James Agee, the film reviewer for THE NATION (1942 - 1948), was charmed by the warmth of It's a Wonderful Life
and believed that it was an admirable and well-crafted piece of film making; he nonetheless came away feeling like he'd been sold a bill of goods and rejected the movie primarily because he believed that films created in the Atomic Age should reflect the pessimism that created the era:
"Yet at its best, which is usually inextricable with its worst, I feel that this movie is a very taking sermon about the feasibility of a kind of Christian semi-socialism, a society founded on affection, kindliness, and trust, and that its chief mistake or sin --an enormous one--is its refusal to face the fact that evil is intrinsic in each individual, and that no man may deliver his brother, or make agreement unto God for him."
This article appears on this site by way of a special agreement with The Nation.
When the most popular movies of 1947 were tallied up in Photoplay Magazine's "People's Choice Award", It's a Wonderful Life clocked in at number four, having been trounced by The Jolson Story
, The Best Years of Our Lives
, and Welcome Stranger
This profile of director Frank Capra was written five years before he directed "It's a Wonderful Life" and gives a tidy account as to the course of his career up until 1942, when he was inducted as a major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
•Watch a Short Film Clip from Capra's W.W. II Documentary WHY WE FIGHT•
Ten years prior to being cast in the roll as George Baily's guardian angel, "Clarence", the actor Henry Travers (1874 – 1965) appeared in the Broadway play "You Can't Take it With You". Playing the part of "Grandpa Sycamore", he was singled out for praise by the editors of "Stage Magazine"; the review is attached herein.
"The appeal of James Stewart, the shy, inarticulate movie actor, is that he reminds every girl in the audience of the date before the last. He's not a glamorized Gable, a remote Robert Taylor. He's 'Jim', the lackadaisical, easy-going boy from just around the corner."
The above line was pulled from the attached article which was one of the first widely read profiles of Jimmy Stewart (James Maitland Stewart 1908 – 1997). Written four years after his arrival in the California dream factory and printed during the same year as his first encounter with the director Frank Capra in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", this article reveals that Stewart had a small town upbringing and was essentially the same character he played in It's a Wonderful Life
"Booth Tarkington might have created Jim Stewart. He's 'Little Orvie and Billie Baxter' grown up 'Penrod' with a Princeton diploma."
Suggested reading -
It's a Wonderful Life: Favorite Scenes from the Classic Film
A thumbnail review of "It's a Wonderful Life" written in the form of a favorable plot synopsis. Oddly, the film was released in March of 1947 - long after Christmas.
The War on Christmas