Mary Owen no welcomed into the civilization until an ext than a decade after frank Capra’s It’s a exorbitant Life made its premiere in 1946. But she grew up cherishing the film and also getting the within scoop on its making indigenous its star, Donna Reed—who simply so wake up to be she mom. Despite Reed passed away in 1986, Owen has stood as among the film’s most committed historians, regularly introducing screenings of the ultimate vacation classic, including during its annual run at brand-new York City’s IFC Center. She mutual some of her mom’s memories with us to assist reveal 25 things you might not have known around It’s a wonderful Life.

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1. It"s a exorbitant Life all began with a Christmas card.

After year of unsuccessfully trying come shop his short story, The greatest Gift, to publishers, Philip van Doren Stern determined to give the gift of words come his the next friends for the holidays once he printed up 200 copies of the story and also sent castle out as a 21-page Christmas card. David Hempstead, a producer in ~ RKO Pictures, ended up getting a hold of it, and purchased the movie rights for $10,000.

2. Cary provide was set to star in It"s a wonderful Life.

When RKO purchased the rights, they walk so with the arrangement of having actually Cary provide in the lead. But, together happens so often in Hollywood, the project went with some ups and downs in the development process. In 1945, after a number of rewrites, RKO marketed the movie legal rights to open minded Capra, who easily recruited Jimmy Stewart come play George Bailey.

3. Dorothy Parker functioned on the manuscript for It"s a exorbitant Life.


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By the time It’s a exorbitant Life made it right into theaters, the story to be much different from Stern’s initial tale. That’s because much more than a half-dozen civilization contributed come the screenplay, including some of the most acclaimed authors of the time—Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo, Marc Connelly, and Clifford Odets among them.

4. It"s a exorbitant Life screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett walked out on the project.

Though they’re credited as the film’s screenwriters through Capra, the husband and wife writing duo were not pleased v the therapy they got from Capra. “Frank Capra can be condescending,” Hackett claimed in one interview, “and you simply didn"t address Frances as ‘my dear woman.’ as soon as we to be pretty much along in the script but not done, our certified dealer called and said, ‘Capra desires to know exactly how soon you"ll be finished.’ Frances said, ‘We"re finished appropriate now.’ We put our pens down and also never went ago to it.”

5. Open minded Capra didn"t execute the best job of selling Jimmy Stewart ~ above It"s a wonderful Life.

After laying the end the plot heat of the film for Jimmy Stewart in a meeting, Capra establish that, “This really doesn’t sound so good, go it?” Stewart recalled in an interview. Stewart’s reply? “Frank: If you want me to be in a picture about a guy that desires to death himself and an point of view comes down called Clarence that can’t swim and also I save him, as soon as do we start?”

6. It"s a exorbitant Life marked Donna Reed"s first starring role.


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Though Donna Reed was hardly a newcomer once It’s a wonderful Life rolled around, having showed up in virtually 20 projects previously, the movie did note her first starring role. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the function today, but Reed had some severe competition from Jean Arthur. “ had seen mommy in They were Expendable and liked her,” mar Owen told mental Floss. “When Capra met my mommy at MGM, the knew she"d be simply right for mary Bailey.”

7. Mary Owen is not named after mary Bailey.

Before you ask even if it is Owen was called after her mom’s much beloved It’s a exorbitant Life character, “The prize is no,” states Owen. “I was called after my great grandmother, mar Mullenger.”

8. Beulah Bondi to be a agree at play Jimmy Stewart"s mom.

Beulah Bondi, who plays Mrs. Bailey, didn’t require a lot of rehearsal come play Jimmy Stewart’s mom. She had done it three times previously—in Mr. Blacksmith Goes to Washington, Of person Hearts, and also Vivacious Lady—and once after that The Jimmy Stewart Show: The identity Crisis.

9. Open minded Capra, Donna Reed, and also Jimmy Stewart have actually all dubbed It"s a wonderful Life their favorite movie.


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Though their collective filmographies covers a pair hundred movies, Capra, Reed, and Stewart have actually all quote It’s a exorbitant Life as their favorite movie. In his autobiography, The Name above the Title, Capra took the praise even one action further, writing: “I assumed it was the biggest film I ever made. Better yet, I believed it to be the best film anybody ever made.”

10. It"s a wonderful Life bombed at the box office.

Though it has end up being a quintessential American classic, It’s a wonderful Life was not an instant hit with audiences. In fact, it placed Capra $525,000 in the hole, i m sorry left him scrambling to finance his production company’s following picture, State that the Union.

12. The rock that damaged the home window of the Granville home was every real.


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Though Capra had a stuntman in ~ the prepared in order to shoot out the window of the Granville residence in a step that forced Donna Reed to throw a rock with it, that was every a garbage of money. “Mom threw the rock herself that damaged the home window in the Granville House,” Owen says. “On the very first try.”

13. The took two months to build It"s a exorbitant Life"s Bedford Falls.

Shot top top a budget of $3.7 million (which to be a lot by mid-1940s standards), Bedford Falls—which spanned a full four acres that RKO’s Encino Ranch—was one of the most fancy movie sets ever collected to that time, v 75 stores and buildings, 20 fully-grown oak trees, factories, residential areas, and also a 300-yard-long key Street.

