“STRANGE, ISN’T IT? EACH MAN’S LIFE TOUCHES SO MANY OTHER LIVES. WHEN HE ISN’T AROUND HE LEAVES AN AWFUL HOLE, DOESN’T HE?”
It is surprising to think that one of the most beloved movies of all time was a box-office disappointment during its original engagement. But, over the years, It’s a Wonderful Life found its audience – a huge and enduring audience ¬– and became one of the most beloved works in all of cinema. It’s a Wonderful Life is now seen as the classic it always was, revered by people all over the world, a staple at Christmas, and a movie people watch over and over again without ever tiring of its simple and beautiful message: how our lives touch others’ lives in profound and wonderful ways. It is one of director Frank Capra’s crowning achievements in a career filled with them.
Despite its somewhat less-than-stellar performance at the box-office, the film garnered some excellent reviews and was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Recording. It won none of those but earned a Technical Achievement Award for Russell Shearman and the RKO Special Effects department (for its use of simulated falling snow). But in the end awards didn’t matter, for while it took a bit of time to happen, Wonderful Life entered the public consciousness and has never left it.
Dimitri Tiomkin wrote a wonderful score for Wonderful Life, interweaving original themes and quotes of popular music to great effect. But, as sometimes happens, Capra made lots of changes in the editing room. He cut several cues (letting those scenes play without music) and rearranged where certain cues appeared; he removed sections of cues, and even tracked in music written for other films. But the score as written is exquisite—as heartfelt and moving as the film. And even though the way in which it’s used in the movie works beautifully, hearing it complete (including unused cues) is a special treat. It is filled with Tiomkin’s wonderful sense of film and character and drama.
This is, surprisingly, the world premiere release of the original tracks for Tiomkin’s score. Tiomkin had a set of acetates for the film, some of which were in good condition and some of which weren’t. They were filled with partial takes, aborted takes and full takes. Through careful editing, we were able to piece together everything that was provided to us and Chris Malone, our restoration expert, did a breathtakingly great job on it. Once before he saved for Kritzerland a score many thought could never be released – A Place in the Sun – and his work here is even more astonishing, resulting in close to fifty minutes of pure Tiomkin heaven. While a handful of cues are still a little problematic in terms of acetate noise, the majority of them have been cleaned up without sacrificing any musical or recording qualities and are quite stunning to hear. We have also included several interesting bonus tracks. Do not be fooled by any other CDs that purport to be the original soundtrack for this film - they are all bootlegs and contain dialogue, sound effects and music right off the film itself. This is the first release of the real deal.
And so, at long last, here are the wonderful original score tracks to It’s a Wonderful Life. - KRITZERLAND
1. Main Title / Heaven
2. Ski Run
3. Death Telegram
4. Gower’s Deliverance
5. George and Dad
6. Father’s Death
7. Love Sequence
8. Wedding Cigars
9. George Lassoes Stork
11. Bank Crisis
12. Search for Money
13. Potter’s Threat
14. Dankgebet / This Is the Army, Mr. Jones
15. Uncle Billy’s Blunder
16. Clarence’s Arrival
17. George Is Unborn
18. Haunted House
19. Pottersville Cemetery
20. Wrong Mary Hatch / The Prayer
21. A Wonderful Life (original finale)
22. Auld Lang Syne / End Title
23. It’s a Wonderful Life (vocal)
24. Wedding March / Big Band
25. Father’s Death (alternate)
26. Haunted House (alternate take)
27. Pottersville Cemetery (without chorus)
28. Auld Lang Syne (extended take)