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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

 -  Drama | Family  -  7 January 1947 (USA)
8.7
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Ratings: 8.7/10 from 210,213 users  
Reviews: 640 user | 188 critic

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

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(screenplay), (screenplay), 4 more credits »
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Top 250 #25 | Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 7 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Todd Karns ...
Samuel S. Hinds ...
Mary Treen ...
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Virginia Patton ...
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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 ... Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

They're making memories tonight! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Family

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 January 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Greatest Gift  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,180,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£49,845 (UK) (19 December 2008)

Gross:

£682,222 (UK) (24 December 2010)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD edition)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Color:

(colorized)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Two of the writers called the finished film "horrid" and refused to see it when it was released. The only one of Clifford Odets' ideas to appear in the finished script was George preventing Mr. Gower from poisoning a boy with the wrong vitamin pills. See more »

Goofs

Some confetti from George's wedding is on his hair during his phone conversation with Potter, but not the shots before it. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Mr. Emil Gower: I owe everything to George Bailey. Help him, dear Father.
Giuseppe Martini: Joseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friend, Mr. Bailey.
Ma Bailey: Help my son, George, tonight.
Bert: He never thinks about himself, God, that's why he's in trouble.
Ernie Bishop: George is a good guy. Give him a break, God.
Mary: I love him, dear Lord. Watch over him tonight.
Janie Bailey: Please, God, something's the matter with Daddy.
Zuzu Bailey: Please bring Daddy back.
See more »

Crazy Credits

A church bell forms the backdrop for the studio logo, and the opening credits are in a scrapbook with Christmas decorations. The bell reappears before the end credits, and the end credits have a Christmas card picture as a backdrop. See more »

Connections

Featured in Christmas Vacation (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

My Wild Irish Rose
(1899) (uncredited)
Written by Chauncey Olcott
Performed by Thomas Mitchell
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Atop my Top Ten
9 December 1998 | by (Philadelphia, PA, USA) – See all my reviews

I am a film lover from 'way back, having even served a stint as a newspaper movie critic. Entries in my personal list of Greatest Films of All Time include "Fantasia," "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Casablanca," "Singin' in the Rain," "North by Northwest," and "The Sound of Music. But sitting atop all of them, as undisputed champ, is "It's a Wonderful Life."

I have seen it hundreds of times (dating back to, oh, when I was a teenager I suppose, and our local PBS station ran it as part of a pledge drive). I drive my wife and family to distraction when we watch it together because I quote all the dialogue along with the actors.

I cry every time--and this is after viewing upon viewing--when Harry Bailey toasts his big brother George as "...the richest man in town." The emotions in that scene are so true and pure that I can't help but be affected by them.

The performances are unparalleled. Stewart is brilliant as a small-town dreamer who loses and finds his way. His superlative acting abilities cause us to identify strongly with him (how many of us have lamented--even to ourselves--that no one seems to notice the sacrifices we've made?), which is, I think, why the movie bears up under so many repeat viewings. Reed is just lovely here, the epitome of sunny girlfriend, caring lover, devoted wife, dedicated mother.

Capra's talent as a screenwriter are all over this script. He knows just how hard to tug the heartstrings without becoming overblown or phony. And his technical wizardry is evident too. I've never seen--before or since--more natural-looking onscreen snow.

Watching IAWL has become a tonic, a pick-me-up when I really need one--whether it's the Christmas season or not. Its message--that each one of us is important and has *something* to contribute to the greater good--is one about which the world could use some reminding from time to time.


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