The Evolution of "It's a Wonderful Life" (Updated)
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Philip Van Doren Stern sends Christmas cards to friends and encloses a 21-page, 4,000-word short story, "The Greatest Gift."
RKO buys the film rights for $10,000, after pressure from George Bailey wannabe Cary Grant. Later, Frank Capra snags the rights from RKO.
December 21, 1946
The studio rushes the film to the box office because it lacks enough copies of planned holiday release, "Sinbad The Sailor."
Critical reception is lukewarm. The New York Times: "The weakness of this picture ... is the sentimentality of it-its illusory concept of life."
January 7, 1947
The studio earns a mere $3.3 million from the release (production and distribution cost was $3.8 million), and nabs five Oscar nominations but zero wins.
Capra becomes informant for House Un-American Activities Committee; seven of the film's other eight writers end up blacklisted.
More than 20 years after its release, the film gains modest followings in collegiate film societies.
CBS begins to air the film about once a year in the days before Christmas.
Capra memoir and museum retrospective set off craze. John Cassavetes says, "Maybe there really wasn't an America, maybe it was only Frank Capra."
Copyright owner Republic Pictures fails to renew rights; local TV stations use it as low-cost holiday fare throughout the next half decade.
December 11, 1977
Time for a gender-bender TV remake: Marlo Thomas stars as Mary Bailey Hatch in "It Happened One Christmas."
Now a TV mainstay in the weeks before Christmas, the movie is sold on tape by more than 100 distributors during the VHS revolution.
James Wolcott asserts, "It's the perfect film for the Reagan era, celebrating the old-fashioned values of home and hearth that everyone knows ... have eroded."
Seneca Falls, NY - the town that claims it's the "real-life" Bedford Falls - hosts the first annual "It's a Wonderful Life" weekend.
Republic Pictures wrestles the copyright back and inks deal with NBC for exclusive broadcast rights.
June 14, 2006
The American Film Institute puts the film at No.1 on its list of the 100 most inspiring films of all time.
Seneca Falls opens the "It's a Wonderful Life" museum with a walking tour that includes 13 stops based on scenes from the movie.
Bonus Feature - TV Variations/Adaptations -
Its a Miserable Life - Golden Girls - 1986
Its a Wonderful Job - Moonlighting - 1986
Its a Blunderful life - Charles In Charge - 1989
Its a Bundyful Life - Married With Children - 1989
Its a Wonderful Life - Designing Women - 1990
Its a Wonderful Zorro - Zorro - 1990
Hey Harry, F'Crying Out Loud - It is a Wonderful Life ... Sorta - Night Court - 1991
Its a Wonderful Wife - Cheers - 1991
Its a Wonderful Afterlife - Beetlejuice - 1991
Its a Wondeful Laugh - Doogie Howser - 1991
Its a Wonderful Leap - Quantum Leap - 1992
Chuckie's Wonderful Life - Rugrats - 1994
Its a Wonderful Lie - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - 1995
Its a Miserable Life - Beavis and Butthead - Dec 19 1995
Its a Wonderful Life (Without You) - Weird Science -1996
Its a Wonderful Cake - Good Eats - 1999
Its a Wonderful Life - That 70's Show - 2001
Its a Wonderful Wife - Bernie Mac - 2004
As the film turns 65, here is a timeline that illustrates how a box office bomb became a beloved classic.
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