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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
Its great movie to watch
In a movie It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (James Stewart) goes through out his life trying to help people in his home town living with his wife Mary (Donna Reed) and four children in an old house. Even though he understood that his father's business does not bring much income, people were his main focus. He lived with a dream that one day he will travel across the globe and will come back to build new buildings. Despite of his dream, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) prevents him from leaving his home town and is forced to take over his father's loan company. On the Christmas Eve, George's uncle Bill (Thomas Mitchell) loses $8,000 while he is attempting to deposit them into the bank account. Mr. Potter is the one who discovers the money but hides them from Mr. Bailey. As George realizes that after bank examiner finds out about missing money, he might go to jail and will loose his company, therefore he decides to ask Mr. Potter for help and give up his company. As he thought about his family, he was told that he is worth more dead when he is alive, and decided to commit suicide. Because of his family prayers, an angel Clarence (Henry Travers) was sent to save him and to show him how valuable his life is to the people he cares about by taking him to the time as if he was never born. I loved this movie because of its positive attitude. Some of the main characters are just perfect for their character in the movie. Even though James Stewart won an Oscar for his George Bailey character, my favorite character is the Mr. Potter. His bold head and cricket eyes are perfectly underline his grouchy character. Bailey's wife Mary is a perfect character as well. Her facial expressions are very clearly expressing her feelings. Her face did show an expression that she is deeply in love with George. Also you can see when she figured that George is in money trouble.
2011-07-28
Why is this a "classic"? Basic premise poor
Finally, at the age of 38, I saw "It's A Wonderful Life" in its entirety (after catching a few minutes here and there over the years on TV). When it was over, I found myself puzzled over why this movie is considered such a classic.

I am not talking about the acting, or the film's technical proficiency. All of that seemed fine, even well-done at times. I am talking about its reason for being: Its story.

I'll assume you have seen it, so prepare for spoilers. The basic message of this movie seems to be that a man who never left his home town to pursue his personal dreams nevertheless led a wonderful life due to his kindness and caring for the town and its residents. In fact, when he finally reaches a low point, the town's residents come to bail HIM out, thereby proving what a wonderful person he has been.

A nice story, but the movie misses two logical points. First, was the man who never pursued his personal dreams (George Bailey) HAPPY with the life he DID lead? If he was happy with staying home, helping people afford houses and bailing out his family's business, then the point of the movie is MOOT. He evidently gave up very little for a happy life. Other than a few wistful asides, we never see that George is bothered much that he didn't travel the world. He seems perfectly content where he is. So if he is happy, then the central message of kindness and helping others while sacrificing your own dreams is weak or lost entirely.

Second, if a man spends DECADES helping out residents of his little town (most of whom remain residents over the years), I don't see it as any great act of charity that when the man needs monetary help, all those people he assisted over the years are willing to give him a few dollars to fix his problem. The climactic ending, when people line up to give George 20 bucks here and 75 bucks there, is made to look like some kind of incredible holiday miracle. But think about it: If a man made it possible for YOU to buy your first home (in an era when buying a home was truly a dream), and a few years later he needs some money for his business (which is the entity that helps so many local people) to survive, wouldn't you go donate whatever you could afford to help him? It wouldn't even have to be that painful, really, in a town with several thousand residents.

No, I think the town's true colors are shown earlier, when George's business almost goes under due to a run on the banks and his customers are more than happy to run to his competitor's bank to get 50 cents on a dollar. Some people end up staying ONLY after George uses his own WEDDING MONEY to pay them a fraction of what they sought to withdraw (which, when you think about it, is no real risk ... they can always go to the competitor later if things get worse). THAT seemed to me to also be normal behavior by the local residents, and it was not celebrated like the ending is.

Maybe some people were impressed with the plot device of an angel showing George what life might have been like without him. Maybe that was the first time that had been done in a movie, for all I know. But I found that device not unlike the ghosts who visit Scrooge, and that tale was written long before It's A Wonderful Life was made. So I don't get that, either.

