Enjoy the Holidays With Our Inside Look at the Making of the Classic Film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Some time ago, before it became an annual event on NBC, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life was in the public domain, which meant any TV station could air the film whenever they wanted. So they did.

Usually, during the holidays, you could watch the film — which stars James Stewart and Donna Reed — on one channel, then switch to another and arrive in the middle or towards the end. The one unavoidable truth is no matter how many times you saw it on the same day, every single time Harry Bailey raises a cup of champagne to toast his brother, George — “the richest man in town” — there’s never a dry eye in the room. Ever.

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Paramount Pictures

“How many times have seen that movie?” Jeanine Basinger (more on her below) asks rhetorically. “No matter how many times I say, ‘I probably won’t cry this time,’ I do. It’s a Wonderful Life is an an amazing movie. It’s really a hilarious comedy, but it’s also a deeply sensitive, tragic and honest story about people’s hopes and dreams and aspirations. What you hope you’ll get and dream you’ll get, and what you really get, and then the final understanding that what you got is something wonderful.”

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Knopf Books

Which is all very nice, but more importantly — at least in this instance — is the fact that she also happens to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on It’s a Wonderful Life. Jeanine not only recorded an audio commentary for the film for its laserdisc release from Criterion and wrote The It’s a Wonderful Life Book, the ultimate source of information regarding the movie, so people turn to her more than any other when it comes to discussing the film.

“Every November or December, I sort of emerge from my office and say to everybody, ‘It’s arrived. The silly season is here. I will now begin doing interviews on It’s a Wonderful Life,” she laughs. “It’s true. I always think the day will come when nobody does it anymore, but that day never comes — and I realize it never will, because somewhere, someplace, somebody is still watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and it has the power to touch people both positively and negatively.”

Well now it’s our turn to interview Jeanine, and all you have to do is scroll down to check out the conversation.

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