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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
1,518 ( 149)
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 news...about wonderful people!...in a wonderful picture! It's a wonderful love! It's a wonderful laugh! 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

Release Date:

7 January 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,180,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$7,270,000, 31 December 1947
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

In 1947 an FBI analyst submitted, without comment, an addition to a running memo on "Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry," recording the opinion of an industry source who said that the film's "obvious" attempt to discredit bankers "is a common trick used by Communists." See more »

Goofs

When George arrives home and finds Mary lying there, he puts his right hand on her right hand and kisses her. In the next shot he is caressing her head with his right hand. 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 »

Connections

Spoofed in Spawn (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
(pub. 1856) (uncredited)
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1840)
Hymn by Charles Wesley (1730)
Performed by Carol Coombs
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"To My Big Brother George, The Richest Man In Town"
25 December 2005 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

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.


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