70-Year Staying Power of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

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“It’s a Wonderful Life” has turned 70 years old this holiday season, and just like many of today’s headlines, that beloved American story that brings cheer to viewers each year has some pretty amazing hidden backstories to it that you may not have been aware of.

70-Year Staying Power of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Photo: YouTube

For one, the cast of children are still close friends. They sat down with TODAY’s Al Roker this past week to discuss the movie, its making, and their lifelong relationship with each other. Karolyn Grimes played Zuzu, Carol Coombs played Janie, and Jimmy Hawkins played Tommy. All three continue their special bond like the film continues to endear itself to new viewers each year.

70-Year Staying Power of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Photo: Flickr/Insomnia Cured Here

December 21, 2016 marked the 70th anniversary of the film’s New York City premiere, and with it comes some great discussion about times gone by that were wrapped up in its filming. For one, there’s some controversy over whether director/co-screenwriter Frank Capra based Bedford Falls on Seneca Falls, in New York state. But Seneca Falls maintains the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Museum, which is one of only four movie museums in the United States.

70-Year Staying Power of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Photo: Facebook/Carl Dean Switzer

Credit has always gone to a guy named “Freddie” for opening the gym floor, which ultimately leads George and Mary to take a dunk in the swimming pool beneath. But did you know that Freddie was once a child star you may also have been familiar with? Carl Switzer, who played the infamous role, also brought to life the character of Alfalfa in “Our Gang”!

70-Year Staying Power of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Photo: Facebook/Karen Kernodle Martin

The film was a return to features by both Capra and Stewart, who took time away from Hollywood to fight (Stewart) and make war documentaries (Capra) in World War II. Hawkins explained that Stewart felt that coming out of a world war and finding himself on the set of a movie was frivolous and that he was ready to call it quits to acting, go back to his hometown, and run his dad’s hardware store. Hence the true-to-life way Stewart was able to bring George’s character to the screen, full of turmoil over life decisions.

70-Year Staying Power of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Photo: Facebook/Character Actors in Classic Films

1,500 actors, filmmakers, and critics were polled by the American Film Institute in 2006 for a list of most inspirational films ever. “It’s a Wonderful Life” topped that list, and 10 years later, it continues to gain new viewers and spread its message about community love and helping hands – something we all can relate to even now.