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It's a Wonderful Life (reissue)


Stars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Gloria Grahame, Henry Travers, Ward Bond, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, H B Warner, Sheldon Leonard

Director: Frank Capra

As a young man, George Bailey (Stewart) longed to travel. But commitments to his home town, Bedford Falls, always prevented it, especially as he fights to prevent his father's building and loan business from falling into the hands of miserly Mr Potter (Barrymore), who has ambitions to take over the whole town.

So George meets and marries Mary Hatch (Reed) and makes the most of the life he has been compelled to settle for. But now it's Christmas in Bedford Falls, and suddenly everything George has worked for lies in ruins. He decides to take dramatic action...

The result is Oscar-winning director Frank Capra's finest film, and could justifiably lay claim to being one of the best movies ever made. It's both a summation of Capra's own career and a peak of achievement for the kind of American cinema that was to fade in post-war years and disappear altogether with the harshness and violence of modern times.

Stewart, nominated in one of the film's five Oscar nods - it shamefully won none - is at his very best as the man asked by an angel to reflect on his life when he contemplates suicide. But it's in the amazing depth of character and incident, all immaculately conceived and executed, that the film scores most heavily.

There are many telling moments throughout the picture, but the ending is a real tear-jerker and, if you don't agree with Capra that life is really like this, then you might go along with his sentiment that it ought to be.

David Quinlan

USA 1946. UK Distributor: Park Circus (originally RKO Radio). Black and white.
130 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 Dec 2018