IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – CAPRA’S BEST
George is doomed to stay in ‘Bedford Falls, the best-liked man in town. He and his wife have children, and the machinations of Mr. Potter seem to have come to a halt. Then Mr. Potter, obsessed with the idea of owning the town, again starts trying to gain control of the Bailey Company. When George’s partner Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) loses several thousand dollars, George is tempted to give up. It is the Christmas season, but there is no love and the spirit of giving is gone in George’s soul.His town has become the wreck of an American dream, turned sour by one selfish, evil man. All George wants is out—for good.
While standing on the bridge over the river at Bedford Falls, George is thinking about something that Potter had said to him about being worth more dead than alive when a stranger calls out for help from the ice water below. George jumps to his rescue, forgetting for the moment that he had been thinking about killing himself just moments before. They are both pulled from the water by the tollhouse keeper, who takes them into the tollhouse to dry off. The stranger, whose name is Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers) tells George that he is his guardian angel, but he is an angel who has not earned his wings, which he will get if he can keep George alive. George, however, wishes that he had never been born; so Mr. Oddbody describes how different life would have been in Bedford Falls had George never lived. For example, when George was young and worked in a drugstore, he averted a tragedy when the distracted pharmacist, Mr. Gower (H. B. Warner), accidentally put poison into a prescription he was preparing. George learns, thanks to Mr. Oddbody, that he has unknowingly become the town’s most important citizen, and has been involved, directly or indirectly, in the fates of almost all the townspeople.
Later, Bert (Ward Bond) the policeman finds George on the bridge and demands to know where he has been, since the whole town is looking for him. George by now is glad to be alive. Meanwhile, the citizens of Bedford Falls, filled with good will and the Christmas spirit, want to prove their faith in George. They bring him all the cash they can scrape together so that once more George can defeat old Mr. Potter. The miracle of friendship allows him and his town to celebrate. Men who have real friends know the best there is in life. Good deeds, as Everyman learned in the old morality play, are all that follow each man beyond the span of his earthly days.