There were some fun moments, and who doesn't like Jimmy Stewart. But a revered classic? I guess I don't get it. I gave it a 5.
2002-12-30
"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
Perspective!!!!
This will be my 100th comment on this website, and, it stands to reason that I should pick an all time classic movie such as "It's A Wonderful Life"!! This film is Frank Capra's best film ever... A statement of this nature tells you how remarkable this movie truly is!! Jimmy Stewart was voted by one magazine as the second best performer ever in the history of Hollywood!! Only second behind Katherine Hepburn, making him rated the best actor in the history of movie making!! While some people may question this assessment of Jimmy Stewart, due to Jimmy Stewart's innocuous Huckelberry Finn disposition, I can empathize with this verdict of Stewart's acting on account of his precisely executed latent tendencies which ultimately resonated into an articulated anger!! Jimmy Stewart's acting is very itemized, and thus, it establishes emotions which are genuine, these emotions relegate Stewart to a vulnerability which was pertinent to the fact that his feelings which could no longer be bottled up inside of him, would make him obtusely erupt!! Donna Reed is in this movie, and her performance is very believable as well!! Lionel Barrymore is extremely adept at playing the role of the ogre (Mr Potter) who is metaphorically writhing in his acquisition of the Baily Building and Loan!! This movie is the classic Christmas movie of all time!!, "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Fantasia" as well as any other Christmas movie, do not capture the spiritual camaraderie related to the yuletide association with caring and benevolence that "It's A Wonderful Life" exemplifies so flawlessly!!What the film "It's A Wonderful Life" accomplishes is the ideology behind the true meaning of what Christmas signifies... This phrase in of itself sounds very rhetorical, however, with a movie like "It's A Wonderful Life" such an accolade is the genuine article!! "It's A Wonderful Life" resembles the movie "Best Years of Our Lives" in the manner by which a happy ending is attained the hard way!! Often times, we look at our lives and become demoralized at the uneventful banalities which perpetually plague us!! We are depressed at how money dictates virtually everything, and, as was the case with George Bailey, we become trounced by failure and despondence!! Adversities are what make us cohesive, considering that this film was made right after World War II concluded, we as Americans were thoroughly aware of such a fate!! The fatal predicament which besieges George Bailey in this movie arouses occasion for all of the good citizens of Bedford Falls to bond together and realize the importance of caring for each other!! Such a homespun philosophy was anything but an artificial panacea, and with it, Americans immersed themselves into a nationally guarded perspective of good will and compassion!! This film is outstanding!! The talent and the ideological premise to this film, has out-shined virtually every other movie made!! A socially responsible movie is entitled to the luxury of a heartfelt happy ending, especially if it has been earned!!! Films which make people feel fortunate are not breaking any rules which compromise the quality of a film!! All of these carefully devised components to this film make "It's A Wonderful Life" an absolutely magnificent movie!!
2007-08-16
Who are you, really?
Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like It's A Wonderful Life.

Does it take me back to that place in my heart, that makes me long for everything that once was great and it could be again? Does it remind me of my childhood, Christmas in my home? No. Maybe it's just simply what I always wanted from life and every man I want to be.

Everything about this film is well for lack of better words, perfect. No question to it any longer, the best performance by an actor I have ever seen. It's more than just beautiful, timeless or fair. All of Stewart is revealed. Everything coming together for Capra. Lionel Barrymore at his best, which seems to be his worst.

Sometimes I think there is a reason why somethings happen. And I'm pretty sure there is some magical reason why this film was made. I'm 27 years old and saw it for the first time Christmas Eve of this year. I've watched it 3 times since. The only movie to ever make me cry. I probably wouldn't have all the answers for you, if you asked me why. I'm still trying to figure Stewart out and just how beautiful was Reed.

What can I say? This movie is a life changing experience.

Makes me feel good to be alive. What a wonderful little world it is. And if I waited my entire life, it would not be a waste of time.
2007-01-27
My all time favourite film
Before writing my comment, I skimmed through the existing 196 user comments and found that much has been said about the way this film reaches out and touches people (some of whom are fully paid-up members of the cynics party!) There have also been some very negative views registered, and I think I can see why some find it hard to relate to this film, with it's post-war values and strong religious tones.

Personally I love 'It's a Wonderful Life' on all levels; it is heart-warming and moving, it has a message that is lacking in so many films today and it is a superb piece of cinematic art. But if the religious frame of the film does not appeal to you, I say look beyond it and appreciate some of the most skillful moments of cinematography and finest acting you will ever see.

