by John Larkin
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is available to purchase on Blu-Ray from Amazon.com and digitally on platforms such as Apple, Amazon and Vudu.
Roger Ebert said of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE that it's an "ageless movie that actually improves with age." Having watched the film every Christmas Eve with my family for over 25 years I can attest to this claim. With each new viewing I find it's themes of the power of the individual resonant with me on a deeper level than the previous year and that there's always some little detail I'll catch for the first time - maybe it's a line of dialogue, a facial reaction, a camera move or even a way one sequence cuts to the next. Whatever the new discovery is for the year, It truly has turned it into the cinematic gift that keeps giving each holiday season.
It’s surprising that the film had a less than stellar reception when it was originally released. It only started to become a holiday family viewing tradition when the copyright for the film lapsed in the early 1970’s and it began airing on TV stations like PBS around Christmastime each year.
Critics in 1946 despised the sentimentality in the film, calling it CAPRA-CORN. A dig at director Frank Capra whose films always displayed some level of sentimentality within the story. I’ve always found any sentimentality in the film to be executed in a very realistic and grounded away. Capra doesn’t take anything too far outside the realm of possibility, he simply finds realistic ways to display the greatest attributes of goodwill, friendship and love.
This past summer I made the pilgrimage with my family to Seneca Falls, NY to visit the “real” Bedford Falls. Not only does the location feature the iconic bridge in the third act - where George Bailey contemplates suicide, then yearns to live again - but it’s also the location of where a real-life George Bailey once lived! A young 19 year old man named Antonio Varacalli actually jumped into the water off Seneca Falls bridge to save a girl who was attempting suicide, he then drowned himself in his attempt to save her. The bridge features an engraved plaque honoring his memory. It turns out that Capra took inspiration from this real life event when crafting the character of George Bailey and the story for IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The town of Seneca Falls is also the proud home of the only IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE museum. A building filled with a vast array of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE paraphernalia going back to the late 40's.
The new 75th anniversary blu-ray features special collectible packaging and a separate disc with the film in color if you're interested. It also includes a set of recipe cards from the new BAILEY FAMILY COOKBOOK, a cookbook featuring recipes all inspired by the events and characters in the film.
There's no better holiday film than IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. If you haven't already, pick up the new 75th Anniversary blu-ray from Paramount so you can watch it in time for Christmas Eve!
You are the salt of the earth. And It’s A Wonderful Life is my memorial to you!”
-- Frank Capra, The Name Above The Title, An Autobiography