IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) - Mania.com



Top 100 Film Reviews #22

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IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

By Mike Lyons     June 07, 2001

There's a scene in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE that speaks volumes without speaking a word. In it, Jimmy Stewart as the ever put-upon every-man, George Bailey, stands in front of his small house. A train whistle sounds and Stewart looks off quickly towards it, realizing that he may never getting out of his small town and may never live-out his dreams. The scene, like the film, speaks to anyone who has ever felt 'trapped' in any way. This, more than its angels and other fantastic elements is what makes IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, well, so wonderful. Director Frank Capra had become closely associated with over sentimental films (his work was labeled 'Capra-corn'). But, after a stint in World War II, Capra seemed to come back to Hollywood a little hardened, which is evident in WONDERFUL LIFE. It's somewhat ironic that the film has become so closely associated with the holiday season - given that it's tone is extremely dark (after all, the majority of the plot revolves around a suicide attempt!). It's the way that George Bailey emerges from the darkness - angel Clarence (Henry Travers), helps him realize his own self-worth - that makes the film so relatable. Thanks to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, the ringing of a bell has a whole new meaning. Jimmy Stewart once cited the film as his favorite - who's going to argue?

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