BOT stands for Back on Track and this is the feature’s fourth post.
Since I started BOT with quite an ambitious plan, I had to prepare a lot because I tend to have these moods where I don’t feel like writing at all. So in the fear of forgetting to watch a BOT movie or not being able to write something about it, I watched this ages ago! I will say this, it would have made a great Christmas movie, as it has been a classical holiday family entertainment, but I couldn’t wait. Since the short summary caught my eye, I decided to give It’s a Wonderful Life my full attention despite the lack of holiday spirit.
It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director and Best Picture. At the Golden Globes though, Frank Capra took home the Best Director award. The movie is #31 in IMDb’s Top 250 list.
Before we meet George Bailey portrayed by James Stewart, we meet him as a child and witness his heroism when he saves his brother from drowning and fixes a pharmacists error. We get a feel of him as somebody who is brave and smart, we like George right from the very beginning. That feeling continues as he is shown years later as sort of a teenager (it is difficult to tell since the casting in this movie had in the lead an older man and younger woman) who had charm and joy in his life. But then, his father’s death brings him a responsibility he does not really want. As a man who wants to get away from his hometown and go travel the world, he gets a bit stuck while others leave.
Yet, Mary (Donna Reed) comes back after school just to marry George since he is the man of her dreams. First of all, Donna Reed was absolutely gorgeous!, second of all, she reminds me of my grandmother when she was her age. Anyway, Mary sees Bedford Falls as home and is not afraid to stay there forever, something that George is a bit hesitant of. They have four kids and while the family life seems to be blooming, the business side of his life gives him less joy. We see him struggle and yet, he manages to stay true to himself and stand strong against Mr. Potter’s doings towards his business and the rest of the town .Everything seems to be in a state of manageable up until the point his uncle looses a lot of money by accident, to Mr. Potter which will remain as unknown to the characters but will be revealed to the viewers. Then, George crumbles under pressure and tries to take his own life but happens to save a man instead. The man turns out to be an angel sent to save him – or he could have been the Christmas spirit as well, in that symbolic meaning.
James Stewart was a great actor for the role as a devoted family man because he was faithful to his own wife (married in 1949) during the time Hollywood big actors weren’t. So I guess he had that family man type of personality down – I find it sweet because I’m still a romantic I guess.
Up until then, the turning point of the whole plot and George’s life, I wasn’t as invested in the movie as I thought I would be. I liked it but I didn’t have those special feelings up until I got to see George Bailey running around in Potter Ville trying to convince people, who didn’t remember him, that he knew them all. Honestly, that just got to me and I felt so many feelings I never expected to feel – so I was left in a state of sadness but of course the movie had a happy ending, an ending that actually made me cry! Trust me, I was as surprised as you are now because I rarely cry when I see a movie but watching George hug his wife Mary while his kids were attached to him just got to me. That scene captured a hold on my heart, yes it did and I’m not ashamed of it! While the first half of the movie was not as emotional, the second half definitely makes It’s a Wonderful Life a worthy classic in my eyes. Kind of like Home Alone adult edition with a hint of angel put into it and with the same lesson in life: family is everything!
That is why I see it as an inspiring family movie. First of all, Mary is a true champ I wrote in my notes, mostly due to the fact that she was not at all mad about skipping their honeymoon. She also was strong and didn’t complain about fixing the house and raising four children – kind of a perfect housewife to be honest but yet, Donna Reed’s performance gave her a certain spirit that it clouds the presumption of her as a housewife. The children as we see them on Christmas Eve are just adorable, they look happy and content. The scene where little Tommy sits in his father’s lap and George starts to cry served as a monumental moment – George Bailey has everything and yet, he still feels he isn’t as great as everybody else knows he is. As a father and as a husband, there is no room to improve, at least from my perspective and yet, he tries to end his life over the matters of business that seem so pointless compared to his family.
PS: James Stewart, along with Robert De Niro and and Harrison Ford, has 8 movies in the IMDb’s Top 250 list!
It’s a Wonderful Life is an example of appreciating the things you have and not worrying too much about the stuff that one cannot control as much. It also shows that giving up is never a good thing since just minutes after George goes back to his house the whole town shows up and donates him money to replace the amount that was stolen! I can’t explain the thrill and joy I felt in that moment, it sounds so cheesy and lame but I did cry couple of tears over that gesture by people in his life. The man who had done so much to others finally understood his importance and it showed, James Stewart’s face showed the joy the movie was set out to create. And what better way to describe the lesson that It’s a Wonderful Life embodies than the quote the angel left for George: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!” Let’s keep that in mind, shall we!?