'It's A Wonderful Life' Turns 65
Streib, Lauren, Newsweek
Byline: Lauren Streib
How a box-office bomb transformed into a beloved and inescapable classic.
Philip Van Doren Stern sends Christmas cards to friends and encloses a 21-page, 4,000-word short story, "The Greatest Gift."
RKO buys film rights for $10,000, after pressure from George Bailey wannabe Cary Grant. Later, Frank Capra snags the rights from RKO.
Dec. 21, 1946
The film is rushed to the box office because the studio lacks enough copies of planned holiday release Sinbad the Sailor.
Critical reception is lukewarm. The New York Times: "the weakness of this picture ... is the sentimentality of it--its illusory concept of life."
Jan. 7, 1947
The studio earns a mere $3.3 million from the release (production and distribution cost was $3.8 million), and nabs five Oscar nominations but zero wins.
Capra becomes informant for House Un-American Activities Committee; seven of film's other eight writers end up blacklisted.
More than 20 years after its release, the film gains modest followings in collegiate film societies.
CBS begins to air the film about once a year in the days before Christmas.
Capra memoir and museum retrospective set off craze. …