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ChildCare Action Project:
Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP Ministry)
Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones (which includes at-home teens) through you, their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

(1946), NR

Analysis Date
CAP Final Score
CAP Influence Density
August 14, 2003
86 out of 100

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ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Site Map (Table of Contents). Further, if you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

(1946), NR -- ...fills every moment with action, plot building or character building...

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): RKO Radio Pictures Inc.
Distribution (US): Artisan Entertainment, Criterion Collection, Kartes Video, LS Video, Nostalgia Merchant, RKO Radio Pictures Inc., Republic Pictures Home Video
Director(s): Frank Capra
Producer(s): Frank Capra
Written by/Screenplay: Philip Van Doren Stern (based on story The Greatest Gift), Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra, Jo Swerling, Michael Wilson
Cinematography/Camera: Joseph F. Biroc, Joseph Walker, Victor Milner
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin, Leigh Harline, Leith Stevens, Dave Torbett, Roy Webb, Alfred Newman
Film Editing: William Hornbeck
Art Direction: Jack Okey
Viewed At: Video Tape of Republic Entertainment, Inc. A subsidiary of Spellling Entertainment
Group, Inc.

As a new adult man four years out of high school, George Bailey (James Stewart) has been pinching pennies and dimes to take an adventure trip to see the world then go to college to become a professional builder and engineer. Alas his father, Peter's (Samuel S. Hinds) business, the Building and Loan Association, a business "friend" to many in the community of Bedford Falls, is having severe trouble at the hands of the meanest and richest cantankerous man in the country, Mr. Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) whose only interest is to take over the Building and Loan Association since he already owns half the county [Hab. 2:9, 2 Pet. 1:5 - 9]. George reluctantly decides to stay home to take care of the family business while giving his college money to Harry, his younger brother.

While young boys, George first demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice for others by pulling Harry from submersion after falling through broken ice on a skating pond [John 15:13]. For his efforts, George caught an ear infection and lost the hearing in his left ear. But that didn't seem to bother druggist, Mr. H.B. Warner for whom teenaged George worked as a soda jerk and errand boy. One day, George noticed Mr. Gower, most distraught after hearing of his son's death due to influenza, unintentionally mixed poison into medication capsules for one of the town boys. Being dutiful, George left to deliver the capsules but could not do it and confronted Mr. Gower after being late in returning. Then Mr. Gower, still deeply hurting from his son's death, boxed George's ears for being late, causing George's left ear to bleed again. But as George managed to get the explanation out amidst the swats, Mr. Gower pleaded for George's forgiveness. While George's ear was bleeding.

Now grown up and tending to his father's business, George is manipulated into again meeting now grown up Mary Hatch (Donna reed), a childhood acquaintance who swore to herself when she was about eight years old that she was going to marry George one day. Back from college, Mary manages to lure George into her mother's house and in the middle of an argument with Mary while talking by phone to Sam Wainright (Frank Albertson), a high school chum who was after Mary, George demands this and that of a relationship with Mary. The next scene is of their wedding. That reminded me of my own history. I remember having an argument with my wife before we got married, telling her I didn't want anybody running around calling me "daddy." The next thing I knew I was kissing her before the preacher man. Shortly thereafter I pledged to serve Jesus for the rest of my life with the rest of my life. Then came 26 foster children, eight adoptions and one biological child. Don't even try to tell me the Jesus does not have plans for us. For the better.

The story continues to present trouble after trouble for the Building and Loan Association and each trouble chopping away a little more of George. One day, after dad's death and after Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) lost the entire $8000 of the Association's, with bankruptcy and legal entanglements and possible imprisonment looming, George decides that by his $15,000 life insurance policy he is worth more to his family and everyone else dead than alive. George visits the local bridge and contemplates suicide [Ex 20:13].

Now enters Angel Second Class (an angel who has not yet earned his wings), Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers). Clarence, being an angel, jumped in the water before George could leap, knowing the sacrificing nature of George would make George want to save a drowning man [Col. 3:12]. Just like his brother some twenty years earlier. And that George does [John 15:13 again]. After rescuing Clarence and finding a warm shop in which to dry, George explains to Clarence that he wished he had never been born. So, after talking with Joseph in Heaven, Clarence gives George his wish --- he had never been born, just to show George what things would be like.

