IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a 1946 film produced and directed by Frank Capra and based on the short story “THE GREATEST GIFT” written by Philip Van Doren Stern.
The original story THE GREATEST GIFT was written by Philip Van Doren Stern in November 1939. After being unsuccessful in getting the story published, he decided to make it into a Christmas card, and mailed 200 copies to family and friends in December 1943.
The story came to the attention of RKO producer David Hempstead, who showed it to Cary Grant’s Hollywood agent and, in April 1944, RKO Pictures bought the rights to the story for $10,000 hoping to turn the story into a vehicle for Grant.
It’s A Wonderful Life movie trailer
RKO created three unsatisfactory scripts before shelving the planned movie with Grant going on to make another Christmas picture, THE BISHOP’S WIFE.
At the suggestion of RKO studio chief Charles Koerner, Frank Capra read THE GREATEST GIFT and immediately saw its potential. RKO, anxious to unload the project, sold the rights in 1945 to Capra’s production company, Liberty Films, which had a nine-film distribution agreement with RKO, for $10,000,and threw in the three scripts for free.
Capra, along with writers Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett with Jo Swerling, Michael Wilson, and Dorothy Parker brought in to “polish” the script — turned the story and what was worth using from the three scripts into a screenplay that Capra would rename IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Continue reading