thu 22/08/2019

12 Films of Christmas: It's a Wonderful Life | reviews, news & interviews

12 Films of Christmas: It's a Wonderful Life

12 Films of Christmas: It's a Wonderful Life

The film to which audiences return again and again for relief from the woes of life

George the angel, The Baileys and the good people of Bedford Falls

It’s A Wonderful Life disappointed studio bosses at the box office. Five Oscar chances came to nothing. Gongs and money, however, don’t guarantee a classic and that is what It’s a Wonderful Life is - a film that can restore one's sense of joy within minutes. Set at Christmas (but filmed in the boiling summer of California), this is the film to which audiences return again and again for relief from the woes of life.

George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart, fresh from the World War Two) wants to travel but gets sucked up into family and money worries, so much so he thinks the world would be a better place if he wasn’t alive. An angel called Clarence (Henry Travers) comes to Earth to show George the truth. Repeatedly broadcast on American TV at Christmas during the 1970s and '80s, It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t about Christmas. It isn’t about money or hopes. It’s about recalling the wonder of your own life, a vivid sense of joy bolstered by some of the most uplifting dialogue in American cinema - from “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?” to "Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends." (Of course, everyone needs to memorise, “This old thing? Why, I only wear it when I don't care how I look.“)

Wrought by six writers, not all credited, it was also made at Capra’s own risk. Of course, any director wants to make a film as beloved – and as good – as It’s a Wonderful Life. But, like the wonders of life itself, classics can't be planned. As Capra said in 1984, "It's the damnedest thing I've ever seen. The film has a life of its own now, and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I'm like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I'm proud... but it's the kid who did the work."

Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

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