A film I only watched a few years back after being told it’s a must see and I watched it every Christmas time since but always in colour until this year when I actually watched it in Black & White. It’s rated as the best Christmas Film in some lists and is always in the top few of all the others.
The film follows George Bailey (James Stewart), but narrated by 2 Angels Joseph and Clarence who is the Angel that is sent down to George, who when growing up saved his younger brother and also stopped his boss (at the time) Mr Gower from giving poison to customer instead of his medicine, it shows him giving up his dreams to take over from his father as the head of Buildings and Loans falling that his father ran with his brother (George’s Uncle Billy) after he dies and also shows him fall in love with Mary (Donna Reed) who has had a crush on him since their were kids. After George’s father death Henry F Potter (the richest man in the county) wants to dissolve the Building and Loan company as is a competitor to his businesses. Mary and George get married and whilst on their way to their honeymoon notice a run on the bank and his customers want to withdraw their savings but all the money is tied in the bank so George uses the Honeymoon Money (Mary actually starts this process).
Over time George establishes Bailey Park a housing development which is financed by loans from the Building and Loan company which allows the residents to own their own houses rather than pay rent to Potter and live in his slums. On Christmas Eve Potter then sends the Bank Examiner to Building and Loan whilst Billy makes a bank run to deposit £8000 but after chatting to Potter he misplaces the money (accidentally giving it to Potter), Billy returns back to the Building and Loans and tells George, they try retracing his steps and in the end George goes to see Potter for a loan but he refuses and George relies his is worth more dead than alive and after having a drink and a scuffle with the husband of a woman he had an argument over the phone with earlier in the evening he drives and crashes his car and finds himself on a bridge and considers jumping when Clarence (an Angel that hasn’t got his wings) gets sent down and falls into the river and George jumps in to save him. When they’re both recovered and are drying off Clarence tells George he is his guardian angle and jumped in to stop George from jumping in and committing suicide and during them chatting George says he wishes he had never been born and Clarence grants this wish and shows George what life will be like if he had never been born, they go through the town which is now full on casino’s and names Pottersville as Potter closed down the Building and Loan place as no-one took over after George’s father death, he goes into a Bar which is now owned by someone else and he bumps into Mr Gower who doesn’t recognise him (as they’ve never met) and he had just been released from Prison after serving time for manslaughter as George hadn’t stopped him from giving poison to his customer, George makes his way home and finds his mother now runs a boarding house and again never heard of him and he walks down to what was Bailey Park and is now just the cemetery and he finds him brothers grave as George wasn’t there to save him and the soldiers that Harry (George’s brother) saved during the war all die as he wasn’t there to save them. George then asks Clarence where Mary is, Clarence says she never married and is now working at the library, George rushes to the Library and when chases after Mary, she screams and calls for the police, George is then chased by the local policeman and makes it back to the bridge where it all started and shouts to Clarence that he wants to live and go back to his life and the timeline reverts back. Bert (the local policeman) spots George on the bridge and calls to him and tells him he’s bleeding, George then relies that he is back and rushes home to Mary where Mary is not there but the Bank people are awaiting for him, Mary and Uncle Billy then come in with all of the Building and Loan customers and they donate more than the missing £8000 and the Potter’s warrant for George’s arrest is torn up, Harry then arrives and toasts George and whilst holding one of his daughters the Bell on the Christmas Tree rings and she days that every time a bell rings an Angel gets his wing and in amongst the money is the book Clarence had been holding with a message thanking him for his wings.
I was surprised how good this film actually is when I first watched it and can see why it is very popular, the message within the film is very good and it can be surprising how you life has a domino effect so something you do can have an effect many years later somewhere you’ve never been and with people you’ve never met. Watching in Black & White actually enhances the viewing of the film, not that the colour version takes anything away I just think the Black & White version just enhances the emotions in the film. At 130 Minutes long it is a long film and only the last 30 minutes brings the message but the whole film is relevant and it doesn’t drag. James and Donna play their parts outstanding and I believe both would hold their own in the modern film industry but I do like the acting in these old films.
This is a film that everyone should watch young or old, I am surprised that it’s not shown on mainstream TV much though have noticed it being on Sky Movies more recently.
If I had to mark this this is a 9/10 or even a 10/10 film as I don’t think you will find much wrong with this or any film that’s better than this especially for the period it was made. As mentioned before the female actress of the time are remarkably beautiful.