The 1947 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a box-office flop, and didn’t become popular until the late 70’s when its copyright expired and TV channels could play it for free.

How It’s a Wonderful Life went from box office failure to Christmas classic


efore James Stewart was sent off to fight in the Second World War, he was one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars. He’d appeared in 28 films, had been nominated for an Oscar for Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and even won one for Best Actor a year later for The Philadelphia Story. He was riding high.

But after spending three years fighting the Nazis in the US Air Force, the 37-year-old returned home in 1945 to find that everything had changed. His contract with MGM had run out, his agent had left the movie business, and he was suffering from what would later be recognised as post-traumatic stress disorder. “I was just a little bit scared,” he later recollected of his newfound circumstance. Then Frank Capra called.

Capra – who had… Continue Reading (6 minute read)

13 thoughts on “The 1947 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a box-office flop, and didn’t become popular until the late 70’s when its copyright expired and TV channels could play it for free.”

  1. joelman0

    > The critics were unconvinced, too. The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote that “the weakness of this picture is the sentimentality of it”, describing George Bailey as “a figment of simple Pollyanna platitudes”. The New Republic’s Manny Farber accused Capra of taking “an easy, simple-minded path that doesn’t give much credit to the intelligence of the audience”. The film placed 26th in box office revenues for the year. “By the end of 1947,” said Stewart, “the film was quietly put on the shelf.”

    FWIW I love this movie. We watch it every year, and I cry every time!

  2. Kenesaw_Mt_Landis

    While nominated in several categories, the only Oscar that it won was for special technical achievement lFor the development of a new method of simulating falling snow on motion picture sets.”

    They use to corn flakes painted white and the crunch made audio recording a nightmare. Snow slaps in that movie. Looks really good

  3. schlootie

    Get ready for The Great Gatsby explosion. It’s going to be everywhere now that the copyright expired.

  4. Grandpa_Dan

    James Stewart was a national treasure.

  5. D4CL0veTrain

    Movies that become much popular later on, or books that become a hit after the writer passes. Great, but also kind of sad at the same time.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

  6. Peter_G

    Weren’t those the days, when copyright would eventually expire and the same 8 companies didn’t own all the media in the world?

  7. BurgerKingoftheRing

    The Big Lebowski was also a box office flop. Sometimes greatness is not appreciated in the time it came out in

  8. Vike_9194

    This movie carries a very deep simple message.
    As a broke lonely college kid in the late 70’s I discovered it and being reminded how seemingly insignificant gestures to others can really bring hope in ways you may never know.
    And to be surprised by my daughters and family to go see it with them 40 years later in a theater was an absolute joy and blessing.

  9. solarity52

    Sadly we are about 80% of the way complete in our transformation from Bedford Falls to Pottersville.

  10. geo_hampe

    I am in my 40s and saw it three days ago for the first time. I loved it! So wholesome and clean, and funny too

  11. gman1951

    Same with The Wizard of Oz. It was just a modest hit but grew to be the most watched movie ever due to television.

  12. mel122676

    It has always been my favorite Christmas movie. I watch it every year.

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