It's A Wonderful Life

Liberty Films Released 1947




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Movie Summary

Frank Capra
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It's A Wonderful Life is a film directed by Frank Capra starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey and was released on December 20, 1946. It was based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern. It's A Wonderful Life is about a man named George Bailey who wants to take his own life on Christmas Eve because a mistake that has caused extreme financial hardship at his business. Before he can complete the act, he is stopped by his guardian angel named Clarence Odbody played by Henry Travers and given a great gift: a chance to see what the world would be like without him in it. Through this insight, the film shows that each person's life has a great impact on all the people around them. At the time of its release, the film was considered a box office flop but over time it has garnered much praise, culminating in an inclusion on the American Film Institute's 100 Best American Films Ever Made list. It's A Wonderful Life is today considered a treasured classic film and is rebroadcast every year during the Christmas season.



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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • The town of Bedford Falls in the movie was actually a set built on RKO Studio's Encino Ranch in California. It covered over four acres, included 75 buildings, was 300 yards long, and included a factory, cemetery, and slum. Tree-less California hills can be seen in the background of several scenes when they should be the forested hills of the northeast United States.

    • In the scene where Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart throw rocks into windows of an old house and make wishes, Stewart has no problem hitting the window with his rock. But Reed was expected not to hit her window so a marksman was hired to break the window for her. When the scene commenced before the camera, Reed hit her window right on cue so the broken glass seen in the movie was actually hit by Donna Reed's rock.

    • At the end of the scene where Uncle Billy says goodnight to George and staggers off camera drunk, a loud crashing sound is heard followed by Uncle Billy yelling back to George off camera that he is alright as he continues to sing. The crashing sound, assumed to be trash cans stumbled on by Uncle Billy, was actually made by a piece of film equipment that was dropped, but both actors improvised the lines and director Frank Capra left the crashing sound and lines in his final cut. Capra awarded the crew member ten dollars for his "sound improvement."

    • In the scene where George Bailey "rescues" Clarence the angel after he jumps off a bridge, the "snow" that is falling heavily in the river is actually a fire fighting foam and can be seen piling up on both actors as they swim toward shore.

  • QUOTES (28)

    • George: (excitedly) Hello, Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas!...Merry Christmas, movie house!...Merry Christmas, Emporium!...Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building And Loan!...Hey! Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!
      Potter: (with a grumpy and sarcastic attitude) Happy New Year to jail. Go on home...they're waiting for you!

    • Clarence: Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.
      George: That's a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport.
      Clarence: Every man on that transport died! Harry wasn't there to save them, because you weren't there to save Harry. You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?

    • George: Do you know the three most exciting sounds in the world?
      Uncle Billy: Sure, "Breakfast is served, "Lunch is served, "Dinner is served."
      George: No. Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles.

    • Pop: I know it's soon to talk about it.
      George: Oh, now Pop, I couldn't. I couldn't face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office...Oh, I'm sorry Pop, I didn't mean that, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe...I'd go crazy. I want to do something big and something important.
      Pop: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It's deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we're helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
      George: I know, Dad. I wish I felt...But I've been hoarding pennies like a miser in order to...Most of my friends have already finished college. I just feel like if I don't get away, I'd bust.
      Pop: Yes...yes...You're right son.
      George: You see what I mean, don't you, Pop?
      Pop: This town is no place for any man unless he's willing to crawl to Potter. You've got talent, son. I've seen it. You get yourself an education. Then get out of here.
      George: Pop, you want a shock? I think you're a great guy. (to Annie, listening through the door) Oh, did you hear that, Annie?
      Annie: I heard it. About time one of you lunkheads said it.
      George: I'm going to miss old Annie. Pop, I think I'll get dressed and go over to Harry's party.
      Pop: Have a good time, son.

    • George Bailey: (with great emotion) Dear Father in Heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and you can hear me... (begins to cry) show me the me the way.

    • George Bailey: (making a wish with a wishing machine) I wish I had a million dollars...Hot dog!

    • Ma Bailey: First Harry, now George. Annie, we're just two old maids now.
      Annie: You speak for yourself, Miss B.

    • Mary: (after George makes a wish on wishing machine) What'd you wish, George?
      George Bailey
      : I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long...

    • Annie: Boys and girls and music. Why do they need gin?

    • George Bailey: I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.

    • Voice of Clarence: (inscription written inside of book left as a gift) "Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends."

