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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

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An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

Director:

Frank Capra

Writers:

Frances Goodrich (screenplay), Albert Hackett (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Popularity
1,460 ( 7)
Top Rated Movies #24 | Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Stewart ... George Bailey
Donna Reed ... Mary Hatch
Lionel Barrymore ... Mr. Potter
Thomas Mitchell ... Uncle Billy
Henry Travers ... Clarence
Beulah Bondi ... Mrs. Bailey
Frank Faylen ... Ernie
Ward Bond ... Bert
Gloria Grahame ... Violet
H.B. Warner ... Mr. Gower
Frank Albertson ... Sam Wainwright
Todd Karns ... Harry Bailey
Samuel S. Hinds ... Pa Bailey
Mary Treen ... Cousin Tilly
Virginia Patton ... Ruth Dakin
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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:

Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! How could it be anything else? See more »

Genres:

Drama | Family | Fantasy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements, smoking and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

7 January 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Greatest Gift See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,180,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Liberty Films (II) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD edition)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The term "Potter's Field" is often used to refer to municipal cemeteries where paupers and unidentified bodies are interred. At one point in the film, the Potter housing project in Bedford Falls is referred to as "Potter's Field." See more »

Goofs

When George visits his father in his office and finds him arguing with Potter, his father is standing behind his desk. At 0:09:44 (2007 DVD) the scene cuts to a close-up of Potter in his wheelchair carrying on their argument. At 0:09:52 the scene cuts back to the longer shot, but now Peter is sitting on the front of his desk, face to face with Potter. See more »

Quotes

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

Crazy Credits

A ringing facsimile of the Liberty Bell (without the crack) forms the backdrop for the studio logo, which is Liberty Films, 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 »

Alternate Versions

The film was colorized three times. The first colorized version of the film was produced by Hal Roach Studios (now Sonar Entertainment), the second by Republic Pictures. A third colorization of the film was produced by Legend Films for Paramount, the film's current copyright holder, in 2007. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Frequency (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

King Porter Stomp
(uncredited)
Written by Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Atop my Top Ten
9 December 1998 | by dweckSee 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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