20 – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Clarence: Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.
Seen before?

F: Yes.

R: Many times.


F: Perfect time of year for this. Arguably the greatest Christmas film of all time (although Muppets Christmas Carol a contender for me). Did it make you feel Christmassy?

R: It did! Although it has a lot more going for it than being seasonally appropriate. It’s a superbly told, universal story, that you’d have to have a pretty cold heart to not get something from.

F: Yes I’ve seen this a few times but there’s always more to it on each viewing. I think this time I’d forgotten how little is actually set at Christmas. I’ve heard some people say this is sentimental but this is not a bad thing.

R: Absolutely. It’s not a subtle film, but this is a perfect example of melodrama done right. The whole film is structured around delivering that emotional pay off at the end, and dammit, no matter how hard I try to maintain a stiff upper lip, it makes me shed a little tear every time I watch it.

F: Awww. I love James Stewart’s performance here. He’s ideally cast as the everyman and you feel sorry for him at times and so happy for him at the end. Without him as George Bailey I don’t think this would be such a classic.

R: Absolutely. It’s such an expressive performance, with real range too. The whole cast is strong though. I think we’ve got to give a shout out to Lionel Barrymore as loathsome businessman Mr Potter. He’d make my top 10 villains of all time I think.

F: Agreed! I think my favourite scene is when Clarence shows George how life would be without him and Bedford Falls has been renamed Pottersville.

R: Definitely, a great riff on the visions given to Scrooge in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and delivering just as much of a punch here.

F: One confession we probably should make is that we watched the colourised version (not on purpose though!). Probably my first time seeing a colourised movie. Bit odd…

R: It wasn’t completely terrible, but looked quite off in places, particularly when the colours were most vivid. I think it also made some of the cuts more jarring, in those places where there’s an obvious edit but the camera angle doesn’t change. Presumably TCM shows the colourised version because there are a lot of silly people out there who refuse to watch any black and white film?

F: Maybe! I much preferred this to the previous Frank Capra/James Stewart film on the list Mr Smith Goes To Washington even though I think the themes are similar.

R: Probably true that these themes are better suited to a story set at Christmas than one in Washington!

Is it worthy of the top 100?

F: Absolutely.

R: Got to be.

Up next:
19 – On The Waterfront (1954)
21 – Chinatown (1974)

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