It's A Wonderful Life   1946

Director: Frank Capra

Main Characters/Players:
George Bailey: Jimmy Stewart
Mary Hatch: Donna Reed
Mr. Henry F. Potter: Lionel Barrymore
Uncle Billy: Thomas Mitchell
Clarence Oddbody: Henry Travers

Plot Summary:
As the movie opens, we hear the prayers of George Bailey's family and friends. All of them are asking God to take care of George: through these prayers we know George is in trouble, but we don't know why. In answer to the prayers, God and the angel Joseph begin to talk about what they will do for George. They call in Clarence, an angel who after more than two hundred years of trying, still hasn't yet got his wings. Clarence is assigned to help George. Through a series of flashbacks, Joseph tells Clarence what he needs to know about George in order to be able to help him.

Clarence learns that when George was twelve, he saved his brother Harry from drowning in an icy pond, but as a result George caught a cold, got an infection, and lost his hearing in his left ear. After school young George worked for Mr. Gower, a druggist, and once prevented Mr. Gower from accidentally putting poison in a prescription he was making up. When he finished high school, George worked with his father in Bailey's Building and Loan for four years, to earn enough money first to travel and then go to college. His father's early death put an end to these plans, and the Building and Loan was nearly put out of business by the rich, clever, unhappy, and thoroughly evil Mr. Potter, who disliked the late Mr. Bailey because he disliked seeing the poor rise to middle-class comfort and respectability.

George took over his father's business, and gave the money to his younger brother Harry to help him go to school; in return, Harry was supposed to come back and take George's place so he could go to school. At the end of another four years Harry married and got a job working for his new bride's father. George also got married to Mary Hatch. Because of a run on the bank, their honeymoon money was used to secure the business; consequently, he and Mary began their married life together in poverty but happiness.

George and Mary have children, work on building new homes in Bailey Park, and never climb the social ladder like their friends do. When World War II comes, George is ineligible for service because of his left ear, so he serves the community at home. On December 24, the day before Christmas, the bank examiner comes to inspect the books. On this very day George's eccentric Uncle Billy loses $8,000 dollars. It seems to the bank examiner as if George has been stealing from his customers, and a warrant is put out for his arrest by Mr. Potter. George's only valuable possession is an $15,000 dollar life-insurance policy. At this point Clarence shows up.

George is thinking of jumping into an icy river, but when Clarence-a stranger to George--jumps in first, George's natural instincts take over, and he jumps in the river not to drown himself, but to save the stranger.

As the two men dry off, Clarence tells George he is an angel. Of course, George thinks Clarence is crazy. George wishes bitterly that he'd never been born. However, when Clarence shows George what the world would be like if he had never been born, George is horrified. The town is a slum; his wife is a spinster. Convinced that his life is, after all, worthwhile, George returns home, to be met by his wife, friends, neighbors and brother. Harry toasts George, "To my big brother George, the richest man in town."