I have been deprived all my life. I finally, as a 21-year-old, saw It’s a Wonderful Life. I thought the film from 1946 was superb! It had such a great mix of elements: good acting, plotline, dialogue, wit, morals, mise en scene, etc.
The story is about a man named George Bailey. We follow him from childhood into adulthood. He was raised by a very caring, loyal family and inherits those characteristics. He takes over his father’s Building and Loan business. George has big plans for himself, he wants to attend college and be successful away from his hometown. But circumstances keep him in his hometown of Bedford Falls.
What I liked most about the film was being able to identify with the characters. With George Bailey I could really identify. He was a family man even from an early age and genuinely cared for people. It was because of this loyalty that he gave up his dreams for the good of the town. George seemed to be racing through life and didn’t take time to breath and enjoy what he had. In steps the main moral of the movie. It’s a simple, yet powerful message and the movie relayed it effectively.
Eric Robinette disagrees saying George is selfish, “George is a great guy, but when you get down to it, he grouses an awful lot about how podunk Bedford Falls is when it looks like a perfectly lovely little burg … It’s a Wonderful Life is scarcely sentimental at all. Point of fact, it’s the darkest and most foreboding picture Frank Capra ever made.” Read his full review here.
I can empathize with George, though. He’s at the age where he feels stifled by his hometown, no matter how idyllic it looks. He wants to escape to a new place where no one knows him and he can do the things he wants without feel obligated to help others.
James Stewart as George was just wonderful. I first saw him in Rear Window and he’s such a talented actor. Donna Reed as George’s wife Mary was also perfectly cast I thought. The film was directed by Italian Frank Capra, who did Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, also starring Stewart.