It is true. I've lived 43 years and never saw It's a Wonderful Life in it's entirety. Until, that is, last night.
I had caught parts of it in my youth. I knew the premise. I saw the Saturday Night Live skit about the "missing ending". My sister was a huge fan. Somehow I managed to miss it.
Now, everybody know that George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) gives up his life's dreams to keep his father's savings and loan in operation. The evil Harry Potter keeps trying to own or crush the S&L because it's the only thing in town he doesn't control. After things go wrong, a guardian angel is dispatched to show George what the world would be like if he was never born. Conclusion: not good. It's a Capra film so you know everything will turn out all right.
Lionel Barymore is cast against type as Potter and Donna Reed is Bailey's hot wife, her first starring role. George has a douche-bag buddy from high school (Heee-Haw!) named Wainwright who returns rich and with a hot young wife played by Marian Carr, who later went on to play Lon Jr's would-be girlfriend in Indestructible Man. That's what we call a downward slide.
A well made, satisfying movie. What did I find surprising? It's long, over two hours. It was nominated for five Oscars and won nothing. Initially, it was a financial flop. My boys weren't terribly interested but my wife, who missed a good bit of it, wants to see it again. Next year, maybe. AMRU 3.5.