformed into a one dimensional baddie, an evil capitalist who could come straight out of the Stalinist propaganda of the period (in fact this film could have easily be shown in the USSR without a single cut whereas it was -rightly- a box office flop in the US). Oh, if only there weren't these greedy evil people, if only banks could lend money to good people without worrying whether they could pay it back, then how much nicer the world would be!

Around this childish morality, a sanctimonious and saccharine story is built. Even by Hollywood's golden age standards it is extremely sentimental. I must say in passing, I've attempted to watch this film many times, but this this is the first time I've managed to make it all the way through and only through gritted teeth.
2013-12-25
Life's Not Always So Wonderful
My apologies to all of you "It's a Wonderful Life"-ers out there. Please believe me when I say that I've tried multiple times to develop warm feelings for this movie. But it's just not meant to be. I've seen this film a couple of times, and I never want to see it again.

I want to beat James Stewart's George Bailey about the head and shoulders every time I watch the movie. Perhaps the most passive-aggressive hero in motion picture history, George Bailey spends half of his time sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of others, and the other half whining about his hard luck. No, George, it's not hard luck...it's the result of your own decision making skills. Either be selfless and stop complaining, or be a bastard and screw everyone else. But make up your mind, and don't take two hours to do it.

Ahhh, perhaps I now live in too cynical and jaded a world to tolerate George's namby-pamby indecision. But maybe that's a reason better than any other to keep this film around. Character aside, however, the one thing I can unequivocally praise about this film is the performance of Stewart. He provides a welcome bitter edge to combat Capra's sugary-sweet corn. His breakdown scene in a bar, where he desperately prays to God to help him keep himself together, is a tour-de-force.

Drag it out every Christmas and enjoy...I won't begrudge you that small pleasure. Just don't expect me to join along.

Grade: B-
2006-03-23
One of the greatest movie ever made in cinema history!!
When I heard about this movie for the first time, I thought it was just a forgettable and funny movie. But I was wrong. I saw this movie last Christmas and I did not find it funny, but I loved it, though! Everything is so great in this movie. The story is amazing. The characters are great, and the character's development is fantastic! the cinematography is grea, and the acting is fantastic. James Stewart was mind blowing. The whole movie is amazing,touching and encouraging. You cannot describe how good this movie is. Nor can you describe how good the message is.

This is the best feel-good movie ever. It's a life changing movie, actually. It makes you feel good to be alive. Do me a favor and watch this movie as soon as possible! When you're sad, think about the message this movie delivers, because you will get a smile on your face! I'm 14 years old. My English is not very good, but I hope this review was useful!
2010-03-14
Every Life Makes A Difference
For many this is a Christmas classic, watched every year and much beloved. For me, I've never seen it before. Heard of it; seen short clips of it; but never have I sat down and watched it straight through from beginning to end. Having now done that I can understand why it's such a beloved movie to so many people. It isn't necessarily a Christmas/holiday movie. The basic message would work at any time of the year; it just happens to be set (in its climax anyway) on Christmas Eve. And the message it presents is an important one that everyone needs to hear from time to time, in a world where it's so easy to feel discouraged: every person's life counts. Everyone makes a difference. That's the point here, and it's well made.

The movie revolves around George Bailey (James Stewart.) George starts out as a kid with big dreams of escaping his hum-drum (to him) home town of Bedfork Park and seeing the world. But it never works out. He ends up running the small savings & loan operation his father started, while his brother and his friends all seem to go on to bigger and better things - becoming heroes; becoming famous; becoming rich. George has a good life. He's married to a woman he loves (Donna Reed) and he has great kids and a lot of friends, but it just isn't what he always wanted. It's not completely satisfying for him. Eventually it all falls apart when the local ruthless banker (Lionel Barrymore) comes up with a way of bringing him down. With everything apparently out of control, George decides to kill himself, only to be rescued by the angel Clarence (Henry Travers) who shows him what Bedford Park would be like if he had never existed - and it's not pretty.

The story isn't complicated. It's simple and straightforward. Everybody does a good job in it. Personally, I thought there was perhaps a little too much emphasis on George's life and what brought him to the brink of suicide, and maybe not quite enough emphasis on George being confronted by the consequences of his non-existence. (And, in the alternative timeline, Bert the cop opening fire on George in the street seemed a bit - shall we say - excessive; not to mention dangerous!) Perhaps the opening, with God and the angels talking to each other as stars and other heavenly bodies was a bit too cute, but it's all within the expected standards of 1946.

It is a nice movie, and it does have a nice message. Your life does make a difference to a lot of people - probably more than you know, so be satisfied with it and rejoice in what you have. I can easily understand why so many consider it a classic. (8/10)
2012-12-09
"To My Big Brother George, The Richest Man In Town"
I've always thought that the reason It's A Wonderful Life has had such enduring popularity is that more than in any other film it shows what can be the value of a single individual and the contribution to the greater good they can make.

