12/17/13: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

“Merry Christmas, Movie House!! Merry Christmas, Blog Followers!!!”. 


Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is the very first film I ever hosted, just over 2 years ago on 12/12/11 at Rave Cinemas, Southington CT. It stars one of the greatest actors of his or any generation, James Stewart, as George Bailey. George is a good man, but a flawed man. He has a temper. He’s been deaf in his left ear since he was a boy. But mostly, George just doesn’t recognize that It’s a Wonderful Life. He has a wonderful wife, Mary, played by Oscar Winner Donna Reed; 4 wonderful kids; and he lives in wonderful BedfordFalls – a Norman Rockwell-like town in upstate New York. It even takes place in Rockwell era, from post-World War I, through the Roaring ‘20’s, The Great Depression, World War II, and concluding when the film was released, just after the war ended. George’s lifetime obsession is to leave BedfordFalls and make his mark on the world!

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It’s a Wonderful Life was the first post-World War II project for both Stewart & Capra. It was not particularly well received when it was released for the 1946 holiday season. It did okay at the box office, but the critics considered it another overly cheerful Capra film: What they called Capra-corn. History gives us a different perspective. It’s a Wonderful Life received 5 Oscar nominations in 1947 at the 19th Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director and Actor. Some other pieces of Capra-Corn: You Can’t Take It With You and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, both starring Stewart, received Best Picture & Director Oscar nominations, the former taking the directorial Award and the latter garnering Stewart a Best Actor nomination. Capra won two other Best Director Oscars: For Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and It Happened One Night. Um, I’ll take a large Capra-Corn, extra Stewart, please! Jimmy Stewart won the Best Actor Oscar for The Philadelphia Story in 1941 at the 13th Academy Awards and the Honorary Academy Award 44 years later. As you watch this fantastic performance by Mr. Stewart, keep in mind that acting could actually be thought of as his second career. He was Major (or Two-Star) General in the Air Force.

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Until the result of a lawsuit a few years ago, It’s a Wonderful Life was in the public domain, meaning its rights belonged to the general public. A film is in the public domain if it was copyrighted before 1923, or if its copyright or extension was never filed or filed incorrectly. In 1974, the picture’s copyright expired & wasn’t renewed, so TV stations & networks the world over were able to air it royalty-free. Soon it became as much a Christmas tradition as trimming the tree, giving out presents (or, as we Marinos call them, ‘prizes’), and writing Christmas cards. Other great performances include: Lionel Barrymore as the Scrooge-like, Mr. Potter; and especially Henry Travers as Clarence the Angel – the catalyst for the Act III conclusion (or [aristocratically] dénouement, as we say in the theater), and what a third act it is! And with that, please give a warm Rave Cinemas welcome to Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life!

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I’ve included the complete film below. If you’ve seen this joyous piece before, as I suspect almost all of my readers have, watch it again! If you have never seen it, gather the family together and set up a time to start a new Christmas tradition. And always remember that it really is A Wonderful Life! 4 Stars!!!