On December 20, 1946 my favorite all time Christmas movie starring one of my all time favorite actors,  It’s a Wonderful Life premieres in New York City. The film is directed by Frank Capra and stars Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

It's A Wonderful Life Movie Poster

It’s A Wonderful Life Movie Poster

It’s a Wonderful Life is an American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, based on the short story “The Greatest Gift”, which Philip Van Doren Stern wrote in 1939 and privately published in 1945. The film is considered one of the most loved films in American cinema and has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season, alongside popular classics such as Holiday InnA Christmas CarolWhite ChristmasMeet Me in St. Louis and Miracle on 34th Street.

Frank Capa

Frank Capa

The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born.

Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life

Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life

Despite initially performing poorly at the box office due to high production costs and stiff competition at the time of its release, the film has come to be regarded as a classic and is a staple of Christmas television around the world. Theatrically, the film’s break-even point was actually $6.3 million, approximately twice the production cost, a figure it never came close to achieving in its initial release. An appraisal in 2006 reported: “Although it was not the complete box office failure that today everyone believes … it was initially a major disappointment and confirmed, at least to the studios, that Capra was no longer capable of turning out the populist features that made his films the must-see, money-making events they once were.”

Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in It's A Wonderful Life

Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life is considered one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made. It was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made, placing number 11 on its initial 1998 greatest movie list, and would also place number one on its list of the most inspirational American films of all time. Capra revealed that this was his personal favorite among the films he directed and that he screened it for his family every Christmas season.

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.

I think I knew that the FBI reviewed films.  I wonder if they still do this today?  On May 26, 1947, the FBI issued a memo stating “With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists. [In] addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters.”  I have one thing to say about this.  They didn’t get Potter did they.  He got away with it until Saturday Night Live gave it treatment.

The film’s popularity continues, and it currently holds an 8.7 out of 10 rating on the IMDb consumer reviews and a 93% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ sequel: Frank Capra film to get update for Christmas 2015

“It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,” will reportedly star Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) daughter Zuzu in the original black-and-white film. This time she’ll play an angel who shows Bailey’s grandson, also named George, what the world would be like if he had never been born.

Seneca Falls celebrates the movie 'It's a Wonderful Life' and the town's resemblance to the fictional Bedford Falls with many events including the appearance of two of the actors who played the role of children in the film. Karolyn Grimes, left, who played Zuzu Bailey in the 1946 film signs a book at Hotel Clarence in 2011 for Donna Wright of Auburn.David Lassman | dlassman@syracuse.com

Seneca Falls celebrates the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and the town’s resemblance to the fictional Bedford Falls with many events including the appearance of two of the actors who played the role of children in the film. Karolyn Grimes, left, who played Zuzu Bailey in the 1946 film signs a book at Hotel Clarence in 2011 for Donna Wright of Auburn.David Lassman | dlassman@syracuse.com

3 responses

  1. Love this movie and Jimmy Stewart can’t be topped! :)

  2. Sheryl says:

    Perfect timing–I watched A Wonderful Life on TV tonight.

    • My DVR goes nuts at this time of year recording all the available beloved holiday films. I wonder if they broadcasted it on 12/20 because it was the anniversary of the premier. In a couple more years it will be the 70th anniversary. Just goes to show the good ones are lasting.