Bill Duke on

It’s a Wonderful Life

Released 1946
Distributor RKO Radio Pictures

About It’s a Wonderful Life

Frank Capra was known for such upstanding, optimistic films (“Capra-corn” to the critics) that his lone Christmas-themed film must have come as a real shock to ticket buyers. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has its cheery side for sure, but it also contains moments so bleak it makes some film noirs look like Mary Poppins. A boxoffice disappointment when first released, it fell into the public domain for a limited period, resulting in massive TV exposure that transformed it into a cultural touchstone, and one that holiday audiences return to year after year. This week, two different TFH Gurus offer their takes on a classic that was heavily investigated at the time by the FBI for supposedly Communist influences.

About Bill Duke

With a wide range of credits to his name including directing, producing, acting and writing, Bill Duke made an auspicious directorial debut with The Killing Floor. He followed with A Rage in Harlem, based on Chester Himes’ celebrated novel. He went on to direct the action drama Deep Cover, the romantic comedy The Cemetery Club, the hit sequel Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and numerous other films and television projects.. Mr. Duke received a Cable ACE Award for his direction of American Dream: The Boy Who Painted Christ Black and directed two teleplays for PBS, which received an NAACP Image Award nomination: The Meeting and A Raisin in the Sun, which also earned Duke an Emmy nomination. His acting roles include American GigoloPredator, and Commando.
  • kirdoodle

    Joe’s text is slightly off, arguably, since Capra’s MEET JOHN DOE also ends with a holiday finale. That film was commercially far more successful upon initial release, also fell into public domain limbo yet never achieved the cultural impact of WONDERFUL LIFE. It serves as a potent argument to those cynics who claim the lasting popularity of the later film was a fluke of PD availability and holiday content.