It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Free Great Movies Review

  •  (5 out of 5 stars)

Jimmy Stewart gives one of the all-time great screen performances as George Bailey in Frank Capra's 1946 masterpiece. Bailey represents the indomitable American spirit in the face of relentless greed embodied in the villain Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore). Young Bailey starts off the movie with pure American youthful vigor, ready to travel and take on the world. His father runs the Building and Loan company in the fictional, old-fashioned small town of Bedford Falls, New York, where he loans money to its citizens so they can buy homes. Just as Bailey is about to travel before going to college, his father suffers a fatal stroke. Circumstances keep Bailey in Bedford Falls running the family business and marrying his sweetheart, Mary Hatch (Donna Reed). The years pass as Bailey and his family weather the effects of the Great Depression and World War II.

Potter's continual greed through the years and a financial mishap eventually drive Bailey to near suicide on Christmas Eve, 1945. That's when Bailey's guardian angel, Clarence, shows up for the supernatural last act of the film. Bailey wishes to Clarence that he was never born, and his wish is granted. Bailey is presented with a sort of inverse version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, where his lifelong absence causes catastrophe for all his friends and family and the town of Bedford Falls. Bailey wishes once again to be alive, and the climax of the movie is pure Christmas magic as the town gathers at the Bailey household, raising money for him and singing his praises in one of the happiest endings in movie history. The angel Clarence reminds Bailey and all of us that "no man is a failure who has friends."

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