I’m known for many obsessions and all-encompassing passions in my life, but few are as strong or as identifying for me as my love for It’s a Wonderful Life. This film and its stars (particularly James Stewart and Donna Reed) are two of the reasons I became as infatuated with Classic Hollywood as I did at an early age. They’re also some of the main reasons that… once I figuratively moved into old Hollywood, I’ve never seen any reason to leave.
As impossible as it is to believe, It’s a Wonderful Life was not a hit when it came out. While, today, we recognize it as absolutely one of the best movies ever made, when it was released in 1946, it didn’t catch on in the least.
Want to know one of the most outrageous and absolutely WRONG reasons some foolishly gave for its lack of success? Hold on to your seats, the ridiculousness may make you keel over… some faulted Donna Reed! The beautiful, strong-willed and determined HEART of the movie. Oh, sure… let’s blame her!
How ridiculous could they have been? She’s one of the best things about the entire movie and MORE than held her own with James Stewart and the rest of the older, more experienced cast.
The truth of the matter is the “fault” is easy to find. Unlike ZuZu’s petals… it’s hiding in plain sight.
Before getting to it, let me just share this: The day after Christmas, I take all of our decorations down. While I put them up very early each year (the day after Halloween), when Christmas Day is over, the season is over as far as I’m concerned and, as much as I love(d) it, it’s time to look toward January and the New Year.
By the time January rolls around, Christmas decorations and that year’s memories have been lovingly and carefully boxed up and stored. The last thing on my mind (or the minds of most people in January) is Christmas.
Guess what month they released It’s a Wonderful Life? JANUARY! Can you imagine the lack of vision, planning, and forethought? No one… absolutely no one (not even Santa!) is thinking about Christmas in January. In fact, there is an innate hesitancy TO think about it. After all, we just went through the cost, preparations, emotions, and extra work to make the season bright and wonderful – we don’t want to think about that for some time.
January. They released a glorious Christmas movie in January, then wondered why it wasn’t a box office smash.
Okay, rant over. But whenever I read that ANYONE even hinted at blaming Donna Reed it makes my blood boil. If it had been the hit it deserved to be, would she have been singled out as the reason? You know, I know, and we all know that wouldn’t be the case. It’d be James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, and director Frank Capra who’d have gotten the credit.
Wait… I said rant over didn’t I? Oops.
Donna Reed and James Stewart
At least the magical, one in a million film finally got the love and credit it deserved. Donna Reed, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, Frank Capra (director), Thomas Mitchell, Beulah Bondi, Ward Bond, Frank Albertson, Gloria Grahame, Frank Faylen, H.B. Warner, Todd Karns, Mary Treen, Virginia Patton, Samuel Hines, Lillian Randolph, William Edmunds, Robert J. Anderson, Argentina Brunetti, Jean Gale, Jeanine Ann Roose, Georgie Nokes, Ronnie Ralph, Sheldon Leonard, Karolyn Grimes, Larry Simms, Jimmy Hawkins, and the rest of the cast give us one of our most SPECIAL gifts each Christmas.
You can buy It’s a Wonderful Life on dvd (Amazon link) or watch on Prime Video. It’s funny, even though I’ve owned the movie on dvd for many, many years, I still watch it every single time it’s shown on television. I am simply wildly in love with this movie and with everything about it.