It's a Wonderful Life

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(1946, directed by Frank Capra)

- inducted 2019 –

“In the first two minutes of Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life the credits turn like pages of a Christmas storybook, voice over prayers seep in for the troubled protagonist George Bailey and his suicidal ideations, newly engineered fake snow envelopes a small town built entirely upon a studio lot, angels in the form of heavenly bodies discuss Bailey’s fate: the film’s setup immediately sweeps one into a fable of pure cinematic magic. An embodiment of the holiday spirit, the movie hurtles forward full of miracles and joy but, naturally, with the bubbling conflicts of any great story. It’s A Wonderful Life takes on the prototypical battle of good versus evil but it is how these two concepts are defined that make it the quintessential American classic it has become.

“Evil is portrayed by Potter, the greedy banker out to destroy the lives of everyday folks just trying to survive. Good takes on the form of love and opportunity, a fight for the American dream embodied by Bailey and his community of Bedford Falls. In the face of a lost bank deposit and the possibility of financial ruin, it is spiritual forces and what-ifs that reset Bailey to recall a truth he used to hold sacred: it is through human kindness that life is made worth living, not money. Yet, one cannot ignore that ultimately money does play an integral role in reviving Bailey into seeing his future: individuals touched by Bailey’s caring hand raise high their hard-earned dollars to save the fate of his loan office. Constant selfless acts add to Bailey’s list of reasons to live but, in a scene of original crowd funding, he is upheld through the kindness of others waving the power of the almighty dollar.

“Fittingly, what saved It’s a Wonderful Life from near obscurity was also the driving force of capitalism. After the film fell out of copyright in 1974, forgotten due to its financial failure and a clerical error, PBS began airing the aging masterpiece during the (commercially produced) holiday season. Like the town of Bedford Falls, people united to celebrate this lost gem of humanity and filmic wonder but, like the menacing rich man threatening their peace, other broadcasters and distributors followed suit in the name of profits, producing everything from multiple chintzy colorized versions of the luscious black & white film to one of the first ever CD-ROM home releases. The on and off-screen conflicts of It’s A Wonderful Life feel just as-- if not more-- relevant today. Anyone can end up grappling their fate like George Bailey but it is the tiny town of Bedford Falls collectively striving for a future that can give everyone the life they deserve to live.” ~ Donna Kozloskie

Principal cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond, Gloria Grahame, H.B. Warner, Frank Albertson
Screenplay by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, with additional scenes by Jo Swerling and uncredited additional contribution by Michael Wilson
Based on a story by Philip Van Doren Stern
Produced by Frank Capra
Director of photography: Joseph Biroc, Joseph Walter, Victor Milner (uncredited)
Art direction by Jack Okey
Set decoration by Emile Kuri
Costumes by Edward Stevenson
Film editing by William Hornbeck
Original music by Dmitri Tiomkin
Makeup supervisor: Gordon Bau
Sound by Cleo Portman, Richard Van Hessen, John Aalberg (uncredited)
Special effects by Russell A. Cully (special photographic effects), Russell Sherman (uncredited), Daniel Hays (uncredited)

Duration: 130 minutes
Languages: English
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono (RCA Sound System)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Produced by Liberty Films
Released in USA by RKO Radio Pictures
Premiered in New York City, New York, USA on 20 December 1946

Awards and honors:
- National Film Registry selection, 1990
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 1 January 1999
- Golden Globes, 1946: Best Motion Picture Director, Frank Capra (won)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Picture (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Director, Frank Capra (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Actor in a Leading Role, James Stewart (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Film Editing (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1946: Best Sound, Recording (nominated)
- National Board of Review, 1947: One of the Top Ten Films of 1947

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