    • George Bailey: Well, you look about the kind of angel I'd get. Sort of a fallen angel, aren't you? What happened to your wings?
      Clarence: I haven't won my wings, yet. That's why I'm called an Angel Second Class. I have to earn them. And you'll help me will you?
      George Bailey: Sure, sure. How?
      Clarence: By letting me help you.
      George Bailey: I know one way you can help me. You don't happen to have 8,000 bucks on you?
      Clarence: No, we don't use money in Heaven.
      George Bailey:: Well, it comes in real handy down here, bud!

    • Little Violet: (concerning young George Bailey) I like him.
      Little Mary: You like every boy.
      Little Violet: What's wrong with that?

    • Annie: (as she gives her donation to help George pay off his debt) I been savin' this money for a divorce...if ever I got a husband.

    • Zuzu Bailey: (after a bell on their Christmas tree rings) Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings
      George Bailey: That's right...that's right. (looking toward Heaven) Attaboy, Clarence.

    • Clarence: You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?

    • George Bailey: You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?

    • George Bailey: Now, come on, get your clothes on, and we'll stroll up to my car and get...Oh, I'm sorry. I'll stroll. You fly.
      Clarence: I can't fly! I haven't got my wings.
      George Bailey: You haven't got your wings. Yeah, that's right.

    • Uncle Billy: (after Potter mentions that George Bailey didn't serve in the war) After all, Potter, some people like George HAD to stay at home. Not every heel was in Germany and Japan.

    • Nick the Bartender: (to Clarence after he tries to order a strange drink) Hey look, mister. We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don't need any characters around to give the joint "atmosphere". Is that clear, or do I have to slip you my left for a convincer? (raises fist)
      George: Nick, hold on. Just give him the same as mine. He's no trouble.
      Nick: Okay. (walks away to get drink)
      George: (to Clarence) What's the matter with him? I never saw Nick act like that before.
      Clarence: You'll see a lot of strange things from now on!

    • George Bailey: (excitedly) Just a minute...just a minute! Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building And Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was...why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that?, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? said...what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they...Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!

    • George Bailey: Isn't it wonderful? I'm going to jail!

    • Clarence: (after hearing Nick's cash register ding) Oh-oh. Somebody's just made it.
      George Bailey: Made what?
      Clarence: Every time you hear a bell ring, it means that some angel's just got his wings.

    • Harry Bailey : A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town!

    • George: (softly and passionately) What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.
      : I'll take it. Then what?
      George: Well, then you could swallow it, and it'd all dissolve, see? And the moonbeams'd shoot out of your fingers and your toes, and the ends of your I talking too much?
      Old Man On Porch: (yelling) Yes! Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?
      George: How's that?
      Old Man On Porch
      : (emphatically) Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?
      George: Want me to kiss her, huh?
      Old Man On Porch
      : ( himself) Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people!

    • George Bailey: (yelling at Uncle Billy after he lost the deposit) Where's that money, you silly stupid old fool? Where's that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal..and prison! That's what it means! One of us is going to jail; well, it's not gonna be me!!!

    • Clarence: (to George Bailey) Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?

    • Mrs. Hatch: (shouting from upstairs) Who is down there with you, Mary?

      Mary: (loudly to be heard upstairs) It's George Bailey, Mother!

      Mrs. Hatch: George Bailey? What does he want?

      Mary: I don't know!

      Mary: (to George softly) What do you want?

      George Bailey: Me? Nothing! I just came in to get warm.

      Mary: (loudly to be heard upstairs) He's making violent love to me Mother!

  • NOTES (7)

    • The initial gross box office take for It's A Wonderful Life was only $3.3 million dollars, nearly a half million dollar loss for distributor RKO Radio Pictures.

    • The filming budget for It's A Wonderful Life was $3.7 million dollars, which was quite high for an independent movie in 1946.

    • The gym floor that was shown opening up over a swimming pool was an actual floor that existed at the time in a Los Angeles high school in Beverly Hills, California.

    • Jimmy Stewart did not think he was up to such a heavyweight leading role as such a young actor and had to be talked into taking the part by veteran actor and co-star Lionel Barrymore.

    • The film was nominated for five Academy Awards:

      Best Picture: Frank Capra

      Best Director: Frank Capra

      Best Actor: James Stewart

      Best Editing: William Hornbeck

      Best Sound Recording: John Aalberg

    • It's A Wonderful Life was initially considered a box office flop due to high production costs and stiff competition at the time of its original theatrical release.

    • It's A Wonderful Life was based on the short story The Greatest Gift which was written by Philip van Doren Stern in 1939.


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Classics, inspiring stories, Family Dramas, altruistic behavior, family tragedy