The ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Sequels We Already Got (and Can’t Remember)

With news of a possible sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life, we look at the forgotten sequels to the classic film that already exist.
Its A Wonderful Life Stewart
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on November 19th, 2013

If It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story actually gets made, it will best Bambi II in creating the longest gap between a feature film and its sequel with at least 68 years spanning between Frank Capra’s joyfully depressing experiment and whatever the rest of the story will be. That is, if you don’t count 1990’s Clarence as a true sequel. Or 1977’s It Happened One Christmas.

That’s right. Those pulling their hair out over the announcement of the sequel project might appreciate a terrifying reminder that this particular “sacrosanct” piece of culture has already had two sequels that exactly no one remembers. Granted, both were made-for-TV movies (calling into question their true sequel status, if you’re nasty) and neither were particularly noteworthy for their art. But at the very least, they can offer people slapping their foreheads hope that The Rest of the Story too shall pass.

Plus, they’re pretty fascinating. Leave behind the very fact that productions already attempted continuing the George Bailey story (and that we erased them from our memories), and you’ve still got a gender-swapping attempt co-starring Orson Welles next to a post-Revenge of the Nerds Robert Carradine as a young, future Clarence the angel.

Fortunately, the internet has video.

First up, a pair of commercials for Clarence:


A trailer for It Happened One Christmas (whose title “borrows” from yet another Capra flick) was harder to find, but the full movie appears to be online (copyright issues questionable). Here is a clip:

Who knows how the latest attempt will play out, or even if it will ultimately get made, but it already sounds impressively creepy for three main reasons:

  1. It will feature Karolyn Grimes reprising her role as George Bailey’s daughter Zuzu, now an angel, in a blissful reminder that George Bailey’s daughter is now dead. Memento Mori, everyone.
  2. Producer/co-writer Bob Farnsworth said, “The storyline of the new film retains the spirit of the original – every life is important as long as you have friends,” proving that he thinks the message of the original was that people without friends have nothing to live for.
  3. The plot focuses on Bailey’s bratty grandson (so it’s his dead mother helping him out?) who is shown how much more awesome life would be for everyone if he were never born. Seriously. Make sure you know where your Ambien is before you roll that around in your head.

All of that will have to compete on the weirdness scale with Clarence’s schlocky explanation for the titular angel going from an elderly Henry Travers to a youthful Carradine: angels age backward in Heaven. Remember that the next time a spectral fetus tries to teach you a life lesson. It’s not a horror from beyond, just a person who’s been dead for a while.

At any rate, it should be fun to see whether The Rest of the Story goes the distance or ends up on ABC Family in a nod to its predecessors. Clarence and It Happened One Christmas are already cultural artifacts that we’ve largely left behind, but they’re still worthwhile to check out (not to actually watch) in that they represent minor talents trying to take on an Oscar-worthy tale with their own vinegar. By merely existing, they complicate the history of a classic property and claim a kind of birthright as its descendants.

So take heart, everyone who is worried about a sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life. They’ve already been made.

Plus, It’s a Wonderful Life is pretty much just a retelling of “A Christmas Carol,” right?

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