15 Fun Facts About It’s A Wonderful Life

it's a wonderful life

People fall in love with it over and over again during the holiday season: It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the most iconic, most loved, and most memorable holiday movies of all time. Unlike some of the other classic holiday movies families gather around the television to watch each year, this movie was filmed many years before most of us were born. Filmed in 1946, the actors and actresses in this film are of a different generation, living a different way of life compared to how we live now. You might love this movie and you might have watched it a dozen times over the course of your life, but there is so much about it you just don’t know.

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No Criminal Goes Unpunished

At the time that this movie was shot, there was a code of conduct required for all films and that code was that all movie criminals must be punished in the film. Perhaps this rule was in place to remind real criminals that there is always justice. However, in the movie, Potter takes $8000 and is never punished for it. He gets away completely free and without prosecution. The director received a lot of complaint about this little fact.

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Did George and Mary Win the Dance Competition?

We all loved watching these two dance it up in the scene where the pool opens up, but there is never a winner announced. It was a competition, so we should know who wins, right? They didn’t announce it in any scene, but if you look into George’s office, you’ll see a trophy case in the background. In it appears to be a trophy that very much resembles the one to be won at the dance off. We like to think they did win with their cool moves.

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Secret Instructions in the Building and Loan Scene

You know where Mrs. Davis asks George to give her $17.50? Well, she was supposed to ask for more, but the director told her to ask for less because he wanted to see the surprise on the actors face. The surprise was there, and then the man playing George took things a step further and gave Mrs. Davis’ character a big kiss that wasn’t in the script. It was so good that they decided to keep it in the movie for the final cut.

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Mrs. Davis is Grandma Walton

Did you know that Ellen Corby, the woman who played Mrs. Davis in this iconic movie classic later became Grandma Walton? How fun is it that she was able to have a long career that included so many classic roles she will forever be remembered for? It’s not something everyone in Hollywood can brag about, but it is part of this woman’s legacy.

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The Heat is On

All that gorgeous snow and that beautiful Christmas scenery was entirely fake. The movie was filmed during the summer and it was during a time when the area was experiencing record-breaking heat. All the actors and actresses were sweating and miserable, but they had to do their jobs and make it look like they were freezing in their bundled up clothing in the middle of the snowy winter.

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$2000 Today

When George and Mary head off on their honeymoon, they get into a cab. In the cab, Mary takes a wad of cash out and says that the amount of the cash is approximately $2000. That might not seem like much in the way of spending money on a honeymoon – or anywhere else – today, but back then it was a lot of money. Just how much money was that back then? Today, that $2000 would be approximately $30,000. Now that’s a lot of money.

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The FBI Thought it was Communism

One year after this movie was released – and didn’t even break even at the theater – an FBI agent wrote about the film. He called it a disgraceful attempt to discredit bankers. He said it was a communist attack and many other unkind and pretty hateful things. It was an interesting memo to say the very least. It’s just a movie, but we can see how he might think it makes bankers look bad. But banks survived, so we think it’s all good.

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No Stuntman Needed

We didn’t realize that throwing a rock and breaking a window was a job for a stuntman, but it seems that back in the day it was. However, one was not needed in the scene were Donna Reed throws a rock at the old house. She was able to throw the rock and get it into the window herself, breaking it just the way that the movie called for. The stuntman was then sent home.

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Uncle Bill Did Not Fall into Trash Cans

He was drunk, so it was not a big surprise to anyone that the actor might fall into some trash cans and then come stumbling into the scene saying he’s all right with a great slur. The actors let it go on like he feel into a trash can and made all that noise, but it was actually noise from a cameraman who dropped a large piece of very important equipment. We’d say it all worked out, though.

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It Wasn’t Popular

When this movie debuted in 1946, it was to the tune of wonderful Oscar predictions and great excitement in Hollywood. Did you know that it did not do well in theaters? In fact, it did so poorly that it was considered a massive flop. That’s about the same as saying that it was awful and shouldn’t have been made, but it ended up being one of the most famous movies of all time.

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The Set was Expansive

Filmed in Encino, California, the set of this movie is one of the most expansive ever built. It had more than 75 buildings, more than 20 oak trees and it was spread out over the course of four acres. The producers wanted it to feel so real that they took it upon themselves to let real animals such as cats, dogs and birds wander the lot in the months leading up to filming so that it would begin to take on a “real” feel.

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It was a Short Story

A short story called “The Greatest Gift,” was written, but no one would publish it. It was then turned into a card and seen by an agent of Cary Grants, who bought it and decided to turn it into a film. The hope was that the film would be Grant’s gateway film to success, making him the most famous actor in Hollywood at the time.

(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)


The Pool is Real

When Mary and George are dancing it up and the floor opens to reveal a swimming pool, that wasn’t just movie magic. That was a real pool in a real location. In fact, it’s located at the Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, one of the most famous schools in the world. The movie shot scenes there so that they could capture the things they wanted to capture in the movie.

(Photo by Joern Haufe/Getty Images)


Free Advertising

Mr. Gowers has a drugstore and it was allowed to be used for free product advertising for many companies in the country, including Coca-Cola and aspirin. It was advertising so amazing and so good that it actually still works today thanks to the fact that people still watch the movie and still see all the products in the store. The only one we don’t care for is the cigarette ad.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images


Copyright Lapse

Someone made a pretty big mistake in the 70s and let the copyright lapse on this film, meaning no one owned it and it was royalty free. That meant that anyone could show the film without paying for it on their channels, and so it was on television all the time. That was fixed, but not for almost two decades! Now NBC owns it and gets all the royalties shown when it’s aired during Christmas.

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