The Untold Truth Of It’s A Wonderful Life

Frank Capra was one of the most successful directors of the 1930s and an embodiment of the American Dream. As detailed by biographer Charles J. Maland, Frank Capra and his family emigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1903. By 1922, Capra was working in the film industry as prop man, editor, and gag writer. In just under two decades, Capra went from unemployed son of poor immigrants to Oscar-winning filmmaker.

The day after Pearl Harbor, Capra enlisted in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. Serving in the Office of War Information, he directed the “Why We Fight” documentaries. With the war’s end, Capra was anxious to get back to Hollywood. Before his discharge in 1945, he had already formed a new production company called Liberty Films. Exposed to the horrors of war, Capra returned a changed man, his optimism blunted by what he had witnessed. He knew he needed just the right project relaunch his filmmaking career, one, which according to “The It’s a Wonderful Life Book,” would reflect his darker post-war feelings, but still be a “Frank Capra comedy.”

Capra found his perfect comeback project in “The Greatest Gift,” and RKO head Charles Koerner was all too happy to unload the troublesome project. For just $10,000, the exact price the studio had paid Phillip Van Doren Stern, RKO sold Capra’s Liberty Films “The Greatest Gift’s” story rights, all original material, and the three completed scripts that had been developed for it.

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