It’s a Wonderful Life celebrates its 75th Anniversary

It's a Wonderful Life celebrates its 75th Anniversary

L.A, 2021-12-10 13:03:45. It’s a Wonderful Life celebrates its 75th Anniversary

NEW YORK – It was just another job for child actress Caroline Grimes. She was six years old and had already made four films by the summer of 1946 when filming for It’s a Wonderful Life began. The only thing she remembers about the biggest movie of her career is her joy playing in the snow on the set.

This single job will become unforgettable for many other people. It’s a Wonderful Life, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is now a beloved holiday tradition around the world.

“It’s a once-a-year pick-up for the humanity of America and the world,” Grimes told The Associated Press. “It’s a good motivation to really keep us moving in a positive direction.”

It’s a Wonderful Life was released in late 1946, produced and directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It takes place on Christmas Eve in a small town.

The film centers on the character of George Bailey, played by Stewart, who considers suicide until his guardian angel steps in and shows him all the people who touched their lives and the difference he made in society.

An unforgettable character is Zuzu, played by Grimes. She could say, “Every time the bell rings, the angel gets on his wings.” And the petals of the Zuzu rose – stuffed into the pocket of his pants by Billy Stewart as he comforted his sick daughter – became a symbol of life.

If Grimes is a bit vague about filming details, Jimmy Hawkins, another former child actor who played Tommy in the movie, is the opposite. He remembers as a 4-year-old getting up as it got dark riding buses and trams to Culver City to film his scenes.

“I have vivid memories while doing this movie,” he says. “In the group, Capra was sitting on the floor, face to face, telling me what he wanted me to do, and did I get that. Oh, yes sir,” I said.

Grimes and Hawkins are the last surviving cast members and have chosen to represent the film’s legacy and spread its lesson in doing good.

“We feel lucky to have played those parts and carried the message of Frank Capra. Hawkins says he’s not there to do that, and he gave us such a big part and a lot of great memories, so we’re just doing it naturally.

We want to carry on this message, whether it is to the inmates of Attica or the bell ringing at the stock exchange. We’re talking to everyone to continue it.”

Paramount Home Entertainment has released a limited edition two-disc Blu-ray set with a color copy of the movie in HD as well as the original black and white digitally remastered movie in HD. The set includes over 45 minutes of additional content.

The film has been nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. The film was also named #1 most inspiring American film of all time by the AFI.

“It gives us such an optimistic view of what our lives could be like. And we have the strength to make it happen. We can make a difference and we can make things happen,” Grimes said.

Hawkins remembers Capra with a powerful vision for the film – a renewal of faith, hope, and life. The film he made may be sentimental, but on the set, the director was not at all.

“It was his movie,” he says. “People fell on the side of the road because she was his vision. If you didn’t have his vision, you wouldn’t make his move. He was very meticulous and very nice to everyone in the group. But now it’s a job.”

The film – which is now closely associated with Christmas – was not initially scheduled for release during the holidays. But RKO’s scheduled Christmas movie in 1946—”Sinbad the Sailor”—was not ready so the studio asked Capra to speed production of It’s a Wonderful Life. It was released on December 20 at the Globe Theater in New York, slightly later than the traditional Christmas show.

“They did a great job getting it out there and then more or less bombed,” Grimes says. “But then in the early 1970s it became public domain and was shown on every channel every year.”

Grimes continues to receive messages from all over the world and from generations of viewers. “I get a lot of fan letters from Great Britain and even from the Middle East and all kinds of places,” she says. “It reaches a lot of people, and I think people are going to want to make a difference.”

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