Frank Capra directed this masterpiece about a young man who reluctantly stays in his home town to run a business that helps people.
In Bedford Falls people pray for George Bailey, and angels send down Clarence (Henry Travers) to help. The boy George saves his brother from drowning. George's boss Gower (H. B. Warner) is drunk because his son died, and George realizes he used poison in pills and does not deliver them.
Years later Gower give George Bailey (James Stewart) a suitcase for his trip. George's father (Samuel S. Hinds) hopes that George will come back after college to the Bailey Building & Loan Co. George goes to his brother Harry's graduation party and dances with Mary (Donna Reed), and they fall into a pool. George and Mary walk home while singing and talking, and Mary loses her robe. George's father dies, and George gives up his trip to Europe. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) wants to take over. George says his father helped people get out of Potter's slums. The board votes against Potter, but George has to stay as executive officer.
Four years later Harry Bailey (Todd Karns) comes back with a wife, whose father has offered him a job. George's uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) gets drunk. George's mother (Beulah Bondi) tells George that Mary is back from college. Violet (Gloria Grahame) sees George, but he scares her off. Mary invites George in. They quarrel, and Sam Wainwright (Frank Albertson) calls. They put their heads together by the phone as Sam talks business. George kisses Mary passionately, and they are wed. As they are leaving on their honeymoon, they see a run on the bank. George opens the office. Billy says he closed the doors. Potter calls George and says he took over the bank and will pay people half. George explains to people their money is being used by others. Mary and George offer their $2,000. People make withdrawals, and at closing time they have $2 left. Mary calls George to come to the abandoned house.
Years later George welcomes people to their new homes in Bailey Park. Potter tells George he is trapped and offers him a job at $20,000 a year. George says no. Mary has four children. During the war Potter is head of the draft board, and Harry is a heroic pilot.
A bank examiner arrives. Billy accidentally gives deposit money to Potter. George loans money to Violet. Billy and George look for the money. At home George is in a bad mood, gets angry, and leaves. George asks Potter for $8,000, but he has only $500 equity in a $15,000 life insurance policy. Potter calls the police. George goes to a bar and prays. The man he insulted hits him. George walks in the snow to a bridge. Clarence jumps in the river, and George saves him. Clarence explains he is George's guardian angel. George wishes he was never born. Clarence shows George the town Pottersville as if George had not lived. Gower is a bum and was in prison. Violet is being arrested. George finds the abandoned house, and his mother says Billy is in an insane asylum. George learns that Harry died. He tries to hug Mary, who screams. George runs from the police to the bridge and prays to live again. The policeman Bert (Ward Bond) finds George, who realizes he is alive and is joyful. George hugs his family. Billy brings in a basket of money from friends. Harry arrives, and they all sing. Clarence has won his wings.
This spiritual fantasy shows how a person who helps
other people makes the world a better place. This film also prophesies
how the post-war home-building based on loans is going to create
a much better life style for many middle-class people.