Throwback Thursday Review: “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)



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Posted December 8, 2016 by

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There is not a whole lot I can say, about Frank Capra’s timeless classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that hasn’t been said a hundred or so times before. Odds are most of you, like me, grew up watching it (along with “Christmas Vacation”, “A Christmas Story”, and a handful of other holiday classics) every year, around this time. When I was young, my mother would put it on, make me hot chocolate, and sit by the fire with me watching the tale of George Bailey (James Stewart). She would explain to me that all of the good things he had done, while often sacrificing the things he wanted to do, made profound differences in the lives of others. To this day, I remind myself of that lesson daily, and try to always live by the truth that our actions affect many more lives than we are aware of. If a movie can, at least partially, teach you that kind of life lesson it must be a great movie. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is.

The story of the film goes as follows: George Bailey grows up as a lad who lives in a small town (Bedford Falls), but has larger than life ambitions. Even as a young lad, George talks constantly about how he is going to grow up and see the world… the whole world and everything it has to offer. Sadly, for George, things do not go as he planned, and he ends up stuck in Bedford Falls as he watches all of his friends and his brother go off and achieve great things. He marries his first love Mary (Donna Reed), has four kids, and takes over his fathers’ building and loan business after his father passes away suddenly.

Things take a turn for the worse, when the evil businessman Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) conspires against George in order to shut down the building and loan. Facing financial ruin, George wishes he had never been born. About to end his life, he is instead given a chance to see what the world would be like without him in it, by his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers). He then realizes just how much all of his sacrifice and good deeds have meant to a town full of blue collar, working-class people.

The film ends with one of the most emotionally uplifting scenes ever to grace the silver screen. Stewart and Reed are fantastic, and the supporting cast are all fine. There is really nothing negative to say about this movie, unless you are some heartless bastard who hates positive, life-affirming messages in films. I am not heartless, and therefor love “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I still watch it ever Christmas season, and I will admit that I still choke up every time. “It’s a Wonderful Life” isn’t just one of the best holiday films of all time; it is one of the best films period.




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