2021 Blind Spot Series: It's A Wonderful Life

 

What I knew going in: The basic plot.

George (James Stewart) has had it with life. An angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) is sent to intervene, and when George wishes he'd never been born, Clarence gives him a look at what life would really be like if that happened.

I know, I'm very late on this beloved Christmas classic. It was just never something anyone in my house watched growing up. But thanks to Amazon Prime, I can finally check this one off. Is it about to become a classic in House Rambling?

Maybe the first 10 minutes and the last 30. Those are the parts of the film that I found to be the most magical. Especially the ending. I think this movie has one of the best endings I've ever seen given its subject, I felt more moved in those few minutes than I did slogging through the mid section of this film. I just found it tedious. George's plans get ruined over and over and I kept counting down the moment until Clarence shows up. I feel like this is a movie you start, then you leave to go cook Christmas dinner during the middle, and everyone finishes and sits down at the table just as the wonderful ending plays out. That's how I see it being a classic.

Stewart was amazing. I've liked him in all of his works that I've seen but I feel like this is his best performance. Travers is also very good and he breathes some much needed life back into the film. Donna Reed was lovely as well and her character has the patience of a Goddess. 

I don't want this review to sound overly negative, because I did really enjoy the beginning and end. Those scenes had so much heart that I can forgive being bored. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Recommended: Sure

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die." - Young Mary (Jean Gale)

Comments

  1. Well, I’m glad it gets a passing grade but that middle section is so important, not only seeing George’s dreams of travelling going bye bye but you see all the characters being played out from Uncle Billy, Mary and the rest. One of the best love scenes is when Mary and George are on the telephone. This is quite charged with sexual energy at a time when the Hays Code was in full force. Little fun facts...when Uncle Billy is going back home after the party for Harry and his wife, he leaves and you hear a crash but he is “alright”, a stage hand actually fell over and smashed equipment but Thomas Mitchell yelled that out and Jimmy Stewart went with it. Jimmy Stewart was suffering from severe PTSD coming back from the war and wondered if acting was really for him. He was a bit moody on the set as well but Lionel Barrymore, who played Potter, talked with him and helped him see what acting does and that it is important. The praying scene in the Martini bar was done in one take. Jimmy Stewart was so overcome with praying that he started to cry and it was truly real for him. I’m glad you finally saw this and you should view it again next year and see how the middle section grows on you.

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    1. I can see myself doing that. I think I just had high expectations. Maybe it will grow on me with repeat viewings.

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    2. When my best friend watched this with me, she didn’t like it because she found George to be a jerk. Now she loves the film and understands it more so with the what George did. She has caught many small nuances with the film as well like Mary placing her hand on her stomach when they are talking to Sam Wainwright and his wife indicating her pregnancy.

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  2. Oh and have a beautiful Christmas with your family.

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  3. I kind of found this film to be overrated. I don't think it's the great film that people claim it is to be. Plus, I hated the ending knowing that the asshole in Mr. Potter doesn't come out unscathed. Thankfully, a sketch from SNL in the 80s manages to rectify that and give people the ending they needed.

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    1. I'll have to look up that sketch! Because yeah, that guy was a huge asshole.

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    2. I will look up this sketch too..it should prove to be funny. Yes, nothing happens to Potter which was deliberate. Capra stated, rightly, that many times evil people like Potter never get their due just like other assholes..Trump is one.

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    3. Here ya go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw89o0afb2A

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  4. It's hard when a film has this much acclaim. It's built up to such a large degree that it can't possibly be as good as everyone tells you it is. The legend of it and the lore of it are far more than the movie could possibly be.

    This is a good movie, but I'm not sure it deserves the reverence that it has somehow gained. Nostalgia does that to a lot of people.

    It's not a film I think of as required Christmas viewing. I'll watch it if it's on but I don't necessarily seek it out the way I do the 1951 A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim--that's one I need to see every year.

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    1. I do like that version of A Christmas Carol (that at the Scrooge McDuck one, because I'm a 90's kid, I guess) But at least this one faired better than Citizen Kane with the high expectations.

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  5. Firstly, Merry Christmas a day late! Hope it was good, mine was exhausting-I hosted-but nice.

    I come to this movie from a bit of a weird place, at least for anyone seeing it for the first time. When I was a kid, the film had fallen into public domain so at Christmas time EVERY station in existence ran it because they didn’t have to worry about paying for rights. You could literally flip through the channels midday (keep in mind there were only about eight-ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and whatever UHF channels the rabbit ears on your TV could intercept) and there was a good chance it would be on every single one at different points! So, to say I burned out on the movie early is an understatement, it got to the point where I heard the title and sought cover…. but after taking years away from watching it and becoming more familiar with the various character actors in the cast I’ve managed to warm again too its charms.

    My rediscovery began when a coworker of mine, whose favorite movie it is, talked me into going to a special theatrical run. Because of my history of oversaturation, I was reluctant, but I ended up glad I gave in. Seeing it with an audience was quite a unique experience. The places where reactions were the strongest weren’t necessarily the parts that had always been memorable for me (of course when the characters of Bert & Ernie entered the scene there was a big laugh and that had never meant a thing to me before) and there were a couple of places where spontaneous applause broke out.

    There are places in the middle where I agree it is slower at times than it should be but as Birgit said all the information in that section matters to the outcome. I also love the telephone scene and the view of what befalls Bedford Falls is positively draconian.

    All three of the main stars-Jimmy, Donna and Henry Travers-are wonderful, Travers’ elfin charm in particular makes Clarence irresistible but I love so many of the supporting characters. Since many of them are sketchily drawn it really shows what a talented character actor/actress can bring to a role. Beulah Bondi is so warm and level-headed as Stewart’s mother, H.B. Warner takes his few moments as Mr. Gower and weaves an entire person into them, Barrymore of course is a total sonofabitch, Thomas Mitchell infuriating as Uncle Billy but you can still see why everyone has a soft spot for him and I just LOVE Violet Bick which I think is completely due to Gloria Grahame’s saucy reading of the part. That ending sure does pack an emotional wallop.

    With all that said it isn’t one of the films I find essential to watch every year like I do with Christmas in Connecticut, the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol or White Christmas but I don’t shy away like I once did.

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    1. It sounds like this is what A Christmas Carol was in the 90's. That movie was everywhere. I really need to watch White Christmas. My mom loves that movie, even though I never recall her watching it when I was a kid.

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    2. White Christmas is an absolute essential!!! Knowing how much you liked Meet Me in St. Louis I think you'll love this. They have nothing in common but yet their spirit is similar, they give you a very warm and fuzzy feeling.

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