It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life

4.7 74
Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Frank Capra, James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

     
 

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This is director Frank Capra's classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (James Stewart), the eternally-in-debt guiding force of a bank in the typical American small town of Bedford Falls. As the film opens, it's Christmas Eve, 1946, and George, who has long considered himself a failure, faces financial ruin and arrest and isSee more details below

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Overview

This is director Frank Capra's classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (James Stewart), the eternally-in-debt guiding force of a bank in the typical American small town of Bedford Falls. As the film opens, it's Christmas Eve, 1946, and George, who has long considered himself a failure, faces financial ruin and arrest and is seriously contemplating suicide. High above Bedford Falls, two celestial voices discuss Bailey's dilemma and decide to send down eternally bumbling angel Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers), who after 200 years has yet to earn his wings, to help George out. But first, Clarence is given a crash course on George's life, and the multitude of selfless acts he has performed: rescuing his younger brother from drowning, losing the hearing in his left ear in the process; enduring a beating rather than allow a grieving druggist (H.B. Warner) to deliver poison by mistake to an ailing child; foregoing college and a long-planned trip to Europe to keep the Bailey Building and Loan from letting its Depression-era customers down; and, most important, preventing town despot Potter (Lionel Barrymore) from taking over Bedford Mills and reducing its inhabitants to penury. Along the way, George has married his childhood sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed), who has stuck by him through thick and thin. But even the love of Mary and his children are insufficient when George, faced with an $8000 shortage in his books, becomes a likely candidate for prison thanks to the vengeful Potter. Bitterly, George declares that he wishes that he had never been born, and Clarence, hoping to teach George a lesson, shows him how different life would have been had he in fact never been born. After a nightmarish odyssey through a George Bailey-less Bedford Falls (now a glorified slum called Potterville), wherein none of his friends or family recognize him, George is made to realize how many lives he has touched, and helped, through his existence; and, just as Clarence had planned, George awakens to the fact that, despite all its deprivations, he has truly had a wonderful life. Capra's first production through his newly-formed Liberty Films, It's a Wonderful Life lost money in its original run, when it was percieved as a fairly downbeat view of small-town life. Only after it lapsed into the public domain in 1973 and became a Christmastime TV perennial did it don the mantle of a holiday classic.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Kryssa Schemmerling
A holiday classic synonymous with Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life is one of the most beloved of all American movies, as well as the film that both its director, Frank Capra, and star, James Stewart, considered the best of their careers. Stewart gives what may be his finest performance as George Bailey, an Everyman whose dream of leaving his small town and seeing the world is thwarted again and again by family responsibilities. Embittered, hopeless, and on the verge of suicide, George is rescued by an angel who shows him what life in the town would have been like if he'd never been born. For all its heartwarming sentimentality and homespun humor, what Capra's populist fantasy reveals most strikingly is the despair underlying the Norman Rockwell surface of small-town America. Stewart masterfully expresses the resentment and rage that result from George's almost masochistic selflessness, while Donna Reed, Ward Bond, and Gloria Grahame turn in superb supporting performances. A box-office failure, It's a Wonderful Life found a devoted new audience after it began to air regularly on TV, earning a very special place in the hearts of moviegoers.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
The image of It's a Wonderful Life has undergone a complete transformation since its 1946 release. In its own time, Frank Capra's comedy-drama about the dark side of human nature was a modest failure, neither a box-office success nor a critical favorite, though it garnered some recognition in the form of 5 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. For the next 28 years, the movie remained a cult favorite among movie buffs and Capra fans. Then the movie's copyright was allowed to lapse and suddenly, during the early 1980s around Christmas (the season in which the film is set), it seemed possible to flip on the TV at random some nights and find the movie playing somewhere on the dial, and that went double for Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year's. The public came out regarding the film as a lost classic; Capra lived just long enough to reap some of the belated acclaim, and his estate later benefitted from the sales of the films that he owned outright, such as Broadway Bill and Lady For a Day. The movie is in fact a dark, disturbing look at small-town American life between the two world wars, rife with class envy and fears of modernity, and featuring a before-its-time portrayal of George Bailey's middle-aged sense of failure that seems more appropriate for an American film of the Seventies. It is at once nostalgic and angry, and its reputation as a holiday chestnut has been mercilessly parodied for its conclusion on good spirits and generosity; Saturday Night Live, in particular, had vicious fun with it in a post-end-credits parody in which the people of Bedford Falls lynch Mr. Potter when they realize that he has the money.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/31/2006
UPC:
0097369600149
Original Release:
1946
Rating:
NR
Source:
Paramount
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
2:10:00
Sales rank:
22,059

