Xmas: 'It's A Wonderful Life' (1946) Dir. Frank Capra
In a time long before the magic of Father Christmas became the staple for festive films, Frank Capra focuses on the simple power of human spirit and friendship at this time of year...
George Bailey (Stewart) has lived a life full of ups and downs, but is now married to high-school crush Mary (Reed) and running the loans business handed down from his father
With the business soon falling into debt, George turns down many chances at happiness with his new family and tries his hardest to keep everything afloat. However the business soon goes bankrupt, after corrupt partner Mr Potter (Barrymore), pockets most of the money, leaving George to face an angry town.
Seeing nothing left to live for, George prepares to commit suicide. But his guardian angel Clarence (Travers) shows how the town would be without George, and shows him how loved and respected he is and gives George the drive to try save his marriage and his business before it is too late...
I've only seen this film twice, and both times I admire the qualities about it and the production, and it's a real charmer to see it in the original black and white version without digital colour added.
The acting is top quality for the era, and the story is as iconic as 'A Christmas Carol', showing the more humane and sensitive side to the Christmas season and how hard, dark and pressured it can be for many of us trying to keep on top of our game. In this respect, as a drama and character study, James Stewart probably gives us his best role and makes you see what happens to a man slowly losing control and seeing his life fall away from him.
I feel it takes off more in the final act, showing how things would have been without George, which is always interesting to see after following characters and settings over the course of the film. This is when the real heart-warming messages come through and power of friendship and humanity come into play. It may be a little fantastical around the edges, but then that's what the spirit of Christmas is about away from the magic of Santa.
Good performances and spirit stay strong in a slow moving story - it only comes to life for the final act.
'It's A Wonderful Life' is an RKO Radio Pictures production