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Inspired by ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Inspired by ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

It’s easy to be sentimental about the holidays, which is why some of our 2019 holiday designs celebrate the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The movie, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, was released in 1946. It tells the story of George Bailey, who is on the edge of financial ruin, when he meets an angel, Clarence, who is in search of his wings, on Christmas Eve. Clarence shows the despondent George that he truly has had a wonderful life. While not a big box office hit when it was initially released, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is now considered one of the greatest films of all time and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made.

The name of George’s hometown—Bedford Falls—is honored with our Bedford Falls collection. It includes the Bedford Falls Lumber Pillow, Stocking, and Tree Skirt, which feature appliquéd and embellished ornaments and snowflakes on a background of black felt, trimmed with checked cording. There’s also the Bedford Falls Dish Towels, Oven Mitts, and Pot Holders in cheery red and green plaid, which are named for the movie’s small town.

A second holiday group—Every Time A Bell Rings—invokes one of the recurring classic lines from the film. The Every Time a Bell Rings Triple and Double Glass Finials are crafted of glass, mixing hand-painted red and green plaid with our Courtly Check and Courtly Stripe patterns. There’s also the Every Time a Bell Rings Santa, attired in red and green and bearing more than a few bells, and the Every Time a Bell Rings Throw, in cozy red and green tartan.

There’s a local connection to these names as well. Nearby hamlet Seneca Falls, which is just about 20 miles west of our campus, calls itself “the real Bedford Falls.” It has been celebrating everything about the classic holiday movie and its connections to it for several years with The It’s a Wonderful Life Festival each December.

Festival organizers say there are plenty of similarities between Seneca Falls and the movie’s Bedford Falls. The movie makes references to Buffalo, Elmira, and Rochester, making it clear that it takes place in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region. It’s also believed that the movie’s director, Frank Capra, who had relatives in the area, visited Seneca Falls in 1945 while he was writing the movie’s script. Capra might have seen the quaint main street, the architecture of the houses, and a steel truss bridge over the Seneca Canal, all of which are features in the movie’s Bedford Falls. Capra might even have noticed a plaque on the bridge honoring Seneca Falls resident Antonio Varacalli, who leaped into the canal in April 1917 to rescue a girl who had jumped off the bridge. A similar scenario is in the film when George jumps off a nearly identical bridge to save Clarence. Seneca Falls has even named the street over the bridge Clarence Street on one side and George Bailey Lane on the other side to highlight the connection to the movie.

The It’s a Wonderful Life Festival will be held Dec. 13–15 with a full slate of activities, including screenings of the movie, a parade, a run, and appearances by the actors who played the children of George and Mary Bailey.

If you can’t make it to Seneca Falls then, you can visit The Seneca Falls It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, which is open year-round. The museum, at 32 Fall St., is in a portion of what was Seneca Falls’ first movie theater. On display are a few pieces of memorabilia from the movie, plus many items donated by actors that appeared in the film. The museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday. It is closed on major holidays. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

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