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It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

A film that didn’t make my “Twelve Films of Christmas” list last year, but one that I try to watch every year is:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

I’m ashamed to admit that until about ten years ago I’d never seen this film from start to finish. Then one afternoon (I don’t know why) I felt compelled to watch it and it’s been a Christmas favourite of mine ever since.

If you somehow haven’t seen it, it’s based on the 1943 short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern and stars James Stewart (Vertigo), Donna Reed (From Here to Eternity), Thomas Mitchell (Gone With the Wind) and Lionel Barrymore (Key Largo) among others.

It’s considered one of the greatest films of all time.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all - and it's Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence - who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn't been for all his good deeds over the years.

I love this movie!

I don’t tend to watch a lot of old films. I generally favour anything made in the 1970s and onwards. That’s not to say films weren’t good before that time, I just relate more to “modern cinema”. This film is a big exception though. It has so much heart that it’s impossible not to love!

James Stewart is superb as the nicest guy in the world, George Bailey. He’s loveable, relatable, and you 100% route for him throughout the movie.

On the flip side, Lionel Barrymore who plays the greedy and utterly compassionless Mr. Potter is equally as brilliant. He’s very deservedly become one of history’s most iconic and loved movie villains.

This film, although originally filmed in black and white is also available in colour.

It was first colourised and released in 1986 (40 years after the film’s original release), and the debate as to which version to watch is almost as big as the “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” and “which order should you watch the Star Wars and Marvel movies in?”.

As much as the colour version gives you a much different experience, personally I think the original black and white version has a certain magic and romance about it that is lost in the colour one.

In fact, as much as James Stewart himself thought the colourising technology was impressive, after seeing the colourised version of It’s a Wonderful Life he remarked that "it looked like Walt Disney threw up on it."

If you haven’t seen this movie I highly recommend you squeeze it into your Christmas viewing schedule over the next week or so. It’s a cinematic treasure and one that will pull on the heartstrings of even the hardest heart. The scene where a desperate George Bailey is in the bar praying gets me every time.

“What is it you want Mary? What do you want? You, you want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

Is this on your Christmas watch list? Let me know below.


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