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The Smithsonian Associates and Smithsonian's National Museum of American History have created a special segment through generous support of Dan Manatt.

It's a Wonderful Life


Considered by many as director Frank Capra's greatest American classic, this seasonal tale of a man discovering the amazing connections of life premiered December 20, 1946, at the Globe Theater in New York City.


Based upon Philip Van Doren Stern's personal Christmas tale, "The Greatest Gift," Capra later reflected that it was the story he had been looking for his whole life. A good man, George Bailey sets aside his personal ambitions to serve other lives in a small town. Faced with a dilemma that he feels he must solve alone, he contemplates a sacrifice to end his own personal disappointments. His guardian angel gives him another perspective, opening his eyes to the greatest gift already nurtured from his true destiny of love, family, and community.


Donna Reed, Jimmy Stewart, and Frank Capra would later claim this project as an all-time favorite career film. Over 75 years later, it continues to find new fans and students enjoying a universal review of character, technique, and philosophy. Numerous articles and books continue to reveal insights and perspectives on its production. For example, much to Capra's surprise, Donna accurately threw her own stone required to break the designated second story window in the film's famous wishing scene. She did this with her strong and precise baseball talents practiced long before with her farm brothers back in Iowa.


Season's greetings as you enjoy this timeless classic. May we all see the strength of friendship and possibilities already in front of us today if we try.


The Donna Reed Foundation

Don't miss! The History Film Forum Director Christopher Wilson hosts a panel discussion with Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator, at the National Museum of American History; Donna Reed’s daughter Mary Owen; Dr. Jason A. Higgins, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities and Oral History at Virginia Tech; Leo Landis, State Curator, State Historical Society of Iowa; Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator, National Museum of American History; Nell Minow, editor and film critic, and author of books and articles about media and culture. 

Special segment

Support for theaters and film 

Daughter Mary Owen has made it her mission to ensure small town theaters can play the beloved Christmas classic

Washington Post Article
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