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|James Stewart||George Bailey|
|Donna Reed||Mary Hatch Bailey|
|Lionel Barrymore||Henry F. Potter|
|Thomas Mitchell||Uncle Billy Bailey|
|Beulah Bondi||Ma Bailey|
|Frank Faylen||Ernie Bishop|
|Todd Karns||Harry Bailey|
|Samuel S. Hinds||Peter Bailey|
|Georgie Nokes||Little Harry Bailey|
|Gloria Grahame||Violet Bick|
|H.B. Warner||Mr. Gower|
|Frank Albertson||Sam Wainwright|
|Argentina Brunetti||Mrs. Martini|
|Todd Karns||Harry Bailey|
|Charles Lane||Real Estate Salesman|
|Mary Treen||Cousin Tilly|
|Joseph F. Biroc||Director of Photography|
|Philip Van Doren Stern||Original Story|
|Joseph Walker||Director of Photography|
|Jack Okey||Art Direction|
|Philip Van Doren Stern||Story Contributor|
"It's a wonderful laugh! It's a wonderful love!"
"They're making memories tonight!"
In Bedford Falls, New York on Christmas Eve, George Bailey is deeply troubled. Prayers for his well-being from friends and family reach Heaven. Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class, is assigned to visit Earth to save George, thereby earning his wings. Franklin and Joseph, the head angels, review George's life with Clarence.
As a 12 year old boy, George saved the life of his younger brother Harry, who had fallen through the ice on a frozen pond, and because of his heroic action, George lost the hearing in his left ear. Later, while working in the local pharmacy, George noticed that the druggist, Mr. Gower, despondent over his son's death from influenza, had mistakenly filled a child's prescription with poison, and saved Gower from killing the child and irrevocably ruining his own life.
George repeatedly sacrifices his dream to travel the world. He waits for Harry to graduate from high school and replace him at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, vital to the townspeople. On Harry's graduation night, George, now 21, discusses his future with Mary Hatch, who has long had a crush on him. Later that evening, George's absent-minded Uncle Billy interrupts them to tell George that his father has had a stroke, which proves fatal. A few months later, Mr. Henry F. Potter, a slumlord and majority shareholder in the Building and Loan, tries to persuade the board of directors to stop providing home loans for the working poor. George talks them into rejecting Potter's proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan. Giving his college money to Harry, George delays his plans with the understanding that Harry will take over upon graduation.
When Harry graduates from college, he unexpectedly brings home a wife, whose father has offered Harry an excellent job. Although Harry vows to decline the offer out of respect for his brother, George cannot deny Harry such a fine opportunity and decides to keep full ownership of the Building and Loan, knowing that this will kill his dream to travel the world.
George calls on Mary, who has recently returned home from college. After several arguments, they reveal their love for each other, and marry soon after. As they depart for their honeymoon, they witness a run on the bank that leaves the Building and Loan in danger of collapse. The couple quells the panic by using the $2,000 set aside for their honeymoon to satisfy the depositors' immediate needs. Mary enlists the help of George's two best friends, Bert, a policeman, and Ernie, a cab driver, to create a faux tropical setting for a substitute honeymoon. The couple embrace while Bert and Ernie sing in the background.
George and Mary raise four children: Pete, Janie, Tommy and Zuzu. George starts Bailey Park, an affordable housing project. Potter tries to hire him away, offering him a $20,000 salary, along with the promise of business trips to Europe, something that George always wanted to do. George, initially tempted, turns Potter down after realizing that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and take full control of Bedford Falls.
When World War II erupts, George is unable to enlist, due to his bad ear. Harry becomes a Navy fighter pilot and shoots down 15 enemy planes, two of which were targeting a ship full of troops in the Pacific. For his bravery, Harry is awarded the Medal of Honor.
On Christmas Eve morning, Uncle Billy is on his way to Potter's bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan's cash funds. He greets Potter (who has the newspaper reporting Harry's heroics) and taunts him by reading the headlines aloud. Potter angrily snatches the paper, but Billy inattentively allows the money to be snatched with it. Potter opens the paper, notices the money and keeps it, knowing that displacement of bank money would result in bankruptcy for the Building and Loan and criminal charges for George. When a frantic search turns up with nothing, and with a bank examiner due that day, George takes his anger and frustrations out on his family.
Theatrical : 1947-01-07 : United States of America
DVD : 1995-09-19