How The Greatest Gift Became It's a Wonderful Life

 Most people know that when a bell rings an angel gets his wings. But do you know the true story behind “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

In 1938 Philip Van Doren Stern was inspired to write about a desperate family man’s encounter with his guardian angel who showed him what life would be like if he’d never been born. In 1943 he finished his 4,100 word short story, “The Greatest Gift” which proceeded to be rejected by a variety of publications from “The Saturday Evening Post” to farm journals.  As an established Civil War historian and biographer, Stern published over forty books during his lifetime, but he was unable to find a publisher for this story.

 Determined to share his tale Stern had 200 pamphlets printed of his story and distributed them to friends and family as Christmas cards.  He told his third-grade daughter, Marguerite, that even though they were sending it as Christmas card to friends “It is a universal story for all people and all times”. Several months after Christmas a producer at RKO Pictures came across the Christmas card and offered Stern $10,000 for the movie rights. The oft rejected short story became a five-time Academy Award nominee and an American classic film.

Frank McCourt once said "Sing your song. Dance your dance. Tell your tale."
Personally I think the world needs more singing, dancing and good stories.

Wishing you and your loved ones glad tidings and great reads for the holidays!


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Mariposa. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  2. This movie is a Christmas favorite for my family and I was thrilled to learn the backstory. Thanks for stopping by & have a wonderful holiday!

  3. Nice post! I enjoyed learning the story behind this movie. I live in Jimmy Stewart's hometown- and believe me, our little town clings onto that claim to fame, lol.

  4. Thanks Maureen. This movie was also Stewart's first after his wartime service. Your town has a lot to be proud of its native son.


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