Clarence the guardian angel lets George Bailey live again, and all of his friends come over his house on Christmas Eve and pay off his debt so he doesn't have to go to jail. Clarence earns his wings.
Continuity mistake: In a scene near the end of the movie, George enters the Building and Loan with a Christmas wreath on his arm. On hearing that he has a phone call from his brother Harry, he tosses the wreath on a table and picks up the phone. In the next second, the wreath is back on his arm. (01:17:35)
Trivia: The opening credits list a copyright date of 1947, but distributor RKO rushed IAWL into theaters December 20 1946, to replace 'Sinbad the Sailor' whose Technicolor prints were not ready. It went into general release January 1947. The rush probably cost Capra and his partners their indie studio Liberty Films, whose first production opened in a record blizzard back east and failed to make back its money; it also wound up losing out at the Oscars against a powerful postwar drama 'The Best Years of Our Lives' rather than facing a much weaker Oscar field in 1947. Then again, confusion over its copyright date seems to have allowed it to slip into public domain for about 20 years from 1973, leading to its constant (cost-free) play at Christmas time, cementing its reputation as America's favorite holiday movie.DougM
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