Chasing the Classics: Episode 2

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life (Title)

Personally speaking, this is one film that has really inspired me in the way I perceive life. Its directed by Frank Capra, and James Stewart (whose performance stands unparalleled), Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore stars in it. It’s a Wonderful Life is a kind of film, which is family based, and delves into the most simplest of human emotions and values- love, trust, truth and above all self esteem. Surely after watching this movie – you would evaluate yourself.

Its Christmas eve, and all the people in the small town of Bedford are praying for this one person -George. All the way above us, it’s been decided that a guardian angel Clarence shall be sent for to save this man’s life. Stewart plays George Bailey, a small-town dreamer, who never limits his dreams within the walls, young, daring, enthusiastic and who longs to go around the world. His childhood is shown in a narrative style. His family runs a company ‘Building and Loans’, which loans money to the people of Bedford.

George and Mary

Donna Reed plays a pivotal character named Mary Hatch, whom George marries. The scenes between Mary and George, are some of the most romantic ones that I’ve seen, pure plain romance. George, who dreams to go abroad for college and work, keeps it aside to take care of the company (along with his uncle) after his father dies of a stroke. This was a challenge he took up, to oust Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a grumpy old self-centered and ignorant businessman, who holds a financial monopoly over the town, and who treats the people of the town, like cattle. The character George has tremendous growth after he takes up the job. He also sends his brother to college who later returns as a national hero after the war. George earns the people’s respect and support through his work, and becomes a person who they can look upto during their harsh times. Potter, who realizes his upsurge in town, even offers him a job, with an attractive prize money; but George declines it, though he initially fell for his words.

Potter making George the offer of his lifetime

But he enters into the worst situations in his life, when his uncle accidentally misplaces $8000, on the Christmas eve, and adding insult to injury- the bank examiner arrives on the same day. George takes everything as lost, and even begs Potter for help, who turns him down and reports him as a fraud to the police. He rants at his children at home, breaking the whole family’s joy before Christmas, and runs out desperately, boozes and goes off to the edge of a bridge to commit suicide. This is when the lord sends in Clarence (his guardian angel, who has to put George on track, to get his wings) into the water. He cries out for help, and George rescues him. George takes him to shelter, and shares his trouble during their chat, which to George’s surprise, Clarence had already known. He laughs off when Clarence tells him that he was his guardian angel. George then casually wishes, that he was never born; but Clarence grants his wish and takes him outside.

Clarence the guardian angel with George

Clarence takes him along a Bedford, that never knew about any George Bailey. He never existed. He walks through a Bedford that had turned dark- with, violence, abuse and sex. George runs into his friends Ernie the cab-driver, Bert the police officer, Nick the bartender, Mr. Cower- his old boss, but none of them could recognize him. He runs back to his home only to find his mother shutting the door on him like a stranger. George who trembles with disbelief in his dream-like state, goes to his friend Martin’s house (which was actually constructed by George),but shocked to find a graveyard, and his brother’s grave at that place. (George had actually saved Harry from drowning during their childhood – and Clarence clarifies it to him). George tells Clarence that he wants to meet Mary Hatch, who is now an unmarried maid, working at the library. When she fails to recognize him, he creates a ruckus in the street and gets chased by the police, his old friend Bert. He reaches over the bridge where he first met Clarence.

“To my big brother George, the richest man in town”

Everything suddenly falls back to normalcy, his friend Bert takes him back, George rushes through the center of the street (and town), with a feeling of getting everything back, shouting out his wishes to the entire people around, the shops, realizing the effect every single man can have on others’ lives. He reaches his home and greets the banker, reporters and attorney who had come to arrest him, and he climbs up to his dear kids and hugs them. Mary and uncle Bill then enters the house, with a bag full of cash. Yes, it was the prize for George, from the people of  Bedford when they came to know that George was in trouble.

The last few scenes are so moving and there’s no doubt you will be choked. The performance and the scenes where he dashes through the streets shouting out “Merry Christmas” and the ending scene where his brother Harry raises a toast for him are unforgettable. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a timeless classic, and in my opinion it’s more than just a film. It’s a celebration of life, and a stage that proves the worth of each person. The film ends by leaving a message from Clarence the angel (who finally gets his wings); “Remember..No man is a failure who has friends“.


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