🎥 It’s A Wonderful Life – 1946
The Story …
On Christmas Eve 1945, in Bedford Falls, New York, George Bailey contemplates suicide.
The prayers of his family and friends reach Heaven, where guardian angel second class Clarence Odbody is assigned to save George in order to earn his wings. Clarence is shown flashbacks of George’s life.
He watches 12-year-old George rescue his younger brother Harry from drowning, leaving George deaf in his left ear. George later prevents the pharmacist, Mr. Gower, from accidentally poisoning a customer’s prescription …
In 1928, George plans a world tour before college. He is reintroduced to Mary Hatch, who has been enamored with him since childhood. When his father dies suddenly, George postpones his travel to settle the family business, Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.
Avaricious board member Henry Potter, who controls most of the town, seeks to dissolve it, but the board votes to keep the Building and Loan open if George runs it. George acquiesces and works alongside his uncle Billy, giving his tuition savings to Harry with the understanding that Harry will run the business when he graduates.
Harry returns from college married and with a job offer from his father-in-law, and George resigns himself to running the Building and Loan. George and Mary rekindle their relationship and wed. They witness a run on the bank and use their honeymoon savings to keep the Building and Loan solvent.
Under George, the company establishes Bailey Park, a housing development surpassing Potter’s overpriced slums. Potter entices George with a $20,000/year job, but realizing that Potter’s true intention is to close the Building and Loan, George rebuffs him.
On Christmas Eve 1945, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for Harry, who, as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, was awarded the Medal of Honor for preventing a kamikaze attack on a troop transport. Billy goes to Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s money.
He taunts Potter with a newspaper headline about Harry, then absentmindedly wraps the cash in Potter’s newspaper. Potter finds and keeps the money, while Billy cannot recall how he misplaced it. With a bank examiner reviewing the company’s records, George realizes scandal and criminal charges will follow. Fruitlessly retracing Billy’s steps, George berates him and takes out his frustration on Mary and their children.
George appeals to Potter for a loan, offering his life insurance policy as collateral. Potter scoffs that George is worth more dead than alive, refuses to help, and phones the police.
George flees Potter’s office, gets drunk at a bar, and prays for help. Contemplating suicide, he goes to a nearby bridge. However, before George can jump, Clarence dives into the freezing river, and George rescues him. When George wishes he had never been born, Clarence shows George a timeline in which he never existed.
Bedford Falls is now Pottersville, an unsavory town occupied by sleazy entertainment venues, crime, and callous people. Mr. Gower was imprisoned for manslaughter because George was not there to stop him from poisoning the customer. George’s mother does not know him. Uncle Billy was institutionalized after the Building and Loan failed. Bailey Park is a cemetery, where George discovers Harry’s grave.
Without George, Harry drowned as a child, and without Harry to save them, the troops aboard the transport ship were killed. George finds Mary, but when he grabs her and claims to be her husband, she screams and runs.
George flees back to the bridge and begs Clarence for his life back. The original reality is restored, and a grateful George rushes home to await his arrest. Meanwhile, Mary and Billy have rallied the townspeople, who come into the Bailey home and donate more than enough to cover the missing money.
Harry arrives and toasts George as “the richest man in town”. Among the donations George finds a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a gift from Clarence and inscribed, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
Thanks for the wings!” When a bell on the Christmas tree rings, George’s youngest daughter, Zuzu, explains that “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” George looks upward smiling and says, “Atta boy, Clarence!”
- Directed by Frank Capra
- Screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett and Frank Capra
- Additional Scenes : Jo Swerling
- Based on The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
- Produced by Frank Capra
- Cinematography : Joseph Walker and Joseph Biroc
- Edited by William Hornbeck
- Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
- Production Company : Liberty Films
- Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
- Release Date : December 20, 1946
- James Stewart as George Bailey
- Donna Reed as Mary Hatch Bailey
- Lionel Barrymore as Henry Potter
- Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy
- Henry Travers as Clarence Odbody
- Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Bailey
- Frank Faylen as Ernie Bishop
- Ward Bond as Bert
- Gloria Grahame as Violet Bick
- H. B. Warner as Mr. Gower
- Frank Albertson as Sam Wainwright
- Todd Karns as Harry Bailey
- Samuel S. Hinds as Pa Bailey
- Mary Treen as Cousin Tilly
- Virginia Patton as Ruth Dakin
- Charles Williams as Cousin Eustace
- Sara Edwards as Mrs. Hatch
- Bill Edmunds as Mr. Giuseppe Martini
- Lillian Randolph as Annie
- Argentina Brunetti as Mrs. Martini
- Bobbie Anderson as Little George
- Ronnie Ralph as Little Sam
- Jean Gale as Little Mary
- Jeanine Ann Roose as Little Violet
- Danny Mummert as Little Marty Hatch
- Georgie Nokes as Little Harry Bailey
- Sheldon Leonard as Nick
- Frank Hagney as Potter’s Bodyguard
- Ray Walker as Joe (Luggage Shop)
- Charlie Lane as Real Estate Salesman
- Edward Kean as Tom (Bldg. & Loan)
- The Bailey Children
- Carol Coomes as Janie
- Karolyn Grimes as Zuzu
- Larry Simms as Pete
- Jimmy Hawkins as Tommy
- Famous or memorable uncredited cast members include:
- Jimmy as Uncle Billy’s pet raven
- Stanley Andrews as Mr. Welch, the teacher’s husband
- Al Bridge as the Sheriff with the arrest warrant against George
- Adriana Caselotti as Singer at Martini’s
- Ellen Corby as Bailey Brothers Building & Loan customer, Miss Davis
- Dick Elliott as the bald man on his front porch
- Tom Fadden as the bridge tollhouse keeper
- Charles Halton as the bank examiner, Mr. Carter
- Harry Holman as high school principal, Mr. Partridge
- Harold Landon as Marty Hatch
- J. Farrell MacDonald as the man whose great-grandfather planted the tree George drives into.
- Mark Roberts as Mickey, the student with the swimming pool floor key
- Almira Sessions as Potter’s secretary
- Carl Switzer as Freddie Othello, the student who unsuccessfully tries to flirt with Mary
- Joseph Granby voiced the Angel Joseph
- Moroni Olsen voiced the Senior Angel Franklin
- Marian Carr as Jane Wainwright
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