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I was all of 31 when I first saw the movie, when my ladyfriend found
out I hadn't yet seen it, and incredulously sat me down on her couch,
whipped a VHS tape out, and made me watch it on the spot.
It's become an annual ritual since; my wife and I watch it during Christmas season, and I still feel warm from seeing it again just a few nights ago.
So many other commentators have lavished remarks on this film that saying much of anything else would be gilding the lily, yet two elements stand out in my mind. First off, how many actors were ever the equal of Jimmy Stewart for the depth and quality of his expressions when he *wasn't* speaking? Possibly the dramatic high point of the movie is when Ruth tells George about his brother's career possibilities, and in the moment after she leaves him you can see better than any actor has ever done the wave of bitterness, disgust, the realization that he always has been and would always *be* trapped in the stultifying small town he hates.
Secondly, I'm sorry, but any man who sees this movie who wouldn't have married Donna Reed on the spot is either gay or crazy. Her performance radiated charm in torrents.
10/10; this movie is the unsurpassable standard by which all others are judged.
If you are going to recommend, give as a gift, watch with your family a movie...this is the film that never disappoints. I've seen this film once a year for forty years and it stirs me to tears every year. If your going to see one movie in all your life this is it. Frank Capra's films are all positive and wholesome (something we've lost in film today). James Stewart gives one of the greatest performances by any actor in any film. Playing the tortured George Bailey in his darkest moments then showing Bailey in the greatest revelation a film character has ever achieved, Stewart creates a three dimensional everyman. He is us. Our failures and triumphs all summed up in one very common man. There should be an exception made in IMDb's rating system. This is the only film I would ever consider an 11.
Since I first saw this classic in 1981, I've seen an episode of Laverne and Shirly with this premise (it's Laverne who imagines this scenario), a musical version on stage with Ernie the taxi driver-not Martini-owning a bar, and last year a Baton Rouge Little Theater presentation with dialogue almost taken verbatim from the movie. Nothing however compares to the original film interpretation. How can one not laugh when George (Jimmy Stewart) and Mary (Donna Reed) accidentally fall into the high school gym swimming pool after Mary ditched a potential suitor (Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer)? Or not get touched by George's speech defending his late father to Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)? Certainly the last hour as George feels the world tumbling before him and his eventual appreciation of his life are some of the most tear-and-laugh inducing scenes I've ever seen in the movies or television. It's a Wonderful Life has always been my favorite movie and nothing I've ever seen has even come close. Kudos to Stewart and director Frank Capra for such a life-affirming project. Thanks also to Barrymore, Reed, Switzer, Samuel S. Hinds (George's father Peter), Beulah Bondi (George's mom), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy), H.B. Warner (Gower the druggist), Gloria Grahame (Violet Bick), Lilian Randolph (Annie the maid), Sheldon Leonard (Nick the bartender), Ward Bond (Bert the cop), Frank Faylen (Ernie the taxi driver), Bill Edmunds (Martini), and Charles Lane in his role as the guy who tells Potter about George's Bailey Park plans for filling the picture with, in Nick's words "a little atmosphere". Add to that all the various kid and adult actors I can't remember right now. And finally, special thanks to Henry Travers (Clarence) for making us all believe in angels. No truer words have ever been written as the one in Clarence's book gift (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) to George: No man is a failure who has friends. Though one may quibble about Harry not being saved without George despite other friends near him or Mary becoming an old maid, It's a Wonderful Life is a flawless masterpiece that has stood the test of time for the last 60 years. May it stand forevermore. P.S. Look for the Blondie movie series' kid stars Larry "Baby Dumpling/Alexander Bumstead" Simms (George's son Pete) and Danny "Alvin Fuddle" Mummert (Little Marty Hatch). And Ellen "Grandma Walton" Corby as the woman George kisses in the run-on-the-bank sequence.
This movie is an outstanding achievement all around. By far James
Stewarts best performance ever! Frank Capra has directed a true classic
for the ages. All of the performances in this movie were great,
especially from Stewart and Henry Travers. His character of Clarence
was a total delight to watch, but the true triumph in this movie is
Stewart. He is extremely convincing as a distressed small-town man. His
performance, like many of his others, should have gotten him the
academy award, and so should the movie, but it was beat in both
categories by "The Best Years of Our Lives". I have yet to see this,
but I doubt that it can even come close to Its a Wonderful Life.
What can I say? It truly is a wonderful life! 10/10!
