It's safe to say that It's a Wonderful Life is one of the most popular holiday movies of all time—but even if you've watched the classic dozens of times, we're willing to bet there's still a lot you don't know about this beloved movie. Take a look at some of the surprising stories behind the 1946 film's most iconic moments.
Philip Van Doren Stern originally started writing "The Greatest Gift" in 1939, but had no luck publishing it at first.
After failing to find a publisher, Stern decided to print his story as a that he sent to 200 of his friends in 1943. An RKO Pictures producer saw the "card" and convinced the studio to buy the rights to the story, which were eventually sold to Frank Capra's production company.
Stern's short story was eventually published as a book in 1944; Stern also sold the story to Good Housekeeping, which published it in its January 1945 issue under the title "The Man Who Was Never Born."
After RKO Pictures sold the movie rights to Frank Capra, he decided to replace Cary Grant with James Stewart in the lead role. However, you may still see Grant on television around the holidays—he went on to appear in The Bishop's Wife.
(who played Mr. Potter in the movie) convinced Stewart to be in it. Stewart was also nervous about the phone kiss scene, his first on-screen kiss since returning from war.
She would, of course, go on to become arguably the world's most famous TV housewife, thanks to The Donna Reed Show.
It's a Wonderful Life had a big budget for the time ($3.7 million dollars), so it's no wonder that the crew put a lot of time and effort into constructing the town of Bedford Falls. The set took two months to build and included 75 buildings stretched out over four acres in Encino, CA.
While the fictional town's name combines those of Bedford Hills in New York's Westchester County and , in New York's Finger Lakes region, the latter claims to be the real deal. Seneca Falls even has a website, , dedicated to pointing out all of the similarities between the two towns.
Prior to It's a Wonderful Life, most movie productions employed cornflakes painted white as "snow." However, Capra found this special effect to be too noisy, so he had the special effects department mix Foamite (a fire-fighting chemical) with sugar and water. A whopping 6,000 gallons of this new "chemical snow" transformed the California set into a winter wonderland. (The RKO Effects Department actually received a technical award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its invention.)
It's located in and it's currently being restored.
While a stuntman was standing by to throw a rock at the window, Reed broke it herself on the first try.
After leaving the house, it sounds like Uncle Billy stumbles into trash cans and we hear him yell "I'm alright, I'm alright." This wasn't a line in the script—it was a crew member who accidentally dropped equipment during filming and Capra decided to keep it. The crew member even got a $10 bonus for his off-screen appearance as "Uncle Billy."
"The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it," . "I'm like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I'm proud… but it's the kid who did the work. I didn't even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea."
Receiving mixed reviews, It's a Wonderful Life only made back $3.3 of its $3.7 million budget at first. It placed 26th in box office sales for all films released in 1947—right ahead of Miracle On 34th Street.
When It's a Wonderful Life's copyright lapsed in 1974, it became available royalty-free to any station that wanted to air it until 1994. Of course, thanks to repeated airings throughout the '80s, it's now a Christmas classic that's guaranteed to make an appearance on our television screens each holiday season.
in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, Vivacious Lady, and The Jimmy Stewart Show: The Identity Crisis.
Reed's daughter Mary Owen told , "I was named after my great grandmother, Mary Mullenger."
"I thought it was the greatest film I ever made," . "Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody ever made."
In fact, in 2013 they announced that It's a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story would be released in 2015. Unfortunately for us, because they own the copyright to the film, and Schwalb and Farnsworth would need to obtain a license to move forward with their sequel.