03 January 2010

It's a Wonderful Life (starring James Stewart, Henry Travers , Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore)


'It's a Wonderful Life' is an American classic movie from 1946, made in black and white. I knew Рvaguely Рthe plot: a man is in despair, then learns what his town and friends would have been like without him. It has almost become a clich̩ in modern life, and has been spoofed or otherwise referred to in other shows or books - but until recently, I had never seen the actual film.

I thought about it for years but for some reason this classic has been surprisingly expensive until recently, when I added it to my wishlist and was very happy to be given it. And finally, a few days after Christmas, we sat down to watch it.

I have to say, the film was not quite as I had expected it to be. James Stewart stars as the depressed George, in a fairly typical 1940s American style, and does well enough in the role. However, most of the film turns out to be a series of flashbacks to George’s life, briefly in childhood and then as a young man; then, finally, there are some glimpses of him as he grows older. It was in some ways a frustrating life, as he had to give up many of his dreams - and I wondered for quite some time just where the plot was going.

George has a guardian angel, Clarence, played by Henry Travers. I felt that Clarence was a masterpiece of casting. He’s rather a bumbling angel, but by no means a young or even attractive one. He really wants the best for George, but is rather nervous about trying it, and would really love to earn his wings…


It could easily have been over-sentimental or schmaltzy, but somehow it isn’t. I found it a bit hard to get into, partly because of the 1940s American accents, but by the time we were half way through I was totally captivated.

Definitely a feel-good film, one of the few that I expect to watch again in a few years. Very much recommended, although the DVD seems to have returned to its over-priced state on Amazon. May be worth trying a reputable Marketplace option.

Rated U in the UK, and 'not rated' in the USA, although I assume that by today's standards it would be G-rated.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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