That’s not to say it’s an entirely lighthearted affair. Director Frank Capra does a good job of keeping the genuine laughs in check with the dramatic emotions. Coming at the tail end World War II, the movie has a positive and affirming message, no doubt, but it’s not so sugary sweet that it gives you Renée Zellweger-face. For a movie from the 1940’s it actually has some mature themes (abandonment, death and the aforementioned suicide). Given all that, it would’ve been easy for George Bailey to come off as an unappreciative character, but Jimmy Stewart plays him realistically and sympathetically throughout, all while selling it through his “nice guy” persona. The movie hinges on his performance at the end, from his prayer on the bridge through his “rediscovery” scene, and Stewart does a powerful job. The rest of the cast is quite good as well, especially Donna Reed as George’s loyal wife and Henry Traver as the guardian angel.
Your heart might not swell at the “lasso the moon” scene and you might not chuckle when the gym floor opens up during the prom, but by the time the bell rings at the end of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, if you aren’t feeling even the slightest bit of emotion then you might want to cut open your chest and make sure you’re not a robot..
The Making of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (22:44): Hosted by Happy Days star Tom Bosley, this documentary was no doubt made in the early 1980’s and the quality is akin to an old VHS cassette. There’s some decent information presented, as well as interviews with Stewart and other cast/crew, but it’s just hard to watch
A Personal Remembrance (13:59): Another old documentary from the 80’s hosted by Frank Capra Jr. Like the “Making Of” the quality sucks, but the rare interview with Capra Sr. makes it worth suffering through.
There’s also the original Theatrical Trailer and a Preview for LAST HOLIDAY.
I realize that it’s an old movie and there won’t be as much bonus material readily available, but it deserved better than this. Hopefully, the 70th Anniversary Edition will be better.
Extra Tidbit: The creepy (yet awesome) Vincent Price was originally considered for the role of Mr. Potter.