It’s a Wonderful Life has become a nauseating mainstay of the American Xmas tradition, but the movie was seen elsewhere in the world when it was released in 1946. What the movie was about at its core seems to have been perceived differently in other countries, at least as far as we can gather from their respective posters.
The American poster that we have all come to know shows our protagonist joyously engaging his wife, which drives home the moral that as long as one has family (and friends), he is the richest man alive. The poster from Belgiumin the next spot randomly features a somewhat minor character, Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell). Naturally one would expect if any third character were featured on the cover that it be the angel Clarence (Henry Travers), but apparently not in Belgium.
Next up is a fairly ugly poster from Denmark featuring our protagonists but suggesting the important angel aspect of the plot, although it might be portrayed in too-goofy a manner with the cartoon of Clarence. Next, France’s poster lets us know the movie is about throwing away your money –except for that it really is not. Losing one’s money, yes. Tossing it to the wind, not so much.
Sexiest among the posters is the first of three from Italy. Although the romantic aspect of the story is present on screen, it is perhaps less exciting and prominent than this poster might suggest. Next, the Italians have created a confusing poster that makes Jimmy Stewart look like a conductor or singer (think Carlo from My Man Godfrey). And then there’s the party and scantily clad women in the background! What movie was this artist watching?! The final Italian poster might be the most accurate of any of those featured above. Besides prominently featuring Stewart, the poster also includes a scene of our major characters looking at an empty money tray. A cherub whispers in Stewart’s ear.
Finally, Spain offers us a fairly ugly and boring portrayal of young love, which although a part of the story, also leaves too much up to interpretation.
As far as visual beauty, the first Italian poster strikes me as a favorite, but I cannot help but like the utterly absurd Italian artwork with the singing Stewart. It’s just too goofy not to love!