The Short Story of It's A Wonderful Life sequel
Ron Seifried | On 04, Dec 2013
What could of been the longest span between original film and followup, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: THE REST OF THE STORY almost went into production. According to Variety, Star Partners and Hummingbird Prods were collaborating on the followup to the Frank Capra holiday classic. The Bailey family lineage was the story’s focus with Karolyn Grimes, George Bailey’s (James Stewart) daughter Zulu from the original 1946 film, as an angel guiding a grandson through a turbulent time wishing he was never born. Sound familiar?
Bob Farnsworth of Hummingbird and Martha Bolton have written the screenplay. The production may have included original cast members Jimmy Hawkins, (Tommy Bailey), and Carol Coombs (Janie Bailey) with plans to shoot in Louisiana. Over 20 scripts were considered over the years, but according to producers, this adaptation is the only one to retain the feeling of the original. The budget was estimated between $25 and $32 million.
Within days of Hummingbird’s announcement, Paramount Pictures released a statement; “No project relating to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ can proceed without a license from Paramount. To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.”
Farnsworth claimed the original film was in the public domain, enabling the producers to greenlight a sequel without any permission. The actually history of “It’s A Wonderful Life”s rights are more complicated.
The original producer, Liberty Pictures was purchased by Paramount, which then sold the film’s negative, music score, television rights and original story to M. & A. Alexander in 1955. Thanks to a clerical error in 1974, the copyright was not renewed, enabling TV stations to broadcast the film during Christmas time for the next 20 years, but still pay royalties. Even though the film’s images were in the public domain, the copyright to the original story, “The Greatest Gift”was properly renewed by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1971.
In 1993, Republic Pictures won a landmark legal decision reactivating the copyright to Capra’s classic, which as Network Telefilm Associates (NTA), obtained the film’s negative, music score and original story.” The judgement from Stewart V. Abend coincidentally involved another Jimmy Stewart film, “Rear Window,” successfully arguing its status as a derivative of a work still under copyright of the original story. In 1994, Spelling Entertainment acquired Republic, which was then sold to Paramount in 1999. Since then, Paramount licensed the film for broadcast on NBC.
The web was abuzz with negative reaction to the proposed sequel. Jimmy Kimmel joked, “I don’t know if they have a title yet, but if not, I have a suggestion. I would call it ‘It’s a Terrible Idea.'”
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was nominated for five Academy Awards, but lost the coveted best picture prize to THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. These events almost became the first time a direct sequel getting produced to a Frank Capra film. James Stewart is no stranger in the world of franchises, as he co-starred in AFTER THE THE THIN MAN (1936), considered by many to be the best film in the long running THIN MAN series from MGM, and THE MAGIC OF LASSIE and AIRPORT ’77 later in his career.