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‘It’s a Wonderful Life’: The timeless Christmas movie almost wasn’t

J-P Mauro - published on 12/04/22

Paul Harvey presents the unlikely tale of how one of the most beloved Christmas films was almost lost to obscurity.

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It’s a Wonderful Life is a timeless Christmas classic that resonates with faithful and secular audiences alike. What many may not know, however, is that the film was almost never made, and when it finally hit the theaters it flopped hard. In fact, the movie may never have become as popular as it is today if not for a lapsed copyright, and without Paul Harvey, we may never have known the rest of this story. 

As radio continues to go the way of the dodo, many of the younger generation may not know of Paul Harvey. The voice of this broadcasting giant once commanded the airwaves of 1,200 radio stations and reached an average of 24 million listeners per week. While he was an influential figure in many aspects of journalism, today he is most remembered for his more than 3,000 human interest pieces, in a series titled The Rest of the Story.

Today we’re listening to Harvey give us the rest of the story of It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart in his first theatrical appearance after returning from active duty during WWII. Harvey reveals the story of an unlikely script, titled The Greatest Gift, that came to author Philip Van Doren Stern in just moments while shaving his face.

With genuine amusement and his signature verbosity, Harvey’s telling of the story will keep listeners at the edge of their seats. He weaves a star-studded tale of how the script was bought by a movie company at the recommendation of none other than Cary Grant, who initially envisioned himself in the lead role. Even more unlikely was that when the film’s copyright came up for renewal, the film studio neglected to pay the $4 necessary to renew it. 

This entertaining four-minute story is just what we needed to get ourselves into the Christmas spirit. Not only does it revolve around a film routinely regarded as one of the finest ever made, but it gives us a glimpse into the making of such a remarkable and complex Christmas story. 

Looking for more Paul Harvey? Check out this playlist below that has some of his best and most entertaining installments of The Rest of the Story

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