Sourcebook 2022

Page 68

George and Mary making wishes at the Old Granville house. Screenshot from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”


The Ellis hotel in Fallbrook. Courtesy photos

the ‘Actual Bedford Falls’


in Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life? ’

My observation linking the Granville house t was late 1975 and I was anxiously to the abandoned Ellis Hotel in my hometown anticipating my much deserved two weeks of of Fallbrook began a more than a 45-year long Christmas vacation. Yes, back then most people lingering question. Did the town of Fallbrook still referred to the holiday period as “Christmas have any other links to the classic film “It’s vacation.” Entering the small home I shared with a Wonderful Life” and the fictional town of my wife and three young children, I was greeted Bedford Falls? by the sound of excited laughter. What follows are some of my findings. I will The television was tuned in to what was let you, the reader, decide if my observations obviously an old black and white movie. All deserve consideration. three children attempted to explain the source of their laughter at the same time. My edited Findings version of the explanation goes something like Philip Van Doren Stern wrote a short story this, “People were dancing and the floor opened titled “The Greatest Gift.” Stern was a published up and everyone dove into a swimming pool.” Although their story seemed far-fetched, I and well-respected U.S. Civil War historian who wanted to try his hand at writing fiction. In 1939 squeezed between two of my children who were by Gary Vix the idea for a story came to him while shaving seated on our black Naugahyde sofa and began or in a dream depending on the information watching what I presumed to be a comedy. Looking at the 24-inch tv screen, I recognized James Stewart as source. He fine-tuned his literary effort, and in 1943, attempted George Bailey who was walking down a dark sidewalk singing to have his story published. When no publishing house seemed “Buffalo Gals” with, as I learned later, Donna Reed as Mary interested in printing his fictional story, he self-published, Hatch who was the female lead in the film. These two characters which is fairly common today, but back in the early 1940s selfwere dressed in ill-fitting clothes they found in the locker room publication was a relatively rare occurrence. Stern paid out of after their unplanned dip in the school swimming pool. George his own pocket to have 200 copies of “The Greatest Gift” printed and Mary engaged in some semi-romantic dialog and stopped in with many copies being sent to friends and family as his 1943 front of the old, dilapidated Granville house. Each proceeded to Christmas card. RKO movie studio obtained a copy and liked the story. The make a wish and toss a rock through a window. I immediately yelled, “That looks like the old hotel in Fallbrook!” The studio paid Stern $10,000 for the film rights and proceeded to subsequent commercial break revealed the title of the movie, “... have three screenplays written. Cary Grant was contacted to and now back to our feature film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’” star in the potential film. He declined the offer. None of the 66

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