George Bailey as portrayed by James Stewart is the kind of every man hero we can all identify with. He's got the every day problems to be sure, raising and providing for a family, but he's got bigger problems than that. Fate has made him the rallying point of opposition in his small town of Bedford Falls to the "richest and meanest man in town", embodied in Lionel Barrymore.

It's a real David vs. Goliath battle. Barrymore seems to have unlimited resources at his disposal. Samuel S. Hinds as Peter Bailey put it so well to him in asking what are you doing all this for? Barrymore does have more money than he could ever possibly use. A little charity wouldn't hurt him.

Remember the basic plot outline. A whole lot of people in Bedford Falls one post World War II Christmas Eve see that their friend George is toting a heavy load of mysterious origins. Their prayers reach the heavens where an angel is dispatched to aid.

But before Henry Travers the angel arrives, he's given the story of George Bailey's life. And we see the kind of struggles he's had, the sacrifices he's made for the good of a whole lot of others. We've also seen a greedy and grasping Potter, grabbing everything that George Bailey cannot save.

Something happens that day before Christmas through no fault of his own, Bailey is in big trouble. It's driven him to the brink of despair. That's why the angel is sent down. He shows him the alternate universe that would have been had he never existed. It's something each and every one of us should try to do, step outside ourselves see just what our contributions can be.

But I think what Frank Capra is trying to say in this greatest of his films is that having done that and we realize we haven't contributed to the greater good of humankind, we resolve to do so. It's a simple, but profound lesson.

What if Potter got the same opportunity? In a sense Charles Dickens did just that in A Christmas Carol. Would Lionel Barrymore change? It's an interesting point of speculation.

In addition to those cast members already mentioned a whole group of players who worked with Capra before grace this film. Add to that some others and you have a perfectly cast feature picture.

Donna Reed has an interesting part as well. Your choice of mate is real important in life. Had she not been as loving and supportive to George Bailey, he might very well have taken a different route in life. Mary Hatch Bailey became a signature part for her, more identified than her role in From Here to Eternity which got her an Oscar. It certainly was the basis for her TV series.

When Todd Karns who plays Harry Bailey toasts his brother he's saying that the riches of the world are not necessarily things that can be quantified. Your life is not measured in material things, but in how you use the material things given you.

And that universal lesson will be taught into eternity as long as It's A Wonderful Life is shown every year. Wouldst we all learn it.
2005-12-25
A wonderful film. One of best i've seen
This is one of my favorite movies of all time and a Christmas tradition in my household. This film is about sacrifice for the greater good. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) having big ideas of the world around him and continually puts his desires behind the good of the town. Another thing this movie shows perfectly that no matter how insignificant we feel, we are all linked to each other and play a important part in each others lives. After George looses his way and a angel shows what the world would be like without him he soon realizes how important he was to the people and town around him. This will always be considered a classic in cinema and a great movie to watch every year during Christmas. So we can all remember the good and bad of the present year and when new years comes around we try to make the next year better for others and ourselves. This is a must see for any family or fan of cinema.
2012-11-08
The ultimate in feel-good
Upon first inspection it is easy perhaps to understand why when first released, Frank Capra's Christmas movie, inspired by a simple seasonal card, was not well received. It is a movie that opens with a fantastical scene of a star, later revealed to be an angel, talking to a faceless God, the voice-over obvious, stilted in sweet humour, and immediately suggesting the film is going to be one that is too saccharine a pill to swallow. The thing is, beyond that, "It's A Wonderful Life" is the ultimate exercise in feel-good cinema, its virtue as such much parodied and referenced in TV and other films.

The film presents George Bailey, played by James Stewart who would go on to refer to the film as his own favourite, who stifles his lifelong dreams of travelling and discovery in order to save and run his father's Building And Loan Association. It has long been responsible for the affordable housing in his hometown Bedford Falls and he cannot see it lost to the scoundrel of the piece, Henry F. Potter, who is a major shareholder in the Building And Loan and the only man residents could otherwise turn to. After a run at the bank leaves the Building And Loan on the brink of financial ruin, and George's Uncle Billy misplaces $8000, in an act of desperation he attempts suicide, at which time he is saved by the angel Clarence. Understandably confused, he wishes he had never been born, and so his wish is granted.

If the plot seems familiar even though you have not seen "It's A Wonderful Life", it is probably because you saw the idea loosely re-worked in the Nicolas Cage film "The Family Man". For all its up to date technique, its colour, modern setting, etc, this version could not capture what made the original.

So, what did make the original? What could surprise people is how Capra clearly believed in the notion that you have to suffer the low to get the high. The second act of the movie gets really quite dark, with Bailey seeing what the world would be like without his birth, coming to understand just how important a person is to everybody else's existence, and bringing him to a full appreciation of his worth as a husband, father and friend. The finale is obviously that classic scene that we all know, even if we do not realise it, with his daughter's famous, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings", and despite how much you might think the whole thing sounds cheesy, silly, saccharine and sentimental, the power of the film is to bring a genuine tear of pure enjoyment to your eye regardless; for a while you are full of the joy of life and completely happy, no matter what.

