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IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
1946 - Frank Capra
United States
102
Opening Shot

The film begins on a snowy winter night with a shot of a sign reading "You are now in Bedford Falls". We then see a series of shots throughout the town (all of which foreshadow the climatic moment near the end of the film) as we hear voice-over prayers calling out to "Help George Bailey".

The Film

"I want to live again!" What more can be said about this beloved classic that hasn't already been said, except that it's worthy of all it's praise and recognition. It's A Wonderful Life is a magical and joyous film of love, hope, and humanity. It's often viewed as a Christmas film, and while that's fine, to say it's only that would be greatly undermining the film of it's brilliance. Ultimately, this is a film of life, and of living and breathing. Everything life has to offer: love, loss, joy, pain, sadness, depression, passion, hope, loneliness, etc. For all it's warm and happy moments, It's A Wonderful Life is actually a very dark film. As a result it was not well received upon it's release in 1946. Audiences weren't familiar with a dark, even disturbing and sad film from Frank Capra or James Stewart. However, time has proven this to be a truly masterful film of universal themes and emotions that everyone can relate with and enjoy. It's a film that's been replayed, referenced and spoofed countless times, yet like a fine wine, has only benefited with age. In many ways, this is the quintessential film of Capra's usual themes. It's an American classic in every sense of the word. As is it's unforgettable star, James Stewart. Stewart has given American cinema some of the most memorable and likable performances in film history. His portrayal of George Bailey is no exception. Through Stewart's convincing performance we see an everyday man struggling and dealing with everyday complications of life. It's not hard to sympathize with Bailey, and Stewart makes it even easier. There are so many great moments throughout this film, but few (in the history of cinema in fact) are as touching and assuring as the final moments. At worst, this film will tug at your heart, and best it'll change your life! A brilliant film. A sad yet hopeful and joyous experience. It's A Wonderful Life is an undeniable landmark in American cinema history!

The Filmmaker

Born in Italy, Frank Capra's parents moved to America when he was 6 years old. Capra would go on to become one of the most patriotic and acclaimed filmmakers of the Hollywood Studio system. Capra joined the US Army and it is there he was encouraged to become a filmmaker. Capra films are often referred to as 'Capra-corn' or more commonly today 'Capraesque'. His films could be classified as simple, hopeful, and for the 'common man'. In just about every case, the 'common man' is sincere, agreeable, small-town, inexperienced, and non-political man who must overcome against evil social issues (politics, money, and class). His films celebrate life, morality, and above all the goodness of honest decency. Capra's films are regarded as overly sentimental, and while they are sentimental he still does occasionally contrast this with a rather dark background. Maybe not always the case, but certainly is so with his beloved 1946 masterpiece, It's a Wonderful Life, a film that today has become one of the most timeless treasures of American film. Above all there is a sincerity in Capra's films that make them so endearing for a wide range of audiences. Capra began in silent film and worked in several genres during the late 1920s early 1930s (among these films is his most artistic and cinematically stylish- 1933's The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which to me remains one of his greatest films). Capra would earn his first Best Director nomination for 1933's Lady For a Day, but it was his great screwball comedy from 1934 (It Happened One Night) that would put him at the forefront in Hollywood). The film swept the major Oscar awards (it was the first film to do so and only two others have matched that feat to date). Capra would continue to make classics in a variety of ways during the 1930s including winning Best Director twice more. In total Capra received 6 Best Director nominations (he won three times) in a career that spanned five decades. In 1982 Capra was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.

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Resources
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