The movie had every ingredient of a hit when it opened right before Christmas. By the new year, it was a flop. In fact, when the copyright on this film expired, nobody even bothered to renew it. It was so forgettable that it was quite literally forgotten. This is also the reason that people are still watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It might very well be the most iconic Christmas movie. It became that way by accident.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” fell into the public domain once the copyright lapsed 28 years after its release, and television stations began running the film around the clock because it didn’t cost a penny. It wasn’t Frank Capra or Jimmy Stewart or the enduring power of cinema that made it a lasting success. It was neglect. “The damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” Capra himself once said.
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