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It’s A Wonderful Life: The Classic Christmas Film

The holiday season is filled with beloved traditions – decorating the tree, baking cookies, and watching favorite Christmas movies. One of the most iconic Christmas films is the 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life. This movie has become a staple of the holiday season and continues to inspire viewers over 70 years later.

The Greatest Gift

It’s a Wonderful Life was produced and directed by Frank Capra and based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern. The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a businessman contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve until his guardian angel Clarence shows him how his town of Bedford Falls would be different without him. George realizes that despite his troubles, he has a wonderful life. The stellar cast also includes Donna Reed as George’s wife Mary, Lionel Barrymore as the villainous Mr. Potter, and Henry Travers as Clarence.

Slow Rise to Success

Released in 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life was only moderately successful at the box office, earning around $3.3 million during its initial run. However, the film gained popularity over the years through television airings during the holiday season. Now it is considered a beloved classic and staple of Christmas viewing. The American Film Institute ranked It’s a Wonderful Life as the 11th greatest American film of all time in its 100 Years…100 Movies list.

While it’s now considered a heartwarming holiday tale, It’s a Wonderful Life had a more downbeat tone when it was first released. Post-World War II audiences weren’t looking for the sentimentality and nostalgic small-town virtues that the film depicted. However, in the intervening decades the film found great popularity, especially as networks like NBC began annually airing it during the lead-up to Christmas. Its themes of hope, redemption, and appreciation for life resonate strongly with viewers. 

It’s a Wonderful Life highlights the impacts our lives have, even if they seem small. George Bailey believes he’s worth more dead than alive to his family and community. But Clarence shows him how different Bedford Falls would be without him there to save his brother’s life, give his town a decent housing development, and more. The meaning is clear – our lives and actions shape our worlds in ways we can’t imagine. The movie inspires viewers to look at life in a new, more grateful way.

Decades later, It’s a Wonderful Life continues to earn new fans and inspire people to consider how their own lives have touched others. If you’re looking for an inspiring, heartwarming holiday classic this Christmas, you can’t go wrong with this timeless Jimmy Stewart film. It’s a story of hope and redemption that embodies the true spirit of the season.

Gold Christmas ornament with quote from It's a Wonderful Life no man is a failure who has friends.

Fun Facts

  • The role of George Bailey was originally intended for Cary Grant.
  • There is a museum located in Seneca Falls, NY dedicated to the film: The Seneca Falls It’s A Wonderful Life Museum.
  • The movie was filmed in the summer of 1946 during a heat wave.
  • The dance at the gym was filmed on location at Beverly Hills High School complete with retractable floor.
  • The original final scene had the cast singing “Ode to Joy” instead of “Auld Lang Syne.”
  • The film actually rose to popularity on TV in the late 1970s.
  • This film marks one of five times Beulah Bondi played Jimmy Stewart’s on-screen mother.
  • The FBI flagged the film as “communist” in 1947.
  • Capra, Reed, and Stewart have all called it the greatest film they ever made.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life bombed at the box office.
  • Potter is based on the character Ebenezer Scrooge, both greedy, heartless misers.
  • The Martinis, who own the bar, are based on Capra’s own family, who emigrated from Sicily in 1903.
  • Both Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra  served in World War II
  • Carl Switzer, a.k.a, Alfalfa of The Little Rascals, played the part of Freddie Othello.
  • It took two months to build It’s a Wonderful Life’s Bedford Falls.
  • While filming the scene in which George prays in the bar, James Stewart was so overcome that he sobbed.
  • Its copyright lapsed in 1974, making it available royalty-free to anyone who wanted to show it for the next 20 years.


How well do you know the movie? (see answers at end of post)

  1. What’s the name of George’s youngest daughter?
  2.  In the world where George was never born, what occupation does Mary have?
  3. What does George’s brother, Harry, become when he joins the service?
  4. In the universe where George was never born, what was the name of his town?
  5. What event caused George to lose hearing in his left ear?
  6. What book did George receive as a gift from Clarence?
  7. How many years was Clarence waiting for his wings?
  8. What was the dance everyone was doing just before the floor opened up?
  9. What news did Mr. Gower receive by telegram?
  10. What did Violet order at the soda fountain?
  11. What animal crawled on Uncle Billy’s shoulder when he was crying at his desk?
  12. What surprise did Harry bring home? 
  13. What did George wish for when he touched the lighter?
  14. What were the professions of Bert and Ernie?
  15. What is full name and rank of George’s guardian angel?
  16. What was Annie saving her money for? 
  17. What magazine did young George read?
  18. What was the street address of George and Mary’s home? 
  19. What type of flower bush did Mary hide in when she stepped out of her robe?
  20. How much money did Uncle Billy lose?
  21. What 3 housewarming gifts did Mary give the Martini family?
  22. What song was Janie practicing on the piano?
  23. How did Harry distinguish himself in college?
  24. Who produced and directed the film?
  25. What song did George and Mary sing on the walk home?

Who Said It? 

Who said the following quotes? (see answers at end of post) For more inspiring quotes see It’s A Wonderful Life: The Classic Christmas Film.

  1. “I want to give my flower a drink.”
  2. “No gin tonight. Not one drop.”
  3. “That’s why all children should be girls.”
  4. “You’re not paid to be a canary.”
  5. “Annie, I’m in love with you. There’s a moon out tonight.”
  6. “Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death?”
  7. “I think I got a date. But, stick around fellows, just in case.”
  8. “He’s making violent love to me, mother!”
  9. “I can get another job. I’m only 55.” 
  10. “I wish I had a million dollars. Hot dog!”

Answers to: Trivia- 1.Zuzu 2. Librarian 3. A Navy Pilot 4. Pottersville 5. He saved Harry from drowning. 6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 7. 200 8. the Charleston 9. that his son had died 10. shoe laces 11. squirrel 12. his new wife, Ruth 13. A million dollars, hot dog! 14. Bert the cop, Ernie the cabdriver 15. Clarence Oddbody ASA (Angel 2nd class) 16. a divorce if she ever got married 17. National Geographic 18. 320 Sycamore 19. Hydrangea bush 20. $8,000 21. bread, salt, wine 22. Hark the Herald Angels Sing 23. a football star 24. Frank Capra 25. Buffalo Gals

Answers to: Who Said it? – 1. Zuzu 2. Pa Bailey 3. Annie 4. Mr. Gower 5. Harry Bailey 6. Man on Porch 7. Violet Bick 8. Mary Bailey 9. Uncle Billy 10. George Bailey

One Comment

  1. I loved this article. It was filled with so much information that I didn’t know about my favorite Christmas movie and I loved the trivia questions even though I only got about half of them. Thank you!

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