It's a Wonderful Life

About the Show

Released in 1946, "It's a Wonderful Life" has become a holiday classic and remains the movie people associate with Christmas more than any other. Frank Capra's definitive film is a tearjerker that proves that, even in our darkest hours, the human spirit can and will rise triumphant.

Based on the short story "The Greatest Gift," the movie tells the story of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), a man who has lived all his life in the small town of Bedford Falls, New York. George longs to shake the dust of Bedford Falls from his shoes and go out to explore the world. Alas, circumstances and fate conspire to keep him stuck in his hometown, running his family's building and loan company and fighting every effort by the miserly curmudgeon Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) to take over most of the town by buying up all the local real estate.

Then one Christmas Eve, some money goes missing and the possibility of losing his business and freedom sends George into a soul-crushing crisis of the spirit. He contemplates throwing himself off a bridge, convinced everyone in his life would be better off if he had never been born. At that darkest moment, an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes to show George what a world without him would look like... and it is not a pretty picture.

"It's a Wonderful Life" stars Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as his loyal wife, Mary. Stewart and Capra both received Oscar nominations in 1947 for their work, and the film was nominated for Best Picture. The RKO studio's effects department won a Technical Achievement Oscar for the development of a new technique for creating artificial snow in the film. Capra also picked up a Golden Globe for Best Director.

A wonderful supporting cast also helps bring the story's vision of small-town America to life, including Barrymore as the cantankerous Mr. Potter, Thomas Mitchell as George's drunken, bumbling Uncle Billy, and Travers as Clarence, the kindly angel who must save George in order to get his wings.

Many of the iconic moments in "It's a Wonderful Life" have become cultural touchstones. Do you think of an angel getting its wings every time you hear a bell ring? Do you yell "Merry Christmas, movie house!" every time you pass your local theater? Do you have someone for whom you would lasso the moon? You have "It's a Wonderful Life" to thank.

Surprisingly, "It's a Wonderful Life" performed poorly at the box office when it was first released. Then in the 1970s, 30 years after its theatrical run, the movie began appearing regularly on network television during the Christmas season. Now, the annual showing of "It's a Wonderful Life" is a holiday touchstone, a movie that helps celebrate a season of family, sharing and giving thanks. NBC is proud to make this iconic film a regular part of its holiday programming.

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