Cult Movies: It’s A Wonderful Life still delivers an emotional punch unlike any other movie


It’s a wonderful life at 75

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is 75 years old. For at least 30 of those years, millions more and I have watched this movie every holiday season and its power to move both heart and soul remains intact.

Some will tell you that Frank Capra’s masterpiece is the greatest Christmas movie ever made, but it really is more than that. A still resonant study of an ordinary man trying to do the right thing in a small town where his social suffocation is almost too much to bear, it’s a surprising examination of society then and today, but which never leaves too much time in the dark. find its way under our skin.

It’s a film that leans gloriously into the light as our hero realizes how the world would have been without his presence and it’s this deeply moving ending that makes it an untouchable slice of cinematic beauty. It’s dark, but it’s deep, and her sense of hope and rebirth resonates loudly this time of year.

He also has the glory of James Stewart in his first post-war screen role, raising his character of All Men like never before as George Bailey, a man who believes the world could be better without him when he loses his $ 8,000 business on Christmas Eve and a masterclass in filmmaking from Capra, a man who echoes George’s emotional journey through life with a range of claustrophobic close-ups and huge shots of his world as it expands.

Stewart looks sublime as the troubled soul has been told of taking his own life by a guardian angel to gain his wings (played by Henry Travers) and there are some fine roles for Lionel Barrymore as the evil businessman Mr. Potter and Donna Reed as his beloved wife Mary.

The film failed with theatrical audiences when it was originally released in December 1946, earning just $ 3.3 million compared to $ 3.7 million. Many called him too sweet, too rushed, and even suggested that the studio might have been better off going with Cary Grant for the role of George Bailey, as was originally hinted at.

He was criticized by critics, however, and found himself nominated for five Oscars, including nods for Capra and Stewart, though he returned from the ceremony empty-handed.

Fortunately, this meant endless subsequent screenings on television, helping to anchor Capra’s film deep in the collective hearts of audiences.

In some ways, It’s A Wonderful Life almost feels too ‘on the money’ in 2021. As hardship hits home harder than ever in family homes around the world and social alienation and loneliness hit home with more force than ever before. Isolation increases with each passing day during an ongoing pandemic, there is much to be learned from George’s journey to the right side of the road at Bedford Falls. No matter how many times I watch it still delivers an emotional punch unlike any other movie.

It’s a difficult life, sure, but wonderful all the same.

About Harold Hartman

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