14. Seneca Falls, brand-new York is "the real Bedford Falls."

Though Bedford drops is a fictitious place, the city of Seneca Falls, brand-new York swears that it"s the real-life motivation for George Bailey’s charming hometown. And each year they regime a complete lineup that holiday-themed events to placed locals (and yuletide visitors) right into the vacation spirit.

15. It"s a exorbitant Life"s gym floor-turned-swimming pool was real.

Though the mass of the film was filmed top top pre-built sets, the run at the gym was filmed on ar at Beverly Hills High School. And the retractable floor to be no collection piece. Far better known together the swim Gym, the institution is currently in the process of restoring the landmark filming location.

16. Alfalfa is the teenager behind It"s a exorbitant Life"s swimming swimming pool prank.

Though he’s uncredited in the part, if Freddie Othello—the little prankster that pushes the button that opens up the pool that swallows George and also Mary up—looks familiar, that’s due to the fact that he is play by Carl Switzer, a.k.a. Alfalfa the The tiny Rascals.

17. Donna Reed winner $50 native Lionel Barrymore ... Because that milking a cow.

Though she was a Hollywood icon, Donna Reed—born Donnabelle Mullenger—was a farm yard girl at heart who pertained to Los Angeles by way of Denison, Iowa. Lionel Barrymore (a.k.a. Mr. Potter) didn’t think it. “So he bet $50 the she couldn"t milk a cow,” recalls Owen. “She said it was the most basic $50 she ever made.”

18. It"s a exorbitant Life to be shot throughout a heat wave.

It may be an top Christmas movie, yet It’s a wonderful Life was actually shot in the summer the 1946—in the midst of a heat wave, no less. In ~ one point, Capra had to shut filming under for a day since of the sky-high temperatures—which additionally explains why Stewart is clearly sweating in vital moments the the film.

19. Open minded Capra engineered a new kind that movie snow for It"s a exorbitant Life.

Capra—who trained together an engineer—and special impacts supervisor Russell Shearman engineered a new type of artificial snow for the film. In ~ the time, painted cornflakes to be the many common kind of fake snow, however they posed a bit of one audio trouble for Capra. For this reason he and Shearman opted to mix foamite (the stuff you uncover in fire extinguishers) through sugar and also water to produce a much less noisy option.

20. It"s a wonderful Life wasn"t forced viewing in Donna Reed"s household.

Though It’s a exorbitant Life is a staple of numerous family vacation movie marathons, the wasn’t the case in Reed’s home. In fact, Owen it s her didn’t view the film till three years after that is release. “I saw it in the late 1970s in ~ the Nuart Theatre in L.A. And loved it,” she says.

21. Zuzu didn"t see It"s a wonderful Life till 1980.

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in the film, didn’t see the film until 1980. “I never took the moment to view the movie,” she told Detroit’s WWJ in 2013. “I never simply sat down and also watched the film.”

22. The FBI observed It"s a wonderful Life—and didn"t choose it.

In 1947, the FBI issued a memo noting the film as a potential “Communist infiltration that the motion picture industry,” citing that “rather noticeable attempts to discredit bankers by spreading Lionel Barrymore as a ‘Scrooge-type’ so the he would certainly be the many hated guy in the picture. This, follow to these sources, is a usual trick offered by Communists.”

23. It"s a wonderful Life"s Bert and Ernie have actually no relation to Sesame Street.


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Yes, the cop and cab driver in It’s a wonderful Life are named Bert and also Ernie, respectively. Yet Jim Henson’s longtime creating partner, Jerry Juhl, insists the it’s through coincidence just that castle share their names v Sesame Street’s stripe-shirted buds.

“I to be the head writer because that the Muppets for 36 years and one the the original writers ~ above Sesame Street,” Juhl told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. “The rumor about It"s a wonderful Life has persisted end the years. I was not present at the naming, but I was constantly positive was incorrect. Despite his many talents, Jim had actually no memory for details choose this. That knew the movie, that course, however would not have remembered the cop and the cab driver.

"I was not able to check this with Jim before he died, however shortly thereafter I spoke to Jon Stone, Sesame Street"s an initial producer and also head writer and also a man largely responsible for the show"s format," Juhl continued. "He assured me that Ernie and also Bert were named one day when he and also Jim were researching the prototype puppets. They made decision that among them looked like an Ernie, and the various other one looked like a Bert. The movie personality names space purely coincidental.”

24. Some world are anxious because that an It"s a exorbitant Life sequel.

See more: Disney Princess And The Frog Songs With Lyrics, The Princess And The Frog (Soundtrack)

25. It"s a wonderful Life"s enduring tradition was how amazing to frank Capra.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen," Capra said of the film’s standard status. "The film has a life the its very own now and also I can look in ~ it prefer I had nothing to execute with it. I’m like a parent whose boy grows approximately be president. Ns proud… but it’s the boy who walk the work. Ns didn’t also think of it as a Christmas story when I an initial ran throughout it. I just liked the idea.”