Premiering in December of 1946 in theatres and starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, "It's a Wonderful Life" received five Academy Award nominations and later became a staple on American television each Christmas season. Sleepy Bedford Falls resident, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is a struggling businessman whose savings and loans company is about to go bankrupt, leading George to contemplate jumping off a bridge. However, an angel sent from heaven named Clarence intervenes, showing George what life would really be like if he had never been born.
Director Frank Capra flashes back to George's childhood: how he was in a sledding accident and almost drown, how he was mistreated by his employer at the local drugstore, and how he dreamed about travelling the globe. In the meantime, though, he met his future wife, Mary, played by Donna Reed, at a dance where they lindyhopped until their feet were sore. As they meandered home that evening, they stopped at an abandonned house, threw a rock at the window, and made a wish.
Sadly, George's father ,who ran a savings and loans business, succumbed to a stroke in the next scene. Though grief-stricken, George finds joy when he marries his sweetheart Mary, fulfilling the wish she had made in front of the abandonned house. On a rainy night, the newlyweds are about to depart for their honeymoon in Europe, when the savings and loans employees beg him to take over his late father's business. Begrudgingly, he agrees and foregoes his honeymoon.
Although he starts off slowly, and despite his immoral nemesis Mr. Potter, George is able to build his business back up using honest methods. In the meantime, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey purchase the decrepit house that they once strolled past on that fateful evening, discovering its hidden charms. They start a family which eventually totals four children. As the business heads south, the once charming house becomes a liability: every time George walks up the staircase, he shakes his head in disgust at the knob which comes lose from the bannister post. The once adorable children become an annoyance: his daughter's piano playing grates on his last nerve.
What's the source of his distress? Uncle Billy has lost $8000 of the company's money. George runs to Martini's bar where he hits rock bottom and then cries out to God for help. When the struggling businessman meets the angel, he then realizes that he is not poor, but rich. He runs home to his family on Christmas Eve, his wife waiting for him with open arms. They sing together under the Christmas tree. The community bands together to raise funds to replace the missing money. It's a wonderful life!
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