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Monthly Archives: January 1947

It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)

DIRECTOR: Frank Capra

CAST: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Ward Bond, Frank Faylen, Gloria Grahame

REVIEW:

Contrary to popular belief, It’s a Wonderful Life took a while to achieve its beloved status and was not an immediate hit.  In fact, it received mixed critical reviews and despite being nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, it won none of them and barely made back its budget costs at the box office.  But after its copyright was allowed to expire in 1974 and the film entered the public domain, the previously relatively forgotten movie became a mainstay re-running on television during the Christmas season and enraptured new generations of viewers, in both the original black-and-white version and subsequent colorizations, until 1994 when NBC obtained exclusive rights to its television broadcasts.  Today, It’s a Wonderful Life is held up as such a timelessly popular Christmas movie (though only the climax actually takes place at Christmastime) that it’s strange to think it was once received lukewarmly.  There’s reasons why It’s a Wonderful Life holds a timeless appeal.  It’s a “feel good” movie through and through, but a well-constructed, well-acted “feel good” movie that isn’t so saccharine as to avoid some darker moments (the central premise, after all, involves a man believing the world would be better off if he’d never existed and contemplating suicide) and holds some themes about the importance of the individual and the triumph of human values over penny-pinching bottom lines that feel eerily timely and relevant today. Continue reading

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