In this month’s What’s the Difference, CineFix breakdown how a short story was adapted into a feature-length classic.
I’ve never quite understood this film’s popularity. It always struck me as only okay, yet so many Americans regard it as a beloved classic.
Then it dawned on me. Americans. This is an American thing. Like Wendy’s or school shootings.
The actual story around It’s A Wonderful Life becoming a classic is even more fascinating than just the cultural phenomenon involved.
When it was released, the movie was regarded as a saccharine dud. Post-war audiences and critics just weren’t interested. As a result, when the movie studio was due to renew the copyright in 1974, they kinda forgot. TV networks pounced on the free content like a coal billionaire with a SLAPP suit. They loved having a free Xmas movie that they could screen during the
non-ratings period holidays. And audiences who had nothing better to do gained an appreciation for a movie that wasn’t a thinly veiled advert or yet another retelling of the life of Jesus on a shoestring budget.
It’s interesting that all it takes to make something a beloved classic is to give it the chance to find its audience. Time and again we see this happen. So much art has fallen through the cracks, not because it wasn’t good, but because it was never given a chance to be read, watched, or appreciated by the people who would enjoy it.
Maybe we need more art entering the public domain far sooner than current copyright laws allow.
If you love Frank Capra’s holiday season classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, then you’re in luck! It’s probably going to be on TV 24/7 for the next month or so. In the meantime, check out how Jimmy Stewart’s “careful what you wish for” cautionary tale was born out of a meager 40 page book entitled The Greatest Gift. Turns out, fleshing out a crazy short story into over two hours of Christmas time magic on screen took quite a lot.