American actors James Stewart (1908 - 1997) and Donna Reed (1921 - 1986) star in the film 'It's a Wonderful Life', 1946. The children are Larry Simms (Peter Bailey), Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy Bailey) and Carol Coombs (Janie Bailey). (Photo by RKO Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Frank Capra Didn't Set Out To Make It's A Wonderful Life A Holiday Classic
"It's A Wonderful Life" has played in many American homes for many Decembers and has become an integral part of the holiday season. However, producer, director, and co-writer Frank Capra admitted that he "didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it."
The movie didn't become a Christmas classic until the 1970s, many years after its 1946 debut; prior to that, it only barely broke even on its $3.7 million budget with initial box office revenues of $3.3 million. After the copyright claim on the movie expired in the 1970s, it entered the public domain and cable companies could play it without having to pay a fee to do so.
Happily, Capra lived to see his film have a surge in popularity, saying once, "It's the damnedest thing I've ever seen. The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I'm like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I'm proud [...] but it's the kid who did the work." On that, we can agree.