James Stewart…George Bailey
Donna Reed ... Mary Hatch
Lionel Barrymore ... Mr. Potter
Thomas Mitchell ... Uncle Billy
Henry Travers ... Clarence
Beulah Bondi ... Mrs. Bailey
Frank Faylen ... Ernie
Ward Bond ... Bert
Gloria Grahame ... Violet
H.B. Warner ... Mr. Gower
Frank Albertson ... Sam Wainwright
Todd Karns ... Harry Bailey
Samuel S. Hinds ... Pa Bailey
Producer and Director
Original Music by
Dimitri Tiomkin (musical score written by)
Joseph F. Biroc (director of photography) (as Joseph Biroc)
Joseph Walker (director of photography)
Victor Milner (director of photography) (uncredited)
Film Editing by
Art Direction by
Set Decoration by
Costume Design by
Edward Stevenson (costumes)
Gordon Bau .... makeup supervisor
We all know the story. George Bailey wants to leave the small town of Bedford Falls behind, and see the wide, wide world…but as John Lennon said, life is what happens while we are making other plans. George’s father has a stroke and George must assume responsibility for the barely solvent Building & Loan.
His valiant struggle to keep the Building & Loan afloat gives us a classic view of the many trials and tribulations of everyday life: he must try to protect the Building & Loan from his incompetent Uncle Billy, and Uncle Billy from himself. He must fend off the ever present depredations of Mr. Potter and his big money bank. He doesn’t want to fall in love, but he does, and soon has a brood of children, and is living in a tumble-down old mansion that is coming apart like an old sweater unraveling.
Things go from bad to worse, and when George thinks that he’s lost the fight and decides to chuck it all, Clarence the fledgling angel comes to his rescue, complete in his 16th century nightshirt. Clarence shows George what the world would have been like without him; and we get to experience, with George, the true significance of his “ordinary” life. Along with George, we get a new perspective on his “failure.”
Director Capra gives us the wonderful gift of affirming that one person can make a difference, that each and every life is important, and that success cannot be truly measured by material gain or fame, but by the courage of one man to persevere, no matter the odds, to protect those he loves and the values that he cherishes.
I watch this movie only once a year. It is my Christmas gift to myself. After the gifts are opened and everyone is busy playing with their new toys, I curl up in bed with a steaming mug of tea, wrap myself in a quilt that my husband’s great-grandmother made, and watch It’s a Wonderful Life.
Merry Christmas to all!