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'It's A Wonderful Life' Honored On 65th Anniversary Of Its Release

HOLLYWOOD (CNS)  — The film that gave the world George Baily, Mr. Potter (boo hiss), Zuzu's petals and Clarence the Angel -- Second Class --, was honored Friday in Hollywood on the 65th anniversary of its release.

The classic film "It's a Wonderful Life" drew praise from Councilman Tom LaBonge at a ceremony held fittingly at the Hollywood Walk of Fame star of its director Frank Capra.

Addressing a crowd that included Tom Capra, a son of Capra, Frank Capra III, a grandson, and Jimmy Hawkins, who portrayed Tommy Bailey, one of the four children of James Stewart's character, LaBonge said on Friday, "There's no movie like 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

"With all the challenges we face today, we need more George Baileys and fewer Mr. Potters," LaBonge said, referring to Stewart's character and his banker nemesis Potter (Lionel Barrymore).

"It's also nice to go back to a simpler time to remember the strength of family and neighbors and relationships. 'It's a Wonderful Life' offers that life-affirming message year after year, generation upon generation."

Tom Capra thanked LaBonge for his resolution that declared Dec. 3 as "It's a Wonderful Life' Day in Los Angeles, and recalled how his father called the film as his best, despite its lack of success when it was initially released.

"It's a Wonderful Life" stars Stewart as suicidal building and loan operator George Bailey, who is shown by a guardian angel (Henry Travers) what life in fictional Bedford Falls, N.Y., would have been like if he had never been born.

The film premiered Dec. 20, 1946, and received five Academy Award nominations but failed to win any, being beaten out by "The Best Years of Our Lives" for best picture. Its reputation has grown over the years, including being ranked 11th on the American Film Institute's 1998 list of greatest American movies and 20th on its 2007 list.

"It's a Wonderful Life" was a money loser in its original release but achieved iconic status thanks to its heavy Christmas season television showings beginning in the early 1980s after its original copyright expired and it went into the public domain, allowing stations to show it without having to pay for the rights.

The film's score was placed under copyright protection in 1993. Its television showings are now limited to two a year.

"It's a Wonderful Life" has several ties to the Los Angeles area. It was mainly filmed at the RKO studio in Culver City and the RKO Ranch in Encino, which was used to depict Bedford Falls.

The memorable scene in which Stewart is dancing with Donna Reed at a high school graduation dance was filmed at Beverly Hills High School's Swim- Gym, which remains in use today as the home venue for the school's basketball, swimming, volleyball and water polo teams.

"'It's a Wonderful Life' has made an incredible impact on popular culture and continues to be a beloved part of many families' holiday traditions," LaBonge said. "We are delighted to celebrate this treasured classic, which was created here in Los Angeles and has touched people throughout the world."

 (©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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