It's a Wonderful Life could've had a sequel, but it was quickly canceled before it could get off the ground. As many films from its time, It's a Wonderful Life is a timeless holiday movie and a Christmas classic - perhaps even the Christmas classic - starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.
Directed by Frank Capra and released by Liberty Films in 1946, It's a Wonderful Life starred Stewart as George Bailey, a big-hearted family man who wonders if the world would be better off if he was never born. George's compassion for others shuts him off from his dreams and forces him to live in a small town as a building and loan banker. When taking the blame for someone else's mistake lands George in hot water, he contemplates suicide until an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) shows him what the world would look like without him.
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In 2013, Star Partners and Hummingbird Productions announced plans to develop an It's a Wonderful Life sequel, titled It's a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story. The project was expected to focus on the grandson of George's youngest daughter, Zuzu. In the original movie, Zuzu is best remembered as the child who tells George that "every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." Karolyn Grimes, one of the last surviving members of the cast, was expected to reprise her role as Zuzu. As for the plot of the film, Zuzu's angel was to help Zuzu's Scrooge-like grandson become a good person, which means that the story would have been similar to The Christmas Carol.
The It's a Wonderful Life sequel was to be filmed in 2014 with a budget of $25-$35 million, and then release in 2015. Bob Farnsworth and Martha Bolton were hired to pen the script; however, the project never took off. It was the belief of the filmmakers that It's a Wonderful Life was in the public domain and that its copyright had never been renewed, which would explain why the film was aired on TV for decades at no cost to the networks. Being aired on TV during the holiday seasons is actually what made It's a Wonderful Life such a popular film; it didn't become a big hit with audiences until several years after its theatrical release.
But the idea that It's a Wonderful Life is in the public domain was false. Over the years, the rights to It's a Wonderful Life have been shuffled around from studio to studio, causing much confusion over who actually has ownership of the movie. As it turns out, Paramount Pictures, which purchased Liberty Films in 1947, currently owns the It's a Wonderful Life film rights. Paramount quickly put a stop to the film by threatening those involved with legal action. This was good news for fans of the original film, as many never warmed up to the idea of a sequel, and it's likely that comparisons to the 1946 movie would have held it back. Though It's a Wonderful Life began as a box office failure, it has since evolved into a beloved Christmas classic. Like Casablanca and Gone With the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life is one of those movies that deserves to be revisited, but never tinkered with.