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Wondrous Facts About It's A Wonderful Life

 

It Wasn't Destined To Be A Christmas Classic

It's hard to imagine it now, but It's a Wonderful Life was a smash hit at the box office, not even returning its $6.3 million budget. Maybe the holiday story about a suicidal man was not what people wanted right after the end of World War II. Likewise, critics found the film to be rubbish, although the Academy had some foresight when they gave the film five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

In fact, the reason it became a Christmas movie in the first place was because the film's performance was so poor that the people in charge of maintaining the copyright were careless that it was let into the public domain in 1974. Always looking for cheap content, several television channels screened the film and aired it on their stations around Christmastime at low prices. Whether it was a matter of nostalgia, appreciation for the story, or the film lingering in our minds over and over again, the film became a fan favorite over the next decades.


The Blood Was Real

Poor George Bailey had difficulty hearing, partly because of an ear infection after rescuing his brother, but also because he had been slapped in the ear by a pharmacist as a child. In fact, he was slapped so hard, you can actually see his ear bleeding profusely in the film. It's not film magic: Actor H.B. Warner apparently got a little "method" in the scene and actually boxed child star Robert J. Anderson, leaving him bleeding. They both remained in character, however, and after the scene, Warner apologized and hugged the guy who didn't hold it against him. "He was so sweet," Anderson later told the L.A. Times. "He grabbed me and hugged me, and he meant it."

But The Snow Was Fake

You might think that Jimmy Stewart is sweating during the final act because his character is going through some major stress, but really, that's because most of the movie was filmed in Los Angeles during the summer, and a big summer. During the wave of, no less. Since most of the film's climax revolves around Stewart running through the city in the snow, the studio could not use the old trick of taking out cornflakes as he crunched hard on stepping. Ever the innovative bunch, the special effects team decided to make their own "chemical ice" out of foam, sugar, and soap. It was so successful that their unique blend became the main fake ice cream for years to come.


Jimmy Stewart Was Doing A Lot

At the time of filming, Jimmy Stewart had just returned from his service in World War II, where he served as a B-24 command pilot. (He served 27 years and eventually rose to the rank of major general.) Stewart made an impressive 20 flights over Nazi Germany—most pilots didn't make it past their eighth mission—but in deep emotional turmoil over the men. Was left lost under his command. He was naturally drawn to the story of a man struggling with the meaning of his life, while suffering through his own PTSD and his feelings during filming, narrating his tearful prayer scene on the bridge. I found it almost dangerously easy to tap into, "As I uttered those words, I felt the loneliness, the despair of those who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down crying. Gone. It wasn't the plan at all."

Capra Thought It Was His Best Work

Frank Capra was already a Hollywood legend when he directed classics like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night, and You Can't Take It With You. However, even as critics turned a blind eye and film-goers stayed home, Capra still believed It's a Wonderful Life to be her greatest work. In fact, he later admitted to playing it for his family at his house every Christmas. Despite a slow climb in the cultural field, by the time of his death in 1991, it was already considered one of the American Film Institute's greatest films of all time, even taking the number for most inspirational film. - Earned a spot. Even today, the film collects millions of views every time on television.

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