Escorting Clarence back to Bedford Falls ... err ... What!? The town George grew up in is not quaint and clean Bedford Falls but is Potterville, filled with bars, dance halls and pool rooms. All because of the lack of George's influence on the town over his twenty eight years. Many other eye-opening changes from creative writers are presented to lead one to ponder the impact of his own life in his world. Though Potter was still kicking with the largest bank account and was never help to the iron for his crimes against George [Eccl. 8:11], in the end (though the path does not excuse the destination), Harry described his brother George as "the richest man in town." Find out how for yourself.

The plot and story of this timeless gem of a movie maneuvered into being a Christmas classic is intricate and detailed enough that you cannot leave your brain in the kitchen. It is indeed fast-paced and fills every moment with action, plot building or character building, so unlike the plodding to which much of modern entertainment subjects us while filling us with eye candy.

While the film has many good and even thought-provoking things to say, it is likely that Its's A Wonderful Life would have earned a G or PG rating by today's standards, possibly more severe since it openly and unashamedly spoke of God, Jesus and Heaven in a very positive light and had people praying and singing to God. The film earned a CAP final score of 86 which places it at the top of the PG scoring range (68 to 86 out of 100) in the comparative baseline database. Issues you may want to know about include a significant amount of drinking and smoking and one case of drunkenness [Eph. 5:18]. While we were not nearly as aware of these dangers when this film was made, we now know that smoking and alcoholism are serious matters of health risk.

While there was not one single use of the three/four letter word vocabulary OR the use of God's name in vain with or without the four letter expletive [Prov. 22:11], meanness and an adult tantrum before children may make the left wingers like me squirm a little if watched with our kids. Sexual matters in the movie involved only suggestive eye movement, a man and woman in bed together (clothed) and a sexually suggestive episode of unseen indecent exposure. Violence/crime lightly freckled the plot but nothing of the magnitude of extremes of modern entertainment. The listing in the Findings/Scoring section will reveal all that was found.

Can there ever be another Capra now that we have become so drugged by vulgar extremes that what once was morally unacceptable has become morally invisible?

If you think the CAP use of His teachings and expectations as our investigation standards is suffocating, the Production Code for the time (the 1946 equivalent to the Motion Picture Association of America) required Capra to remove "nuts to you", "impotent", "lousy", and "jerk" from the movie. My, how times have changed!

SPECIAL NOTE: We will be reducing the volume of coverage in the Summary/Commentary section of our reports and the number of reports generated in an effort to reduce costs until full funding can be achieved. The Findings/Scoring section of each report, the heart of the analysis model, will NOT be reduced in any way.

Thank you for your patience as we diligently search for funding. Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help us locate 501(c)(3) nonprofit funding and sponsors is encouraged to notify me.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Hab. 2:9 Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!
  • 2 Pet. 1:5 - 9 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
  • John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
  • Ex 20:13 Thou shalt not kill. (NIV) Exod. 20:13 You shall not murder. [Suicide is murder of the self.]
  • Col. 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
  • Eccl. 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
  • Eph. 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. ["" can be any intoxicating substance.]
  • Prov. 22:11 He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it]. [I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent, situationally redefine, counterfeit, conditionally apply] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.


    It's A Wonderful Life (1946) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • near drowning
  • child beating with injury
  • light adult tantrum
  • criminal deceit - theft
  • rough handling of another
  • adult tantrum before children
  • assault
  • contemplation of suicide
  • threat of violence
  • light brutality
  • lack of consequences for criminal action

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • meanness
  • mischief
  • lie to keep bad news to self

    Sexual Immorality (S)
  • suggestive eye movement
  • man and woman in bed together, clothed
  • sexually suggestive episode of unseen indecent exposure

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking, repeatedly
  • drinking, repeatedly
  • drunkenness
  • drunk driving
  • drinking booze to celebrate

    Offense to God (O)
  • none noted

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • none noted

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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