5 Things You Didn't Know About "It's a Wonderful Life"

On December 20, 1946, the Frank Capra film It's A Wonderful Life had a preview showing for charity at New York City's Globe Theater, a day before its official premiere. Even if you've seen the film dozens of times, we still have 5 things you probably didn't know about the film It’s a Wonderful Life.


A Christmas Card Was The Basis For The Movie Philip Van Doren Stern wrote the short story "The Greatest Gift" after it came to him in a dream, which he self-published and sent out as a fancy 21 page Christmas card. One of those cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with actor Jimmy Stewart and with a producer at RKO Pictures. RKO paid $10,000 for the film rights, and the rest is movie history.

RKO Wanted Cary Grant To Star In The Movie When RKO Pictures bought the rights to the film, they hoped their star Cary Grant would take the leading role of George Bailey. However when Capra came onboard, he brought Jimmy Stewart along with him. As for Mary Hatch Bailey, the role was reportedly offered to Jean Arthur, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Dvorak, and Ginger Rogers, who called the character "too bland." Ultimately, the part went to Donna Reed for her first starring role.


They Invented A New Type Of Snow For The Film Before CGI and green-screen technology, special effects artists had to be very creative. For example, when making it snow in films, it was common to use painted cornflakes as stand-ins for snowflakes. Capra, though, didn't like the crunching noise when actors stepped on the cereal.  Instead, the special effects team came up with new artificial snow made of sugar, fire extinguisher foam, soap, and water, which a wind machine blew to create a fake snowstorm.

Karolyn Grimes Didn't See The Film For 40 Years Karolyn Grimes played the youngest daughter in the Bailey family, ZuZu, and was the girl who said “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." According to Grimes, she never saw the movie until 1980. "I never took the time to see the movie," she told Detroit's WWJ in 2013. "I never just sat down and watched the film." She made up for lost time, though, telling Vanity Fair that she has now seen it over 500 times.

The Little Rascals' Alfalfa Appeared In The Movie Carl Switzer, who was best known for his role as Alfalfa in The Little Rascals had a small role in the film. He played the character Freddie, who took Bailey’s future wife, Mary Hatch, to a school dance. During this scene, the dance floor opens to reveal a swimming pool, Bailey and Mary fall in and a lot of the other revelers jump in the water too. Switzer, unable to overcome typecasting after playing Alfalfa, only played in a few minor roles in his career, and was killed in an argument about money in 1959 at age 31.