10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, nose to nose from left: James Stewart, Donna Reed, adults left top to bottom: Gloria Grahame, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond, Beulah Bondi, right top to bottom: Henry Travers, Lionel Barrymore, Todd Karns, Thomas Mitchell, H.B. Warner, 1946
Everett Collection

One of the most well-known movies in the history of cinema, It’s a Wonderful Life brings viewers holiday joy every Christmas season (or whenever they decide to watch it). Who among us doesn’t come across the title and immediately think of George Bailey (James Stewart) running through Bedford Falls, snow everywhere, as he wishes “Merry Christmas” to all he passes? 

Considering its long-standing popularity, you might assume you know just about everything there is to know about It’s a Wonderful Life. But do you? Here are some nuggets that might surprise you.


Frank Capra in front of AI barbershop

Everett Collection; Adobe Firefly

A barber in Seneca Falls, New York, claimed that in 1945 he cut the hair of a man who identified himself as Frank Capra (the film’s director), who asked all about the town. This, many say, is proof that Seneca Falls is the inspiration for Bedford Falls. 


Actors James Stewart (1908 - 1997) and Henry Fonda (1905 - 1982) at Slapsy Maxies Cafe.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Henry Fonda, Stewart’s close friend, was also considered for the role of George Bailey, but he chose to star in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine. 


IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, H.B. Warner, Bob Anderson, 1946

Everett Collection

Bobbie Anderson, who played young George, claimed that H.B. Warner (Mr. Gower) struck him for real while filming their confrontation, causing his ear to bleed and reducing him to tears. 


While it’s beloved now, the movie was a box office disappointment. It cost $3.7 million to make and only earned $3.3 million. It even caused the end of Capra’s production company, Liberty Films, which was sold off to Paramount. 


IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, James Stewart, 1946

Everett Collection

The Bedford Falls set was one of the largest American film sets ever created. It covered 4 acres and included 75 stores and buildings, a three-block main street and 20 full-grown oak trees.


Due to a clerical error in 1974, the film became a perennial holiday favorite by the 1980s. It entered the public domain after the copyright holder forgot to file for a renewal. TV stations everywhere could play it without having to pay for the privilege. There were repeated showings every holiday season on hundreds of local television stations nationwide. 


IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Karolyn Grimes, James Stewart, 1946

Everett Collection

Karolyn Grimes (pictured above), who played Zuzu Bailey, once said that she did not see the movie until she was 40 years old (more than 30 years after its release). 


Frank Capra, James Stewart on the set of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, 1946

Everett Collection

Capra and Stewart both cited it as their favorite film, with the director screening it for his family every Christmas season. 


Each year in Skagit County, Washington, in the town of Anacortes, local residents take part in “The Jimmy Stewart Christmas Run” on Christmas Eve. They bike, run or drive down Commercial Avenue in town and call out “Merry Christmas” to all the people, buildings and businesses they pass. 


Home For The Holidays
Want More?

Home For The Holidays

November 2021

Celebrate the holidays with your favorite classic stars!

Buy This Issue