Saturday, 16 March 2013

It's a Wonderful Life


IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (BLACK AND WHITE, 1946)

Director
Frank Capra

Cast
James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Donna Reed, Henry Travers, Thomas Mitchell, Beulah Bondi, H.B. Warner, Ward Bond, Frank Albertson, Gloria Grahame, Todd Karns and Samuel S. Hinds

Ages
7 and up

Plot
George Bailey (Stewart), who helps out at Mr Gower’s (Warner) drugstore, is a boy who wants to be an explorer, but he seems destined to remain in Bedford Falls with his mother (Bondi), father (Hinds), uncle (Mitchell) and brother (Karns), whom he saves from a near drowning incident. His father’s business, Bailey Building and Loan, is challenged by local "fat cat" Henry F. Potter (Barrymore), who, when George’s father dies, wants George to take over or else there shall be consequences.  George does that, though it means he has to give up his dreams. He later marries Mary Hatch (Reed) and finds himself at the end of his rope on Christmas Eve when his uncle loses $8,000 and when Potter requests for a warrant for his arrest. So from heaven comes the wingless angel Clarence (Travers) to help resolve his problems. Clarence prevents George from killing himself by showing him what the world would have been like without him.  

George Bailey surrounded by his family and friends in a scene that moved me to tears.

Why it’s good
Because to kids it is a real tear-jerker and a real heart-warmer. And it's my favourite movie of all time. Before this movie, no one has ever shown audiences what the world would be like without us, but Frank Capra managed to do just that. In addition, this movie communicates the value and importance of being caring and generous exceedingly well.

He did it through directing and co-writing the script with Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich. But he was not all who made the movie. It was James Stewart who made the movie come to life. His acting was marvellous, arguably his best role (even he said so himself). This is arguably his best movie.

It was the first style of his new acting, yes, after World War II when he came back from the war. His style was different now – darker, heavier, less cute. Frank Capra was, too, he too had come back from a directing unit in the war.

And thus the message and point of the movie is conveyed. That we matter, each and every one of us matters. Even if you know you are bad, the world would be much, much worse if you did not exist. And Capra and Stewart knew this beforehand, making this movie into a magical Christmas classic.

Trivia
Jean Arthur was originally Frank Capra’s first choice for the role eventually played by Donna Reed. Unfortunately, she was committed to a Broadway stage play. The film originally ended with the song "Ode to Joy" but it was changed to "Auld Lang Syne".

Parent’s guide
Thomas Mitchell’s character is seen drunk and James Stewart became drunk, too. A married character punched another character at a bar.   

If you like this…
James Stewart-Frank Capra were a team, who made "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" in 1939 and "You Can’t Take It with You" in 1938. Capra also made, in 1944, "Arsenic and Old Lace" with Cary Grant.       

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