I have decided to start a new series called “15 Fun Facts About Movies”. It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the most famous Christmas movies ever. It’s my #1 favorite Christmas movie and I watch it every year. But how much do you know this movie? Here’s some great facts I found.
- The movie is based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Phillip Van Doren Stern. Among the differences are:
- George Bailey’s last name is Pratt in the original story.
- Clarence is not named in the story. In fact, he’s not even an angel. George is instead helped by a mysterious brush salesman who gives George his wish that he was never born. He also tells him to pose as a brush salesman so that people will be more willing to talk to him.
- George Pratt has only one child in the story, not three like in the movie.
2. Originally Cary Grant was going to play George Bailey, not Jimmy Stewart.
3. RKO bought the story and sold the rights to Capra’s Liberty Films for $10,000.
4. Carl Switzer, better known as Alfalfa from the Little Rascals (or Our Gang, depending on your preference) shorts, appears in the movie. He’s the man who is talking to Mary before George invites her to dance at his brother’s high school reunion. (he’s the guy who opens up the floor that reveals the pool underneath)
5. Kingston Falls, the setting for Gremlins, is modelled after Bedford Falls, the setting for It’s A Wonderful Life.
6. The movie did not win any of the five Oscar nominations it received.
7. The movie was such a disappointment in its original theatrical release that Capra was never able to recover with any of the other movies he made afterward.
8. Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie were not named after Bert the cop and Ernie the taxi driver. That is an urban legend. However, there is an Elmo Christmas special that makes a joke about the legend.
9. Uncle Billy’s drunken stumble followed by “I’m all right!” was actually an accident. He tripped over some equipment as he left the scene.
10. The reunion scene was filmed at Beverly Hills High School.
11. The scene where George cries while praying in Martini’s bar was the result of Jimmy Stewart getting into character. It wasn’t in the script, but Capra was so moved by the performance that he even shot it from a better angle so we could see it close up.
12. This movie was Donna Reed’s first starring role.
13. Capra predicted he could shoot the movie in 90 days. He was right.
14. Zuzu, George’s youngest daughter, is named after Zu Zu’s Ginger snaps. Hence the line “Zuzu, my little ginger snap!”
15. In the movie, Clarence says that every time a bell rings, another angel gets his wings. So, how many times does a bell ring? A total of 42. This means during the course of the story, 42 angels got their wings. As Nick Martini joked in the alternate version of Bedford Falls, “I’m giving out wings!”