The holiday gift for all time. This heartwarming fantasy, one of the most popular films ever made, begins as angels discuss George Bailey (James Stewart), a small-town resident so beset with problems that he contemplates a Christmastime suicide.
In flashback, we review George's life, learning that he has always wanted to leave his hometown to see the world, but that circumstances and his own good heart have kept him in Bedford Falls, sacrificing his own education for his brother's, keeping the family-run savings and loan afloat,
protecting the town from the avarice of banker Potter (Lionel Barrymore), marrying his childhood sweetheart (Donna Reed), and raising a family. Back in the present, George prepares to jump from a bridge, but ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers), who has come to
earn his wings. Clarence shows him how badly Bedford Falls would have turned out without George and his good deeds. Filled with renewed joy in life, George goes home to his loving family and friends, who pitch in to put his worries behind him.
Few filmmakers have rivaled director Frank Capra when it comes to examining the human heart, and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a masterfully crafted exercise in sentiment, augmented by Capra's undying faith in community. Reed and Barrymore give excellent performances, as does a superb cast of character
players, but this is Stewart's film--heart-stirring as the dreamer who sacrifices all for his fellow man. The bright, funny screenplay is based on "The Greatest Gift," a story that Philip Van Dorn Stren originally sent to his friends as a Christmas card.
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