It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama movie produced and directed by Frank Capra, based on the short story and booklet “The Greatest Gift,” which Philip Van Doren Stern wrote in 1939 and published privately in 1945. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about It’s a Wonderful Life.
1. Despite the movie initially performing poorly at the box office because of stiff competition at the time of its release, it has become regarded as a classic and is a staple of Christmas television around the world.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life is considered one of the most loved movies in American cinema and has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season.
3. Theatrically, the movie’s break-even point was $6.3 million, approximately twice the production cost, a figure that it never came close to achieving with its initial release.
4. It’s a Wonderful Life is considered one of the most critically acclaimed movies ever made.
5. The movie was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American movies ever made.
6. Capra revealed that It’s a Wonderful Life was his personal favorite among the movies he directed and that he screened it for his family every Christmas season.
7. For the scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock through the window of the Granville house, director Frank Capra hired a marksman to shoot it out on cue. To everyone’s amazement, Reed broke the window by herself. She had played baseball in high school and had a strong throwing arm.
8. The gym floor that opens up to reveal a swimming pool was real. It was located at Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles, California.
9. Two of the writers called the finished movie “horrid” and refused to see it when it was released. The only one of Clifford Odets’ ideas to appear in the finished script was George preventing Mr. Gower from mistakenly dispensing poison instead of medication.
10. While filming the scene in which George prays in the bar, James Stewart was so overcome that he began to sob. Frank Capra later re-framed and blew up the shot because he wanted to catch that expression on Stewart’s face. This is why the shot looks so grainy compared to the rest of the movie.
11. The picture of James Stewart at the age of six months, donated by his parents, was included in the Bailey home set.
12. Director Frank Capra estimated that the movie would be shot within 90 days. He turned out to be right, and the whole cast and crew threw a party to celebrate.
13. The Martinis are based on director Frank Capra’s own family, who emigrated from Sicily in 1903. In the movie, a goat accompanies them in their car. “Capra” means goat in Italian.
14. In the post-production picture of all cast and crew, James Stewart and director Frank Capra appear twice, once on the far left and another time on the far right. As it was slow-taking panoramic pictures, they ran to the other end before the pan reached that point.
15. The scene on the bridge where Clarence saved George was filmed on a back lot on a day where the temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why James Stewart is visibly sweating in a few scenes.
16. Despite being set around Christmas, the movie was filmed during a heat wave. It got to be so hot that director Frank Capra gave everyone a day off to recuperate.
17. Lionel Barrymore convinced James Stewart to take the role of George Bailey, despite his feeling that he was not up to it so soon after returning from World War II.
18. In the movie, George hopes to go to college to, “learn how to build things.” In real life, James Stewart majored in architecture at Princeton University.
19. The movie debuted a week after William Wyler’s “The Best Years of Our Lives”, which explained why the movie was a disappointment at the box office and at the Academy Awards.
20. It’s a Wonderful Life is Donna Reed’s first starring role.
21. The year during which Potter offers George a $20,000 annual salary is unclear, but assuming that the scene takes place in 1939, that amount is equivalent to well over $300,000 as of 2018.
22. The iconic scene where James Stewart’s character runs through a snow-swept Bedford Falls was actually filmed on a scorching July day.
23. It’s a Wonderful Life takes place from 1919 to December 24th, 1945.
24. The movie originally ended with “Ode to Joy,” not “Auld Lang Syne.”
25. This was the first and last time that Frank Capra produced, financed, directed and co-wrote one of his movies.
26. Actor and producer Sheldon Leonard said in an interview that he only agreed to play Nick the bartender so he would have money to buy baseball tickets.
27. According to an interview with Karolyn Grimes, the name Zuzu comes from Zu Zu Ginger Snaps. George makes reference to this near the end of the movie when he says to Zuzu at the top of the stairs, “Zuzu my little Ginger Snap!”
28. After the war, Frank Capra set up Liberty Films with George Stevens and William Wyler to make more serious, soul-searching movies. It’s a Wonderful Life and State of the Union were Liberty’s only productions.
29. The galaxies used to depict the angels’ dialogue in the movie are a group of galaxies that astronomers call “Stephan’s Quintet.”
30. One of the movie’s posters shows an illustrated George holding Mary in the air, but this scene never appears in the movie.