So how much did you know about the quintessential Christmas movie?
Yes, above are George Bailey and Mary Hatch Bailey (Donna Reed and James Stewart), the familial stalwarts of It’s A Wonderful Life.
In this quintessential holiday movie — set in the mythical Bedford Falls — the two stars play small town dwellers. Interesting then to note that they actually were small town kids. Stewart grew up in backwater Pennsylvania and Reed was from rural Iowa.
It’s been bruited about that Reed was far down the list of choices to play Mary Bailey. That Jean Arthur, Ann Dvorak and Ginger Rogers were successively primed for the part before Reed. Whether or not that’s true, we believe that Reed was fated for the role, thank heavens.
When It’s A Wonderful Life first came out in 1946, it did not immediately perform well at the box office. Hollywood considered it a flop. In fact, according to director Frank Capra’s son, the movie was not designed expressly as a Christmas or holiday picture. At the time, the movie put a bit of a dent dent in Stewart’s career.
But both Stewart and Reed live on as perhaps the most appreciated married couple in movie history. Now, on to the answers to our It’s A Wonderful Life Quiz:
1) Question: It’s A Wonderful Life is consciously patterned on that other holiday staple, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. a) True; or b) False?
1) Answer: a) True. The movie is based on a short story (The Greatest Gift) by Philip Van Doren Stern, who was indeed inspired by the classic Dickens Christmas tale.
2) Question: Director Capra immediately recognized the script for It’s A Wonderful Life as inextricably tied to the Christmas season, making the finished movie a Christmas gift to moviegoers. a) True; or b) False?
2) Answer: b) False. Capra said fell in love with the “idea” of the material, not necessarily its connection with Christmas. “I didn’t even think of its as a Christmas story when I first ran across it,” he told the Wall Street Journal back in 1984.
3) Question: Lionel Barrymore’s terrific performance as mean old Mr.Potter was fueled by the amount of alcohol the actor consumed on the set during production. a) True; or b) False?
3) Answer: b) False. No question that Barrymore, who suffered from severe arthritis, took more than a few nips from his flask onset. That was typical and accepted back then. Barrymore was 68 when he made It’s A Wonderful Life, and his infirmities were the real deal. He died eight years after making the picture.
4) Question: The movie was shot on location in upstate New York for the most part in order to genuinely capture the feeling of small-town Americana. a) True; or b) False?
4) Answer: b) False. It’s A Wonderful Life was shot on a set erected in Culver City, California in late spring. Bedford Falls was put together with a big main street, a residential neighborhood and the some 75 replicas of stores and other buildings including a working bank.
5) Question: Amazing as it might seem today, It’s A Wonderful Life ran afoul of Hollywood’s notorious Production Code for one element of its plot. a) True; or b) False?
5) Answer: b) True. Director Capra has to outfox the bluenoses at the Production Code because Mr. Potter slides by his swindle of several thousand dollars from the Baileys. The Code had insisted at the time that crooks be punished for their movie crimes. But Mr. Potter gets away with his misdeed.