five times “It’s a Wonderful Life” made me cry.

Did you know that 2021 marks the 75th anniversary of It’s a Wonderful Life? I actually didn’t know that until I found The Classic Movie Muse’s blogathon, created to honor the film. I just finished rewatching It’s a Wonderful Life, so I’m definitely full of love for it at the moment. ❤ The fact that it’s still such a huge favorite of so many people after so many years just speaks to how good of a movie it is!

There are so many things I could say about the film, but for this blog post I’m going to focus on a few scenes that never fail to bring tears to my eyes. #funtimes Now let’s travel back to Bedford Falls!


I. THE PRAYERS OF THE TOWN

“Help him, dear Father.” “Help my friend, Mr. Bailey.” “Help my son, George, tonight.” “I love him, dear Lord. Watch over him tonight.” “Please God, something’s the matter with Daddy.”

I’m not going to lie: just rereading those quotes made me tear up. As It’s a Wonderful Life begins, the camera pans over the quiet town of Bedford Falls. Well, quiet on the outside perhaps–inside their homes, people pour out their hearts on behalf of George Bailey, calling on the only One Who can save him from himself.

This is an intriguing start to the film, one that makes us instantly interested in just who this ‘Mr. Bailey/George’ person is. And of course it also gives us a hint of the spiritual/supernatural elements that are so crucial to the story. All in all, a truly excellent (and tear-jerking) first scene.

II. MARY GIVES AWAY THE HONEYMOON FUND

“How much do you need?”

George sacrificed so much of himself to keep Bailey Building & Loan going, but let’s not forget the sacrifices that Mary made as well! Her selflessness is wonderfully demonstrated in the scene where she gives up her and George’s honeymoon money so that Bailey Building & Loan can remain open (and remain the only Potter-free business in town).

Just a few minutes earlier, she’d been begging George to not stop at the Building & Loan (knowing he’d probably become embroiled in whatever the trouble was). But when she understands the seriousness of the situation, Mary gives up the fancy honeymoon she and George had planned–and she makes me tear up as well. She is just as much of a heroic character as George!

III. GEORGE FINDS HIS BROTHER’S GRAVE

“Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.”

This is one small moment in the midst of George’s journey through Pottersville. But it hits hard every time. Besides the fact that Harry drowned and all those soldiers died, there’s also the fact that Harry was someone of whom George could always be proud. Someone through whom George could see his dreams realized. Harry went to collage, was successful, and became a decorated hero. And George didn’t resent that! He loved his little brother and did everything he could to see Harry succeed. So George realizing that Harry died long ago and never got a chance to live his life…it hurts.

IV. GEORGE WANTS TO LIVE AGAIN

“Please! I want to live again. I want to live again…please, God, let me live again.”

After already coming to the end of himself one time that evening, George is once again brought to that lowest point. But this time, instead of eyeing the churning waters of the river and preparing to throw himself in, he cries out to God. And God answers. It’s the most powerful moment in the whole film, to me. Absolutely wonderful.

V. THE TOWN TO THE RESCUE

“A toast…to my big brother George. The richest man in town!”

In true Frank Capra fashion, It’s a Wonderful Life ends on a high note. Sentimental and a little sappy, sure. But it’s an earned happy ending. George has earned it. We, the viewers, have earned it. And it’s cathartic, in a way, getting to see everyone happy and holiday-bright after we’ve witnessed the horrors of Pottersville. Harry is alive after all, George has Mary and the kids, and dear Clarence gets his wings! How can you not shed a few happy tears? ❤


Of course, these aren’t the only five moments in It’s a Wonderful Life that make me cry. 😉 But they’re the main ones. What about you? What are some of your favorite tear-jerking moments in this very tear-jerking film? Let me know in the comments!

Eva-Joy

15 thoughts on “five times “It’s a Wonderful Life” made me cry.

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  1. 😀 Oooo…Correction: I always THINK it’s Harry’s toast that makes me cry. It’s not. It’s the look on his face while he sings Auld Lang Syne that gets me. Have you ever noticed? He is so intensely ZEROED IN on George while he’s singing (he doesn’t look around, he doesn’t even really smile – he’s laser-focused), and his gaze says SO MUCH. It’s like he’s sending George an unspoken message or something. I just watched a clip to make sure I hadn’t exaggerated the moment in my mind – and just watching it out-of-context made me tear up! ❤

    And this happens to me every time. I think it’s the toast that makes me cry, I’m surprised (and let down) when it doesn’t, then my eyes are still on Harry as they start to sing, and I’m like, “WHAT??? Awww!!!”, and THEN the tears come. Every time. 😀 I’m really surprised I actually remembered the moment WITHOUT having to be surprised by it again. 😉 (It also must be why I honestly never realized until this blogathon that Bert’s plays the accordion in that scene – ha!)

