How Public Domain Saved James Stewart’s Favorite Film Performance | #oscars | #academywards

“It’s a Wonderful Life” opens in outer space as two entities discuss the plight of George Bailey (James Stewart), a man who is preparing to die by suicide on Christmas Eve. They summon Clarence, a bumbling angel who hasn’t received his wings yet, to learn everything he can about the man and help him find his way again.

Cue flashback: Now we’re in the cozy town of Bedford Falls, where we meet George as a 12-year-old and as a grown-up. We see what a saint he is; he’s good-natured and selfless, but he harbors ambitions to go out and see the world. Unfortunately for him, circumstances and his own conscience combine to ensure he never sets foot outside his hometown.

George frequently sacrifices himself for the good of others, like when he loses his hearing in one ear saving his kid brother from an icy death. As an adult just about to set out on his travels before going to college, he’s left stuck holding the fort at the family-run Building and Loan when his father suddenly passes away, preventing it from falling into the hands of the grasping Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore).

George also gives his college fund to his younger brother on the understanding that, when Harry graduates, it will be George’s turn. But Harry returns married with a plum job offer from his father-in-law, leaving George marooned indefinitely. In the meantime, George has married his childhood sweetheart, Mary (Donna Reed), and started a family.

Then on Christmas Eve, forgetful Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) misplaces a wedge of cash just as the bank examiner arrives to go over the books, threatening bankruptcy. Bitter and desperate, George gets wasted and contemplates suicide. Clarence shows up just in time.


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