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(1946)

Frank Capras Its a Wonderful Life

They’re making memories tonight!

Directed by:

Frank Capra

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 130 minutes

UK Certificate: U

On DVD

Country: United States

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Frank Capra’s enchanting tale of divine intervention, has become as much a part of Christmas as over-eating and arguing over decorating the tree.

Even on this DVD edition, the sound quality isn’t what it used to be and the picture tends to fluctuate between mediocre and bad, but for some reason the movie just seems to get better and better. I struggle to think of any film more deserving of the description “timeless classic”, and if this one ever goes out-of-date I can only hope that it’s long after I’ve snuffed it.

The late, great James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a man who unintentionally ends up dedicating his life to running the family loans company. On the surface, his family life with wife Mary (Donna Reed) and their four sprogs seems perfect, but increasing financial troubles and a series of run-ins with local tycoon Potter (Lionel Barrymore, Drew’s Great Uncle) gradually breaks him down into a suicidal wreck. And that’s when Clarence (Henry Travers), his guardian angel, steps in to show him just how important a man he is.

It’s easy to forget that the film takes an hour-and-a-half to build itself up before Clarence finally makes his appearance – but it’s perhaps because we’re made to wait so long for it that the pay-off is so effective. Indeed, the closing scenes are among the most memorable in film history. They’re also among the most imitated – with ‘Back to the Future II’ just one of the high profile flicks to have borrowed heavily from (or, rather, paid tribute to) George’s trip to see how his home town would have turned out were he never to have been born.

Both Stewart and Capra stated this to be their favourite movie, to the extent that both were involved in the court case against having it colorized. Today, an obscene coloured-in version does exist, but it’s the film in its’ marvellous original black and white state that continues to capture the hearts of viewers. And who am I to pick faults with a film that’s not only one of the most popular ever made, but that continues to stand the test of time after more than half a century?

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It's Got: A blink-and-you-miss-her appearance from Ellen “Grandma Walton” Corby, as the woman asking for $17.50.

It Needs: To be watched, as God himself probably intended, in black and white.

DVD Extras An interview with Frank Capra Jnr, and a ‘Making Of’ featurette hosted, inexplicably, by Tom “Happy Days” Bosley. DVD Extras Rating: 3/10

Alternatives:

It Happened One Night, Mr Deeds Goes To Town, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, You Can't Take It With You

Summary

The best Christmas film ever made. That’s right – it’s even better than ‘The Santa Clause 2’.

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