It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). 130 minutes. Directed by Frank Capra. Starring James Stewart (as George Bailey), Donna Reed (as Mary Hatch Bailey), Henry Travers (as Clarence Odbody), Lionel Barrymore (as Henry F. Potter), Thomas Mitchell (as Bill Bailey), Beulah Bondi (as Ma Bailey), Gloria Grahame (as Violet Bick), H. B. Warner (as Emil Gower), and Todd Karns (as Harry Bailey).
It’s a Wonderful Life draws inspiration from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, in which supernatural visitors show the miser Ebenezer Scrooge his past, present, and future in order to convince him to reform his heartless ways. Similarly, in It’s a Wonderful Life, an angelic guide named Clarence uses a vision of an alternate present to demonstrate to the suicidal protagonist George Bailey how integral he is to society, and Clarence’s efforts rescue both George and his small town, Bedford Falls, from a dark fate. But the movie also strives to convince George of the American values that … Read the rest
Mrs. Miniver (1942). 133 minutes. Directed by William Wyler. Starring Greer Garson (as Kay Miniver), Walter Pidgeon (as Clem Miniver), Teresa Wright (as Carol Beldon), Dame May Whitty (as Lady Beldon), Reginald Owen (as Foley), Henry Travers (as Mr. Ballard), Richard Ney (as Vin Miniver), Henry Wilcoxon (as the vicar), Christopher Severn (as Toby Miniver), Brenda Forbes (as Glenda), Clare Sandars (as Judy Miniver), Marie De Becker (as Ada), and Helmut Dantine (as German flyer).
Mrs. Miniver is an Academy Award-winning movie about the rural English experience during the early years of World War II. Especially in its first half, the movie can be overly sentimental, but I was moved by the dramatic transformation of the characters’ lives as the war progresses in the second half. I was also captivated by the way that the British countryside, which we might think of in the abstract as a tranquil and pacific place, morphs into a dangerous and battle-torn environment in this … Read the rest
Shadow of a Doubt (1943). 108 minutes. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Teresa Wright (as Charlotte “Young Charlie” Newton), Joseph Cotten (as Charles “Uncle Charlie” Oakley), Henry Travers (as Joseph Newton), Patricia Collinge (as Emma Newton), Macdonald Carey (as Detective Jack Graham), Wallace Ford (as Detective Fred Saunders), Hume Cronyn (as Herbie Hawkins), Edna May Wonacott (as Ann Newton), and Charles Bates (as Roger Newton).
Shadow of a Doubt is one of Hitchcock’s great triumphs, said to be his favorite of his films. It presents in many regards a very basic story about a small-town American family that is visited by an outsider, a relative from far away who brings with him danger and intrigue. But it manages to elevate this familiar narrative to the level of the exquisite through the artful creation of tension, through the beauty of its setting, and through its impressive writing and acting. Told through the experiences of Charlotte “Young Charlie” Newton (played by Teresa … Read the rest