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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Film Studies

Cinema Classics Seminar:
It’s a Wonderful Life

Home and the Holidays
Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
REMOTE CLASSROOM: $15 for members, $20 for non-members  
Instructor: Jennifer Fleeger, Ph.D., Media and Communication Studies, Ursinus College

When Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life premiered near the end of 1946, audiences weren’t particularly interested in the tale of a small-town building-and-loan man brought back from the brink of self-destruction by a second-class angel. Whether the reason for the film’s lackluster performance at the box office was the timing of its release during a particularly strong year for the movies or post-war exhaustion with stories of struggle, Hollywood’s faith in Capra dwindled alongside George Bailey’s belief in the American spirit. Yet perceptions of the film have changed radically over the past 75 years, such that It’s a Wonderful Life now often appears near the top of critics’ surveys and public polls for best and most inspirational films. What happened to transform this movie into a quintessential holiday classic?

It’s a Wonderful Life is so much a part of our public consciousness that even people who have never sat through a screening can quote it. This seminar discusses the film’s relevance in American life since 1946, paying special attention to the details of its production, the history of its distribution in theaters and on television, and the significance of Frank Capra’s sentimental storytelling. Originally intended as a vehicle for Cary Grant, the film began its life at RKO before executives there sold the rights to Capra’s own production company. Several members of the cast were familiar to Capra fans, as were many of the themes. Indeed, the film fits well into his vision of the nation, in which Bedford Falls stands as the ideal setting, George Bailey is its model citizen, and romance heals class conflict.

Join us to consider how Capra in general, and this film in particular, contributed to Hollywood’s construction of American identity at home and abroad. How well does the film’s opposition of Bedford Falls and Pottersville represent our hopes and fears for America today? Whatever the answer, one thing is clear: this film, based on a short story that itself echoes the self-discovery in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, continues to inspire viewers to be thankful and, possibly, to change.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? See additional showtimes here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those who attend the seminar on site at BMFI receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink.

Please note: On-site attendance for this seminar is SOLD OUT, but the Remote Classroom is still available. If you wish to attend in our Remote Classroom, please do so via the “AT HOME” button under the “Remote Classroom” heading. You will be able to livestream the pre-screening lecture and participate in the post-screening discussion, but the movie is not included (nor are popcorn and a drink, we’re sorry to say).

 Please email BMFI education coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.

Course Information
  • Wednesday, December 8 · 6:30 pm
Remote Classroom
At Home
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