When you hear 'feel good movie' about one you haven't seen, are you predisposed to expect a thin, fluffy movie? Do you expect something saccharin that will leave you feeling like a bulimic teenage girl two hours after a chocolate binge? If you hadn't seen What a Wonderful Life, and I quoted only one line for you, in the voice of a toddler girl talking to her daddy: "every time a bell ring an angel gets his wings"what would you expect then? What a Wonderful Life has touched people. Of this I am sure because I am counted among one those it has touched. It is still meaningful to people today and on an ongoing basis. I have seen it too many times, though, and I am now ready to wait for a few years before I see it again.
Jimmy Stewart was in my opinion the first method actor. The range of emotions he encompasses within the film elevates the film from "corny" to an outstanding study of emotions that is true today of middle America as it was when the film was made. The scene when Harry returns with the surprise wife is outstanding. You only see Stewart's face but within that shot you see the realisation that he is stuck in Bedford Falls and all his dreams of travel and adventure have gone. Only Stewart could have done that scene. the only other comment I am going to make on this film is Stewart's own theory of acting. The ability to make the small things believable; to do the things you would do yourself in the same circumstances. A good example of this is when Clarence announces to him that he is an angel. A small laugh and a knowing gesture at the bridge keeper is totally believable - the best tribute that we can pay the man. Often copied but never emulated this film remains one of the all time classics.
James Stewart and Donna Reid at their respective bests. A heartwarming
tale of a status we would all aspire, to be loved by many and respected
by all. And, to have the ability to realize first hand, the impact our
lives had in this world. I've watched this movie literally, hundreds of
times and do so, every time it is on television.
Some years ago, I found a copy of this film in the bargain basket at a mall media store. Amazingly, I paid a fee of less than five dollars for a movie worth more than most of what comes out of Hollywood today. Few places can you find a movie that will make you cry as well as making you feel exhilarated and good about yourself as "It's a Wonderful Life". While it is an old cliché', it applies here that "they don't make 'em like that anymore".
It's hard to know where to start really. I could go on about the flawless attention to detail of the set, the wonderful characterisations from the actors or the direction itself. This film is really something of a miracle in that every obstacle - many of the original choices not taking the respective parts - was somehow turned into such a believable film. How amazing also that the film won no awards when it was released, and was only catapulted to stardom by virtue of a clerical copyright error which allowed TV stations to show it for free. The only sad aspect of this film for me is that, even by the time it was made, this was a world that had gone forever. If you live in a town like Bedford Falls with people who have good old fashioned values then please correct me, and send me the details so I can bring my family to live there.
Jimmy Stewart doesn't merely act this role, as a sad, yet monumentally blessed man of the people. He almost SINGS it, due to his gift for vocal histrionics. This story of one man against the planetary tides of fate is an absolutely thrilling exposition of film excellence. Each centimeter of this movie is filled with Life. That is the sly double-meaning of this movie. I command you to find another movie its equal. This is a movie even the great philosopher Aristotle, and his Poetics, would love. All film-makers, and all film-lovers should fill their souls with this great achievement. It is the archetypal story of grandeur in plainness. But not too plain. It is a Deus Ex Machina, where a little itty bitty man, struggling against evil, is suddenly and magically healed, and yet, finds himself pushing the same rock up the same hill. The Gods have transformed his struggle into a spiritual triumph. Same Old Sisyphus, same old rock. This movie collapses and conflates a monumental struggle into a warm, and sappy and beautiful Christmas card. There will be a long time, if ever, that a movie ever accomplishes as much. I approach this movie the way a grasshopper appreciates a spider's web, once his leg is fatally caught. I cannot escape it. I marvel at the art it displays.
Wonderful and charming classic movie that makes you feel good to the
The story is based a great deal on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, only in this case it's a guardian angel and not 3 ghosts and it's a good man he comes to visit. The guardian angel shows our hero George Bailey how life would have been without him. When George realises how much he has and how much he's done for others and on Christmas Eve no less, he understands what's really important again. It's inspiring to see George swimming most of his life against the current but always in the pursuit of doing what's right. His selflessness and understanding of others is something in modern society we don't seem to even aspire to emulate any more.
If you haven't seen this film you will find scenes you've come across in other movies and never knew where they came from. The film contains so many memorable scenes and wonderful moments that I really can't do it justice. You simply have to see it for yourself.
Make sure you have a full 2.5 hours free to watch it because it's a long movie. In fact leave 5 hours free so you can watch it again straight after.
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