The manic exhuberence at the end can be a bit much, but I still admire how it builds -- and Lionel Barrymore's Mr. Potter is one of the greatest slimeball villians of cinematic history -- Give me a good, slimy villian, and I can forgive a lot in a film!
I always wondered why Barrymore (or Frank Capra) had made the choice to do the character in a wheelchair, but I was always impressed that the wheelchair is basically irrelevant to how much you hate Mr. Potter. Then I read in an online bio of Barrymore that he actually was confined to a wheelchair. So now I'm doubly impressed.
He did the nasty-villain-in-a-wheelchair at least once more in a western I saw. I can't remember the name, but he's a rich rancher, the wheelchair is worked into the plot (some sort of crippling accident when he was younger), and he actually rides a horse at one point in the film.
Sounds like "Duel In The Sun" fron circa 1945.
Yes, it was "Duel in the Sun," or as it was known around Hollywood "Lust in the Dust."
The wheelchair? From 1938, Lionel was so crippled by arthritis and a hip injury, the only way he could get around was in a wheelchair. Then toward the end of his career, he had to be confined to a bed, in "Bannerline," but he still managed to outact most of the other actors in the film.