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Tag Archive | "It’s a Wonderful Life"

It’s A Wonderful Life is an American classic with a fascinating history


 

By Liz Clifford

 

The Cedar Springs Community Players is presenting “It’s A Wonderful Life—A Live Radio Play” on December 8, 9, and 10 at the Kent Theatre. The play is inspired by the 1946 Frank Capra movie. From humble beginnings, this movie has become an enduring American holiday favorite.

But the story actually started out life in 1939 as a short story called “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern.  Stern was unable to get the story published and decided to use it as an elaborate Christmas card for his family and friends in 1943. The Christmas story caught the eye of a movie producer who bought the rights in the hopes of making a movie of it with Cary Grant. But the timing and script weren’t right and the rights were resold to Frank Capra’s movie company in 1945.

Capra had a vision for the film and created an enormous set for the town of Bedford Falls. The movie lot was on four acres and had several city blocks with over 75 buildings, a working bank building, and specially planted full size trees to make it look like a real, established small town. Local wild animals were even encouraged to make themselves at home on the set.

Everything in Capra’s movie town had to be perfect, including the snow.  Traditionally, movie snow was made of corn flakes. But Capra didn’t like the crunching noise it made as the actors walked on it. So a special “chemical” snow was created for the film.

But the extensive set, special inventions, and multiple script revisions all cost money and the movie was not a box office success. “It’s A Wonderful Life” won one Academy Award for technical achievement—the very exciting new snow. And, to add insult to injury, the FBI took an interest in the film. In 1947, the FBI stated that the film depicted the banker as the bad guy and showed that people who had money were despicable—a common technique used by Communists. In the anti-communist McCarthy era, this wasn’t the kind of attention you wanted your movie to receive.

So how did this movie become so beloved by Americans? Because of a clerical error over it’s copyright. The copyright problem meant the movie became available to show inexpensively on television and every station across the country showed it multiple times during the holiday season. Over the years, this movie was seen by so many people during the holidays that it became a part of the holiday traditions in millions of homes across America. Which is a pretty amazing turnaround for an unsellable short story that was made into a “pro-Communist” box office failure in 1946!

Come see the show and be part of the story that has been evolving for almost 80 years. “It’s a Wonderful Life—A Live Radio Play” will be at the Kent Theater on December 8, 9, and 10 at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $10 at the Cedar Springs Library or $12 at the door and $8 for kids.

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It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at the Kent Theatre


 

Honor your special angel

By Terri Riggle

On Thursday, Dec. 8, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play will open on the Kent Theatre stage. The play was adapted by Joe Landry and is essentially the same as the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and directed by Frank Capra. The play is staged as a radio production that takes place in the late 1940’s on a snowy Christmas Eve.

According to Wikipedia, the movie is “one of the most acclaimed films ever made, praised particularly for its writing. It was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made,  placing number 11 on its initial 1998 greatest movie list, and number one on AFI’s list of the most inspirational American films of all time.”

The play highlights the story of George Bailey, a small-town businessman, who in a panic one Christmas Eve, decides that he would be worth more dead than alive. But thanks to the interference of his guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody AS2, he is saved and shown how much of a difference he truly made in the world of Bedford Falls. At one point in the play, Clarence points out that “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings,” which was what Clarence was eagerly hoping to earn by helping George.

The Players would like to offer our theater-going audience the opportunity to honor the people who have been an angel in their lives. Got someone in your life who has made a difference? Was it a teacher, a parent, a friend?  For $5, the Players will make a bell listing the name of your “angel.” It will then be added to a Christmas tree, which will be on display at the Kent Theatre. At the end of each performance, our actors will ring bells, honoring all of the special angels whose names adorn the tree.

The bells are available by sending $5 to The Cedar Springs Community Players, ATTN: Bell; PO Box 207; Cedar Springs, MI 49319. You can also purchase one before each performance in the Kent Theatre lobby. Please clearly print your name and the name of your angel and mail it, along with $5, to the Players.

Performances of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, written by Joe Landry, will be Dec. 8, 9, and 10 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Kent Theatre. Tickets are available at the CS Public Library for $10 for adults 18 and older and $8 for students 17 and under. Tickets may also be purchased before each performance at the box office for $12 for adults 18 and over and $8 for students, 17 and under.

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