Here’s one of my favourite scenes in film history, the telephone scene from Christmas seasonal favourite Frank Capra‘s It’s A Wonderful Life. Hover over the image, click ‘play’ and take a look:
There is something about this scene that gets me every time – I actually get choked up when watching it. I think it’s because there’s so much going on in it; sexual tension, confusion, love, frustration, anger, and more, all playing a part in making this pack an emotional punch. Because it’s a short little moment in which all of these range of emotions are happening, it just gets me – one of the most powerful scenes in cinema history.
I think the actors Donna Reed, and particularly James Stewart, were incredibly gifted, being able to convey all of this in so short a space, which on the surface may seem insignificant. But to me, this scene incapsulates the whole movie. In the hands of lesser talent, who knows how it might have turned out? Stewart makes George Bailey come to life; a real person on the horns of a dilemma.
George Bailey is a man with a big heart, and full of love. Not just for Mary, but for everyone in the town of Bedford falls. It’s in his nature to give, to sacrifice. But, he also has a wandering spirit, driving him to free himself of all obligations, “see the world” and build grand visions for himself away from his small town roots. But his love for Mary, and ultimately for everyone around him who come to depend on him is just as undeniable as the desire for him to explore his potential outside of this little world of which he is ultimately a vital presence. It’s this tension between the two forces which drive him that make him such a watchable, and ultimately identifiable character.