It’s a Wonderful Life

27 Dec

I was going to talk about how this movie touches an emotional chord, but perhaps I’ll share those thoughts in another blog.  Instead, I got snared by the story behind the movie.

It’s a Wonderful Life is based on the short story, “The Greatest Gift,” written by Philip Van Doren.  Van Doren wrote the story in 1939, but was unable to sell it.  I think many of us can relate to this.

Mr. Van Doren ended up sending his story out as a Christmas card.  For those who hate the Christmas newsletters, think about opening that card?  The story came to the attention of RKO producer, David Hempstead, who showed it to Cary Grant’s agent.  They hoped to use this as a vehicle for Grant.  RKO paid $10,000 for the rights.  After three rewrites, the project was shelved.  Grant made another Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife.

Frank Capra read “The Greatest Gift” and saw the potential of the story.  RKO saw the chance of unloading the script.  They sold the rights to Capra’s production company, Liberty Films, for $10,000.  RKO also threw in three free scripts.

The four writers are listed in the credits, which lets us know that more work was done to the screenplay.

The critics included the FBI.  The agency issued a memo stating the film was an obvious attempt to discredit bankers.  Casting Mr. Potter, the banker, as a villain was a common trick used by Communists.

The movie wasn’t a box office bomb, but…there were reports it was a loss for the studio.

It wasn’t made as a Christmas movie.  It had a December release date so it would be considered for the 1946 Academy Awards.

It’s a Wonderful Life received five Academy Award Nominations:

Best Picture                         Frank Capra

Best Director                       Frank Capra

Best Actor                            James Stewart

Best Editing                          William Hombeck

Best Sound Recording      John Aalberg

While the movie didn’t win, it has the distinction of being one of the most beloved films of all time.


Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Idaho


14 responses to “It’s a Wonderful Life

  1. Janis

    December 27, 2012 at 6:17 AM

    It’s surprising how some things stand the test of time. And that it wasn’t envisioned as a Christmas movie seems short-sighted. Guess some marketing ploys do have value. 🙂

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 27, 2012 at 8:37 PM

      True. It was purely marketing. It was shown around Christmas time every year. The television station owners saw it as a Christmas movie. They did a good job.

  2. Peggy Staggs

    December 27, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    It has always been a favorite of mine.
    How times have changed, now it’s all the fashion to demonize bankers.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 27, 2012 at 8:39 PM

      It is one of my favorites as well. I didn’t even get into the rights of the film. That’s another interesting fact. I only had so much time.

  3. stephanieberget

    December 27, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    I hadn’t ever heard that story. Back stories fascinate me. It is amazing how some things are meant to be. Thanks, Lynn.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 27, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      I intended to write about the movie. I thought I should have some background. The research was so interesting, I decided my thoughts on the movie could wait.

  4. Judith Keim

    December 27, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    Very interesting, Lynn! I love the idea that something that isn’t declared a “winner” actually wins more hearts than some others…

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 27, 2012 at 8:42 PM

      I know. While I watch the Bishop’s Wife, it doesn’t hold the place in my heart that It’s a Wonderful Life does. Go figure. Capra knew his “stuff.”

  5. maryvine

    December 27, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    The movie is one I watch every Xmas. Love it. Thanks for the story behind the story, I enjoyed it!

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 27, 2012 at 8:43 PM

      Thanks Mary. Next Christmas, when you watch you’ll have a new appreciation for the film.

  6. marsharwest

    December 27, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    Love the story behind the story, Lynn. Certainly one of my favorites of all time. Not a Christmas movie, huh? Judith, I love your comment. Its very encouraging.

    • Lynn Mapp

      December 27, 2012 at 8:45 PM

      The ultimate Christmas story, wasn’t a Christmas story. Maybe it has something to do with Scrooge, you know, holding Christmas in his heart all year long. Capra just didn’t know it at the time.

  7. Jennifer

    December 31, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Interesting. I had no idea there was so much history behind that movie.

  8. Lynn Mapp

    January 21, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Neither did I. It’s amazing.


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