Romance - Feelgood
It's a Wonderful Life
Dir: Frank Capra
Star: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Henry Travers, Lionel Barrymore
Cert / Year: U - Approved / 1946
Format: VIDEO

Christmas Eve in the sleepy little American town of "Bedford Falls" and many of the townsfolk are offering a prayer for local good guy George Bailey (James Stewart) who has gotten them a little worried. Unfortunately George is facing huge disgrace after his Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) managed to misplace the hefty sum of $8,000.00 much to the glee of local property shark and all round bad egg Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) who has been trying to get his hands on George's building and loan company which was started by his father. Despairing at being unable to find the money or to replace it, George runs from his wife and children and stands at the edge of a large bridge gazing into the dark void below him searching for a reason to live, determined to end his life. Whilst standing there, George is joined by Clarence (Henry Travers) a strange little man who informs George that he is almost an angel and he is the answer to the townsfolks prayers. In order for Clarence to become an full angel he must save a soul.... in this case it is George and if he succeeds then he will be rewarded with his wings. Clarence takes George back in time and shows him aspects of his life and also shows him how very different things would have been in Bedford Falls if he hadn't existed.

One of the "ultimate Christmas movies". One of those films that is shown on TV every year over yuletide and one that almost everyone has seen at some point or another in their lives. Essentially a "feelgood" movie despite a generally morose undertone, Wonderful Life reflects some of the mood of the time in a post war America. The film is grim and decidedly bleak throughout but does lead to a delightful and uplifting ending. Something to depress the hell out of the viewer before turning the tables and giving a sickeningly sweet, cheese ridden ending.

The story heavily relies upon Dickens' A Christmas Carol and is ultimately rather cheesy and at times very corny, as you would expect from Capra. The direction itself is strong but nothing outstanding and at times the limitations of Black & White does hold the film back. That said, there are some nice set pieces and pleasant photography.

Wonderful Life signalled the return to the big screen for James Stewart after a six year break due to military service and what a return it is. His portrayal of George Baker is undoubtibly one of his finest performances. Henry Travers is entertaining as would be angel Clarence and steals several scenes. A fine supporting cast provide good performances, especially Lionel Barrymore as the shrewd and fiscally motivated Mr. Potter, providing the essential "bad guy".

Despite the age of the film, it remains a popular Christmas movie and one that you don't mind watching again and again. The only way that you can really describe it is, it's a "nice" film, not rivetting but a pleasant and entertaining watch. There are worse Christmas movies out there


Remember George, No man is a failure who has friends.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home