A lot of the film's success comes down to how believable James Stewart makes the plight, and for any flaws you may find with it, its colourful characters, its tremendous performances, humour, heartbreaking moments, perfectly pitched highs and lows, and its' unabashed final sequence make this an inexplicably perfect film.

No wonder it remains at the top spot of many people's favourite Christmas films, and so it should.
2011-02-16
So is the movie...
Review edited and therefore quite choppy due to maximum word limit. Has there ever been a truer and more heartfelt character than George Bailey? This is a man whose life is one of great significance, but he, like all of us, does not always realize that this is so. He does not recognize his impact on the world until an angel erases his existence like chalk on a board. It is then that he is hit by the fact that one man's failing life isn't always as inconsequential as it may seem. We all remember when Clarence (Henry Travers) first appears on that snowy bridge and saves George Bailey (James Stewart) from committing suicide. He explains nonchalantly that he is an angel and George is incredulous--until Clarence wipes away his entire past. His mother doesn't recognize him. George tells her about his uncle as a source of belief. She states that his uncle has been dead for some time, now. The best scene in the entire film is that following when George is thrown out by his mother. He runs towards the camera in an intense wide shot, his face registering emotions of fear, horror, and ultimately the horrid understanding of what has happened. This role is the highlight of James Stewart's career--he never came anywhere close to the superb performance he gives in this movie. There is a reason it was his favorite film he ever starred in. Stewart's portrayal of George Bailey is the grown image of all of us: As a child he dreamed of nothing but exotic locations and adventurous travels to foreign lands. But now he is a family man, a father and a husband. He has left behind his silly bachelor notions, but they still come back to haunt him. Bailey owns the town savings and loan, left to him by his father. The cranky Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) wants complete monopoly over the town, and all that stands in his way is Bailey and his little bank. But Bailey, an inner disgust and hatred towards Potter brewing since his childhood days, refuses to cave in and give it all away. Then one day, George's absentminded and quite eccentric uncle (Thomas Mitchell), misplaces a large sum of money, leaving George hopeless and Potter with a serious advantage. After blowing up at his wife (Donna Reed) and kids at home, George gets drunk at a local bar, is scorned at by a schoolteacher's wife, and left dazed and confused, walking through the snowy town at night during the happy Christmas season without a hope in the world. Battered and delirious, thinking back over his apparently pointless and wasted life, he contemplates suicide. He prays to God and wishes that he had never existed. Which is why Clarence comes down from heaven to sort things out and answer his prayer. Essentially bombing at the box office when it was first released, and then proceeding to fall into copyright problems for years, "It's a Wonderful Life" resurfaced only years later when it was brought back into the public domain circa 1970. When other channels were airing expensive Hollywood movies during the Christmas season, PBS picked up the film and played it as a counter attack, a weak hope prevailing in them that the classic film buffs out there would tune in. They did. And so did families across the nation. Every year the ratings got stronger and stronger and now, almost sixty years following the movie's initial release, it is considered a holiday tradition. George considers suicide as a way of escaping his problems without really thinking over the possible outcomes given his final choice. He looks back upon his life as wasted potential; he wanted to become an adventurer, break his family's small-town tradition and become something huge. Mentally scanning his life to the point in time when he stands on that bridge, George Bailey believes that he has simply and truly created a waste of space. He's ready to end his (assumed) pointless life when his entire point of view is wholly altered by the power of God. George suddenly realizes that though he never lived out his boyhood fantasies, he did so much more than he ever dreamed of. He saved his brother's life, which resulted in a huge impact in later years; he made an influence in the lives of others and brought peace and harmony to an otherwise small town by prevailing at the requests of Mr. Potter; he married a beautiful wife and had children, all of whom will no doubt have some measure of significance later in the world. And his wish on that bridge was that he had never been born. Often I am asked to name my favorite movie, and though I ignore requests and state that I have not seen every existing movie and therefore my judgment carries no significance, I have the lightest whimsy that "It's a Wonderful Life" may be my favorite motion picture to date. I cherish few other films just as close, but to me, "It's a Wonderful Life" is more moving than "Casablanca," a better study of one man's life than "Citizen Kane," and a movie that will live on in the hearts and memory of viewers long after we are gone. I believe that this is the definitive Americana motion picture, regardless of how I compare it to my other favorites, which may carry the same weight but not the same true significance. Few films come as close to the heart as "It's a Wonderful Life." And few films come as close to "It's a Wonderful Life" at all, for that matter. 5/5.
2003-10-29
Dangerous movie to see with you wife
The beginning was so so, but later we saw so many things we could talk about, to compare with nowadays.

Also, be careful - I just got into argument with my wife about wife's role in family. Almost went in fight.

You have been warned. Maybe you find something else to discuss/fight about.
2017-08-21
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