****POSSIBLE SPOILER*****

In my mind the finest scene is that when George meets his brother from the train and discovers that he is planning to marry. Watch the way the rest of the action becomes incidental as the camera focuses on George, a man seeing his hopes slipping away from him.
2002-11-24
It's a Wonderful Life
Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is like a photo negative (or positive) of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Ebenezer Scrooge character in Capra's film, Mr. Potter (played perfectly by Lionel Barrymore), rather than occupying the position of the main character, is the antagonist. The protagonist in the film is the Bob Cratchit character from Dickens' story, a man named George Bailey (played perfectly by Jimmy Stewart). The supernatural (or imaginary) visions and visitations in A Christmas Carol comprise the bulk of the story, whereas the same in It's a Wonderful Life take up less than fifteen percent of the movie's screen time, although it seems like much more. In A Christmas Carol, we have an extremely unlikable central character, who is shown what the world would be like if he doesn't change; in It's a Wonderful Life, we have an immensely likable central character, who is shown what the world would be like if he had never existed. This second part of the film—in which George's guardian angel Clarence (a delightful Henry Travers) shows George how "each man's life touches so many other lives"—is a fun-house-mirror look back at the first part—a fantasy that resembles a rough night of drinking: fun and frivolous at first—then serious, painful, and dire in the end. The first part of the film, which inhabits more than eighty percent of its screen time, tells George's life story: his abundant acts of altruism, which enable the continual thwarting of his repeatedly voiced ambitions; his continuation of his father's fiscal and ideological battle with Potter, in the name of the Bailey Building and Loan, an institution that represents the "community" side of the film's diatribe against the form of unbridled, unrelenting, anti-humanistic "capitalism" represented by Potter's monopolistic business interests; and George's union with Mary, his lifelong sweetheart, and their settling down in that quaint, provincially idyllic American town named Bedford Falls, which George had seemed so insistently focused on shedding like a cheap suit. The sad, decadent, cold, flashy, Vegas-like imagining of Bedford Falls sans George Bailey convinces him (and us) that his heart is much bigger than his ambition, and it belongs to the members of his hometown. The final sequence jerks buckets of tears, not through manipulation, but through the genuine redemption of a man whose life of selfless acts repays him in a way that only a town like Bedford Falls can.
2012-11-12
A Wonderful Film and Timeless Classic


This film has become a Christmas tradition in my family. We watch it every year and never tire of it. Frank Capra is a master of creating films with a message that reinforce strong values. This is probably his greatest film in that regard. Both he and Stewart have publicly stated that this is their favorite film.

The message in this film is one of courage and sacrifice for the greater good as George Bailey, a man with big ideas about seeing the world, continually forsakes his own desires to do what is right for the town. The second message is that each life important. No matter how insignificant we feel we are, we are all inextricably linked to each other and play an important part in the fabric of one another's lives.

Capra's direction is brilliant. His genius is bringing human stories to life in a ways that not only make a point, but that totally involve the audience in the lives of the characters. He is always extremely optimistic about the human condition. He is known for testing his characters with overwhelming adversity to make them struggle to triumph in a way that causes the world to change and the character to grow. For this reason his films were always crowd pleasers and this film was the best of all in that regard.

Led by Capra's understanding hand, the actors all did a magnificent job. Stewart's wide-eyed enthusiasm and boyish charm, coupled with an unbending strength of character made him the perfect folk hero. Donna Reed was lovely and charming and attained the right balance between being supportive and inspirational. The romantic chemistry between her and Stewart was subtle and charming. Lionel Barrymore was towering as the greedy old skinflint who was trying to take over the town. Thomas Mitchell plays one of my favorite characters, as the bumbling Uncle Billy in probably his most memorable role.

This film is number eleven on AFI's list of best films of the century. It was nominated for five academy awards and won none. It was swept in 1947 by `The Best Years of Our Lives', a great film that won seven Oscars that year but in my opinion was the lesser film. History has corrected that minor injustice by rendering `It's a Wonderful Life' an enduring classic that is viewed and loved by generation after generation. Of course, I rated it a 10/10. I can't wait to see it again this Christmas.
2000-12-06
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
IT'S NOT OFFICIALLY CHRISTMAS SEASON UNTIL I WATCH THIS MOVIE
I am so glad Frank Capra had a vision to make "It's A Wonderful Life". I'm glad he chose Jimmy Stewart to play George Bailey. There are some little gems in life that help make life pleasant. It is not officially the Christmas season without watching this little gem. The supporting cast is perfectly matched. Donna Reed is wonderful as well as all the characters of the town. This would be a great movie, even if it were not in a Christmas setting. The holiday flavor makes it even more charming and memorable. A angel trying to get his wings is a little far-fetched, but Capra pulls it off. The impact of living a good life cannot be underestimated. What would life be like for your family if you had never been born? Our actions do speak loudly. In an age of 9-11, we need this movie more than ever. The values of "It's A Wonderful Life" still hold true today. Yes, I'll say it, it's a wonderful movie.
2002-11-05
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