Now that the Christmas season has come and gone, I can make a confession.
I really don’t like “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
I didn’t see it until I was in college and my roommate expressed horror at my lapse in film viewing. I explained that one Christmas I saw it listed in the TV Guide (does anyone remember those?) over twenty-seven times! Colorized, black and white, even dubbed en Español.
The over exposure of it made it unpalatable, like a song that gets too much radio play. So, I studiously avoided it. Until that year at college. I sat and watched, ate popcorn and…
I still didn’t like it. The premise was great—who doesn’t like a little magical realism? But it didn’t grab me. I’m more A Christmas Carol kind of girl—scared straight for the chronically unlovable. George Bailey was too self-pitying for me. Scrooge is angry. It’s more active. I prefer proactive characters.
Then I learned the story behind the story.
Did you know that It’s a Wonderful Life is based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern? He called it “The Greatest Gift”. It was rejected by several publishers and then he printed up about 200 copies for friends and family with his Christmas cards. One made its way to Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart. The story was sold for $10,000 to RKO in 1944 (over $140K in today’s money) and the rest is history.
Now that’s a Christmas story I would watch every year! Here’s hoping today’s overlooked story becomes tomorrow’s beloved classic.