Ringing in the holiday season with a classic like “It’s a Wonderful Life” is for many a tradition that warms the heart. George Bailey reminds us that even the strongest person can feel frightened and alone, but any kindness to a stranger or friend may change someone’s life – in an instant. But did you know there are many interesting facts and trivia about the movie? Here are some fun facts and perhaps a little inspiration for you in the new year.
- The making of this 1946 classic was hard to get off the ground. After having no luck publishing his short story, “The Greatest Gift,” writer Philip Van Doren Stern sent the story as Christmas cards to family and friends. An RKO Pictures producer saw the 21-page story “card” and convinced the studio to buy the rights to the story. Still the story was sold again to Good Housekeeping, which published it under the title “The Man Who Was Never Born.” By the time “It’s a Wonderful Life” made its way to theaters, it was a much different story because many people contributed to the screenplay. There is brilliance in persistence and collaboration.
- Although difficult to imagine anyone other than Jimmy Stewart bringing George Bailey to life, Cary Grant was initially slated for the role. It was Jimmy Stewart’s first role after returning from World War II, and suffering post-traumatic stress disorder while filming, he worried that he wouldn’t do a good job. Sometimes what appears to be the obvious choice is not always the best choice; caring and worrying about the outcome is often enough to make it amazing.
- Donna Reed, who played Mary Bailey, had previously been in 20 other films, never having been cast in a starring role until Frank Capra (the producer and director) met her. There had been stiff competition for the role, but it was her time to shine. It only takes one person to see who you really are, and the possibilities become endless. Never give up on finding that person (or being that person, for that matter).
- Bert the cop and Ernie that cab driver are said to share the names of the beloved “Sesame Street” characters only coincidentally. People come into our lives for a reason or a season; you never know which, but you always remember their impact.
- The gym floor that turned into the swimming pool during the dance scene was real and filmed at Beverly Hills High. Look closely the next time you watch at the actor who pushes the button, and you will find Carl Switzer, the actor who played Alfalfa in “The Little Rascals”. Once a rascal always a rascal; life is too short not to have fun.
- “It’s a Wonderful Life” was filmed during a heat wave, which is why George Bailey is so often seen sweating. The snowflakes were originally created from painted corn flakes but were too noisy as they hit the ground, so the engineer on the film mixed sugar and water with foamite (the stuff in fire extinguishers) to create the beautiful snowy scenes. Everything is possible … If you believe.
- Clarence, perhaps the world’s most famous angel, taught George Bailey that every life matters, even when we cannot see it ourselves. That every word that is spoken or decision we make intersects with someone else. That anyone can be a vagrant, and anyone can be star – how you look upon them, how you treat your neighbor determines who you are. In the end, even old Mr. Potter returned to George Bailey’s home, giving an envelope, thought to be the $8,000 he had hidden from Uncle Billy, but no one knows this for sure. It is never too late to do the next right thing.
2020 was a hard year with heartache for many. The challenges left few unscathed. Still, there was joy and goodness because just like Clarence teaches George, you just must believe that it is a wonderful life. If you listen closely to your heart, you can make a difference and then you too will hear the bell ring, knowing that another angel got their wings.