GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “It’s A Wonderful Life” — Dialogue

December 21st, 2012 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life, screenplay Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern. The movie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s dialogue. Lots of memorable lines in this script. What are your favorites?

There are tons of homages to It’s A Wonderful Life. Here is a fun one called “Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life” written and directed by Peter Capaldi, and starring the brilliant Richard E. Grant:

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For Part 2 on structure, go here.

For Part 3 on characters, go here.

For Part 4 on themes, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.


2 thoughts on “GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “It’s A Wonderful Life” — Dialogue

  1. Scott says:

    I’ll go with this monologue, one of the best of its type in film history:

    “Just a minute… just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was… why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”

  2. Here’s a bit of dialogue from page 3:

    * AS IS:

    JOSEPH’S VOICE: Well, keep your eyes open. See the town?

    SD: The stars fade out from the screen, and a light, indistinguishable blur is seen.

    CLARENCE’S VOICE: Where? I don’t see a thing.

    JOSEPH’S VOICE: Oh, I forgot. You haven’t got your wings yet. Now look, I’ll help you out. Concentrate. Begin to see something?

    SD: The blur on the screen slowly begins to take form. We see a group of young boys on top of a snow-covered hill.

    CLARENCE’S VOICE: Why, yes. This is amazing.

    JOSEPH’S VOICE: If you ever get your wings, you’ll see all by yourself.


    Now, Scott is always preaching that as writers, we should always be asking: “What if . . . ?”

    * WHAT IF:

    So – “what if” instead of angels, the voices above were . . . aliens? Extraterrestrials?

    How would that go?

    Let’s fast forward to page 30 on the script. The high school dance scene. The aliens look down on the scene, and try to make sense of what the humans are communicating to each other. The blur they see comes into focus:

    It appears to be a group of younger earthlings, all dressed up in their finest earthling uniforms.

    SD: George and Sam wiggle their fingers at their ears, saluting each other.

    GEORGE: Hee-haw!

    SAM: Hee-haw!

    ALIEN-JOSEPH: Wow. That’s some scary shit down there. Didn’t expect that!

    ALIEN-CLARENCE: Count me out. What about that planet over there – over to the right?

    ALIEN-JOSEPH: It’s been almost 300 years for you now, Clarence . . . .

    ALIEN-CLARENCE: Doesn’t matter – I ain’t goin’!

    John A :-)

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