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It's a Wonderful Life Details


This is director Frank Capra's classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (James Stewart), the eternally-in-debt guiding force of a bank in the typical American small town of Bedford Falls. As the film opens, it's Christmas Eve, 1946, and George, who has long considered himself a failure, faces financial ruin and arrest and is seriously contemplating suicide. High above Bedford Falls, two celestial voices discuss Bailey's dilemma and decide to send down eternally bumbling angel Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers), who after 200 years has yet to earn his wings, to help George out. But first, Clarence is given a crash course on George's life, and the multitude of selfless acts he has performed: rescuing his younger brother from drowning, losing the hearing in his left ear in the process; enduring a beating rather than allow a grieving druggist (H.B. Warner) to deliver poison by mistake to an ailing child; foregoing college and a long-planned trip to Europe to keep the Bailey Building and Loan from letting its Depression-era customers down; and, most important, preventing town despot Potter (Lionel Barrymore) from taking over Bedford Mills and reducing its inhabitants to penury. Along the way, George has married his childhood sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed), who has stuck by him through thick and thin. But even the love of Mary and his children are insufficient when George, faced with an $8000 shortage in his books, becomes a likely candidate for prison thanks to the vengeful Potter. Bitterly, George declares that he wishes that he had never been born, and Clarence, hoping to teach George a lesson, shows him how different life would have been had he in fact never been born. After a nightmarish odyssey through a George Bailey-less Bedford Falls (now a glorified slum called Potterville), wherein none of his friends or family recognize him, George is made to realize how many lives he has touched, and helped, through his existence; and, just as Clarence had planned, George awakens to the fact that, despite all its deprivations, he has truly had a wonderful life. Capra's first production through his newly-formed Liberty Films, It's a Wonderful Life lost money in its original run, when it was percieved as a fairly downbeat view of small-town life. Only after it lapsed into the public domain in 1973 and became a Christmastime TV perennial did it don the mantle of a holiday classic. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:January 7, 1946


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences John Aalberg Best Sound 1946 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Frank Capra Best Director 1946 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Frank Capra Best Director 1946 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences James Stewart Best Actor 1946 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences William W. Hornbeck Best Editing 1946 Nominee


James Stewart
as George Bailey
Donna Reed
as Mary Hatch Bailey
Lionel Barrymore
as Mr. Potter
Thomas Mitchell
as Uncle Billy
Henry Travers
as Clarence
Beulah Bondi
as Mrs. Bailey
Carol Coomes
as Janie Bailey
Ward Bond
as Bert
Gloria Grahame
as Violet Bick
William Edmunds
as Mr. Martini
Argentina Brunetti
as Mrs. Martini
Sarah Edwards
as Mrs. Hatch
Frank Faylen
as Ernie
Jean Gale
as Mary (younger)
Karolyn Grimes
as Zuzu Bailey
Frank S. Hagney
as Potter's Bodyguard
Jim Hawkins
as Tommy Bailey
Samuel S. Hinds
as Pa Bailey
Todd Karns
as Harry Bailey
Sheldon Leonard
as Nick
Ronnie Ralph
as Sam (younger)
Lillian Randolph
as Annie
Larry Simms
as Pete Bailey
Mary Treen
as Cousin Tilly
H.B. Warner
as Mr. Gower
Garry Owen
as Bill poster
Frank Albertson
as Sam Wainwright
Charles Lane
as Real Estate Salesman
Ray Walker
as Joe at Luggage Shop
Danny Mummert
as Marty Hatch (younger)
Harry V. Cheshire
as Dr. Campbell
Edward Keane
as Tom
Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer
as Othello
John Farrell MacDonald
as House Owner
Lane Chandler
Harry Holman
as High School Principal
Stanley Andrews
as Mr. Welch
Charles Halton
as Bank Examiner
Almira Sessions
as Potter's secretary
Al Bridge
as Sheriff
Bert Moorhouse
Marian Carr
as Mrs. Wainwright
Tom Fadden
as Tollhouse keeper
Dick Elliott
Eddie Fetherstone
as Bank Teller
Ellen Corby
as Miss Davis


Frank Capra
Frank Capra
Frank Capra
Jo Swerling
Albert Hackett
Frances Goodrich
Joseph Walker
Joseph Biroc
Dimitri Tiomkin
Composer (Music Score)
Dimitri Tiomkin
Musical Direction/Supervision
William W. Hornbeck
Jack Okey
Art Director
Emile Kuri
Set Designer
Edward Stevenson
Costume Designer
Clem Portman
Sound/Sound Designer
Philip Van Doren Stern
Short Story Author
Gordon Bau