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It's a Wonderful Life Film Review

Updated on August 8, 2017
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Louise is a film enthusiast and enjoys films particularly from the 40's and 50's era & enjoys writing about films she has seen.

The film poster

James Stewart
George Bailey
Beulah Bondi
Ma Bailey
Lionel Barrymore
Mr Potter
Donna Reed
Mary Bailey
Thomas Mitchell
Uncle Billy
Henry Travers
Clarence Oddbody

About the film

I've always enjoyed watching films, particularly from the 40's and 50's era. Those old black and white films are always a delight to watch. And I love James Stewart. He's one of my all time favourite actors. Why I've not seen this film before I'll never know. It's one of those classics which tends to be shown over the Christmas period though.

Film Information

Released: 1946

Running time: 2 hrs 10 mins

Director/Producer: Frank Capra

Genre: Family, Drama, Fantasy

Budget: $3,180,000 (approx)

The film starts with Clarence Oddbody as a star in the sky. Clarence is an Angel 2nd Class. This means that he has yet to earn his wings. You see him and 2 other stars talking to each other. Clarence is sent to earth to help George Bailey. George is on the verge of suicide. Clarence is shown snippets of George's life to get a picture of what to expect, and to earn his wings, his job is to help George. As we see from George's early life, he helps his brother out of an icy pond, saving him from drowning. He subsequently loses his hearing in one of his ears. Another scene from his childhood is when he stops his boss from selling a prescribed drug that he has accidentally put poison into. It's these small, yet effective flashbacks from Georges life that helps Clarence show George the good he has done in his life.

Roll on a few years and George falls in love and marrys his sweetheart, Mary. They have 4 children and live in a lovely house. George runs Bailey Park, which is a housing development. Mr Potter is a very rude and nasty man. He plays a financier in the film, and plots all along to take over George's company. When $8000 goes accidentally goes missing thanks to Uncle Billy, this sends George into a downward spiral, thinking there is no hope as he knows he would be held responsible for the missing money. As he stands by the bridge thinking about taking his own life, this is when Clarence Oddbody comes into the film. George tells him he wishes he had never been born. So Clarence tells him that his dream will come true and he has never been born. What we see from this point Clarence being George's guardian angel and showing him all the good he has done in his life, as a child and as and adult. It is interesting to see George visit all the people he knows and none of them knowing who he is.

What I love about this film is the superb way it's made. I love how at the beginning of the film, we see George as a young boy helping his brother and his boss. And as an adult helping the people around him. He seems to be such a kind and selfless man, only he cannot see this himself. He has a wife and 4 children that love him dearly. It's so well acted too. James Stewart has a unique way of portraying the raw emotion of a man on the edge ready to jack it all in. He just doesn't realise how much he is loved and much people need him. Set in Bedford Falls in New York, the film centres around George and his family and how he deals with all the negativity concerning his business and how Clarence steps in to help him.



This is a lovely film and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I found the acting superb, and you can see through the eye of the lense that Jame Stewart and Donna Reed have a good connection on screen. I love how the film is shot in such a way that you get a snippet of George's early life and his years of going to the war, marrying Mary and having their family, along with the loss of George's father. Although the film has been made into colour, I viewed the black and white version. The film has tense moments in it, and the way Stewart portrayed such a desperate man when he was close to suicide made me feel for him. I love how Clarence Oddbody comes to earth as an aged man and shows George all the good he has done in his life.

Frank Capra directed and produced this film. According to IMDb, Capra has 58 credits to his name as Director. I love how this film was made in such a way that George comes across as a likeable person that people can easily warm to. This movie has clearly gone down as one of the most loved films and people seem to have taken the character of George to their hearts. Although just over 60 years old now, people still continue to enjoy watching it, although as I say, it tends to be viewed over the festive season. I think the film gives the audience food for thought in so much as even if we think we're a failure, it's never really the case and that there are people out there who are willing to help you and love you.



The Award
Academy Awards, USA
Best Picture
Academy Awards, USA
Best actor in leading role (James Stewart)
Academy Awards, USA
Best Director
Academy Awards, USA
Best Sound, recording (John Aalberg)
Academy Awards, USA
Best Film Editing (William Hornbeck)
Golden Globes, USA
Best Director
Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain
Best Foreign Film (CEC Award)
National Board of Reviews, USA
Top Ten Films (NBR Award)
National Film Preservation Board, USA (1990)
National Film Registry
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
Best Director - NYFCC Award (3rd place)
Online Film & Television Association
Montion Picture (2002) OFTA Film Hall of Fame
Young Artist Award
Jimmy Hawkins (1994) - Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award

It's a Wonderful Life Trailer

© 2017 Louise Powles


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    • MomsTreasureChest profile image


      17 months ago

      Great recap and review. We always manage to watch this film at least once during the holiday season, it's very heartwarming.

    • profile image

      Tamara Moore 

      18 months ago

      I love this film so much! These films of this era were filled with priceless messages, and deep, heartfelt meanings.

      Your review is wonderfully written!

      I also love Shirley Temple movies :-)

      Oh, and I enjoy most all musicals such as:

      Mary Poppins

      Fiddler on the Roof

      My Fair Lady

      And, soooooo many more!

    • Besarien profile image


      19 months ago

      You have convinced me to watch this movie again. I have it on DVD but usually only play it around Christmas. Great review!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      19 months ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a fantastic film and one that I have seen multiple times since it is shown every year around Christmas.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      19 months ago from The Beautiful South

      You know I have never watched this while everyone I know has. I think I will just have to now! You have inspired me.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      19 months ago from USA

      My husband loves this so we must watch it every Christmas at least once. Now my daughter has taken up the cause as well. We even have it on VHS and had to save the VCR just for this one video

    • priya pp profile image

      priya pp 

      19 months ago from India

      One of the classic old black &white movie !!

    • Claire-louise profile image

      Claire Raymond 

      19 months ago from UK

      Another classic I have yet to see!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      19 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I enjoy watching old black and white films, too. The one that you've described is always shown at Christmas where I live. It's an interesting movie.

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      19 months ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I was glad when a proposed sequel was scrapped a few years ago. I like that the first half of the film sets up the second half and shows George Bailey had a place of importance, even if it wasn't the one he sought. By the way, this film is now over 70 years old.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      19 months ago from The Caribbean

      You tempt me to watch this film again. It never grows old. Thanks for highlighting all its good qualities.


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