It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Directed by Frank Capra
It sure is a wonderful life when you can watch Jimmy Stewart act his guts out in this Christmas classic. The directive genius of Italian-born Francesco Rosario “Frank” Capra is never more apparent than in this family tradition.
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) has a wonderful life, with a supportive wife (Donna Reed), children, friends, and a mother (Beulah Bondi) and brother (Todd Karns). He also has a business, but one that has seen better days after WWI came and went, and bank runs were the new thing. It’s after a tough day on the job, when $8,000 vanished and the prospect of bankruptcy looms, that George decided his life had been and will be worthless, and went to the bridge to end it. That’s just when heaven decided that George’s life was well worth it, and sent Angel Clarence (Henry Travers) to show him just how necessary he has been. No man is a failure that has friends…or something like that.
Jimmy Stewart can now be seen in full color! Doggone, ain’t that just grand! Stewart gives the performance of his life—no, strike that, I still prefer Mr. Smith goes to Washington—but still, he is spectacular in the role. The striking Donna Reed is solid as his partner in love, a love that blossoms after an extremely awkward, confusing, but revealing first kiss.
Special features tell me the wintertime snow used in the film is actually a mix of ice shavings, soap, bits of rubber, and a eclectic mix of all kinds of things, and that these scenes were actually shot in a record Los Angeles heat wave. Capra wanted the film shot life, and the previous convention for falling snow—corn flakes painted white—were too loud, and dialogue had to be dubbed in later. Facts like these can be found on IMDb.
This holiday classic is a must-see, for its wonderful directing, acting, and technical specs. It’s a Wonderful Life is now available in a two-disc DVD package including both black & white and color versions of the film, plus great special features.