    So, anyway, to recap: Harry makes me cry. 😉 In the table read, it was the toast itself. In the movie, it’s the moments after the toast. In any event, you can bet that something in that scene will trigger the waterworks for me – and it will be thanks to Harry. ❤

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  2. I’m not sure I’d ever thought about the very few minutes that pass between Mary begging George not to stop at the Building & Loan and her giving away the money. What has always impressed me most about that scene is how she not only sacrifices the honeymoon they planned, she organizes the quick restoration of the old Granville house to create an even better and more memorable one! It like she steps back, assesses the situation, sees how to bring good from bad, and takes action. There’s no way she could’ve wasted time wallowing in what they missed. But I’d never considered how, not only did she not have time to wallow, she barely had time to process! She had to make a very quick change, emotionally – which makes her choices even more impressive. 😀 It’s never made me cry, but I’ve always found Mary’s quick, positive thinking and acting very, VERY inspiring.

    Harry’s toast makes me teary. Every time. So, I’m glad you mentioned it, because I was thinking that’s probably the most cliched response ever – even though it’s true.

    I’ve always thought there must be something in Todd Karnes’ face or delivery that sets me off. But it’s not just that actor. When I watched the table read, Harry was played by Lou Diamond Phillips – and he made me CRY. 🙂 I didn’t realize it until the toast, but he played Harry as if he was sort of oblivious – like he was just breezing through life, with this HUGE smile on his face all the time. And when he gives his toast, he’s still smiling, but it takes on a very knowing quality – like it had finally dawned on this guy exactly why he’d been so fortunate all these years. And when Lou Diamond Phillips looked right in his webcam, and said those lines, and flashed that smile, and it looked so DIFFERENT – I lost it. ❤

    There was a little Q&A afterward. I didn’t watch all of it, because it was just SO late at that point, but I stuck around long enough to catch Martin Sheen mentioning a moment that’s always hard for him to watch (George being so rough on Uncle Billy). He spoke so sincerely about how it always strikes him – but I realized, it’s never bothered me. (The lead-up to the telephone kiss, with “I wanna do what I wanna do!”, and making poor Janie cry are the toughest ones for me watch.) But it got me thinking – what do these moments that “set us off” say about us as individuals? It’s just so interesting how everybody’s “list” (even if it’s a mental list) is so different. You could get really psychological with it. 😉 One thing’s for sure: this is a film that provokes powerful emotional responses. And the fact these responses are so personalized makes it even more amazing! ❤

    PS – When I finish my blogathon tour through Bedford Falls, I’m looking forward to reading your newest posts – especially the “favorite TV episodes” one! 😀

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    1. Mary is SO inspiring, I agree!!

      Just going to respond to your other comment about Harry’s toast here–I know EXACTLY what you mean about the moment *after* the toast when they’re singing and Harry’s just looking at George. I love your interpretation of that and I think it’s totally true. :*) And I wish I could’ve watched that roundtable read! I would’ve loved LDP as Harry. ❤

      "one thing's for sure: this is a film that provokes powerful emotional responses"–soooo true. Nobody feels ambivalent about It's a Wonderful Life (or hardly anybody). Such a great film. ❤

      Looking forward to hearing what you think of that TV show episode post!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes. Just reading “Please God, something’s the matter with Daddy” makes me tear up.

    Mary is the backbone of this film. Time and again, she quietly supports George, giving him the ability to stand tall. I love her. I admire her. I aspire to be like her.

    And yes, this movie EARNS its happy ending. All the way. The whole ending makes me cry and cry with joy.

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  4. It’s called a classic for a reason! Wasn’t part of it inspired by a real story? I thought that the bridge that George jumped off from was in New York somewhere…
    Just found it:
    “The bridge has two bronze plaques: one honors a man who in 1917 “gave his life to save another” (apparently by jumping off the bridge), and the other states that “the design of the Bridge Street bridge” is notably similar to the one in the 1946 film.”
    -Excerpt From: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/46867

    It is a great movie from start to finish! I have an inkling that David White’s Second Glance movie was inspired by this one. Merry Christmas!

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  5. Only 5? Only kidding. I think this year, with all of the real world turmoil, I will need a box of Kleenex to get me through the annual viewing. The good thing is, these are always tears that bring joy and we know, don’t we, that everything is going to turn out just fine. If only life were like that!

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    1. Right?? It’s SUCH a tear-jerker. And a comforting movie to return to, even when bad stuff happens in the world. ❤

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  6. Let me start by saying, I am SO glad you mentioned Mary! She definitely proves her mettle but doesn’t often receive credit for it, so thank you for bringing her to the party – well deserved.

    I’m an absolute goner when George realizes he’s back to Bedford Falls when talking to Bert on the bridge: “My mouth’s bleeding, Bert!” When George wishes Mr. Potter a Merry Christmas (its clear from that image who’s the winner and the loser, and George is so glad to see Potter contained in one building rather than his consuming of the town) and of course, that whole ending scene: “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.”

    Thank you for joining the celebration and contributing this lovely, reflective tribute to my blogathon, Eva!! 🙂 Merry Christmas!

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    1. Yes! Mary is an AMAZING heroine. Definitely a fictional character I look up to. ❤

      "George is so glad to see Potter contained in one building rather than his consuming of the town"–never thought of it that way, but I LOVE that analysis! The entire ending scene is one big puddle of tears. :*)

      Merry Christmas! It was lots of fun, participating in the blogathon!

      Liked by 1 person

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