Special Features

Closed Caption; The making of "It's a Wonderful Life" - a documentary featurette hosted by Tom Bosley; A Personal Remembrance - a special tribute to Frank Capra narrated by his son, Frank Capra Jr.; Original theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Stewart George Bailey
Donna Reed Mary Hatch Bailey
Lionel Barrymore Mr. Potter
Thomas Mitchell Uncle Billy
Henry Travers Clarence
Beulah Bondi Mrs. Bailey
Ward Bond Bert
Carol Coomes Janie Bailey
William Edmunds Mr. Martini
Gloria Grahame Violet Bick
Argentina Brunetti Mrs. Martini
Sarah Edwards Mrs. Hatch
Frank Faylen Ernie
Jean Gale Mary (younger)
Karolyn Grimes Zuzu Bailey
Frank S. Hagney Potter's Bodyguard
Jim Hawkins Tommy Bailey
Samuel S. Hinds Pa Bailey
Todd Karns Harry Bailey
Sheldon Leonard Nick
Virginia Patton Ruth Dakin
Ronnie Ralph Sam (younger)
Lillian Randolph Annie
Larry Simms Pete Bailey
Mary Treen Cousin Tilly
H.B. Warner Mr. Gower
Charles Williams Cousin Eustace
Bob Anderson George as a Child
Lane Chandler Actor
Harold Landon Marty Hatch
Bert Moorhouse Actor
Robert Peyton Actor
Bob Scott Mickey
Frank Albertson Sam Wainwright
Danny Mummert Marty Hatch (younger)
Ray Walker Joe at Luggage Shop
Edward Keane Tom
Ellen Corby Miss Davis
Stanley Andrews Mr. Welch
Marian Carr Mrs. Wainwright
Tom Fadden Tollhouse keeper
Charles Halton Bank Examiner
Harry Holman High School Principal
Charles Lane Real Estate Salesman
John Farrell MacDonald House Owner
Garry Owen Bill poster
Almira Sessions Potter's secretary
Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer Othello
Al Bridge Sheriff
George Nokes Little Harry Bailey
Harry V. Cheshire Dr. Campbell
Eddie Fetherstone Bank Teller
Dick Elliott Actor

Technical Credits
Frank Capra Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Gordon Bau Makeup
Joseph Biroc Cinematographer
Arthur S. Black Asst. Director
Russell A. Cully Special Effects
Frances Goodrich Screenwriter
Albert Hackett Screenwriter
William W. Hornbeck Editor
Emile Kuri Set Decoration/Design
Jack Okey Art Director
Clem Portman Sound/Sound Designer
Edward Stevenson Costumes/Costume Designer
Jo Swerling Screenwriter
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Richard VanHessen Sound/Sound Designer
Joseph Walker Cinematographer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- It's a Wonderful Life
1. Opening Credits
2. 1919: Saving Harry
3. Mr. Gower's Drug Store
4. "You Put Something Bad in Those Capsules"
5. 1928: George Bailey, World Traveler
6. Last Meal
7. High School Reunion
8. The Big Charleston Contest
9. Walking Mary Home
10. Harry's Surprise
11. Courting Mary
12. Wedding Day
13. 320 Sycamore
14. Bailey Park
15. On the Nest
16. December 24, 1945
17. Uncle Billy at the Bank
18. Searching for $8,000
19. Something Wrong With Daddy
20. No Help From a Warped, Frustrated Old Man
21. At Martini's Bar
22. On the Bridge
23. Saving George
24. At Nick's Place
25. Pottersville
26. "I Want to Live Again"
27. Homecoming
28. The Richest Man in Town

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