Much thanks to DL Hammons for setting up this blogfest.
Once a year it’s nice to reflect and take stock. In accordance with the blogfest rules we give you a post that didn’t receive as much blog love as we thought it deserved.
We hope you enjoy it.
Every family has some honored holiday traditions, and pulling out a dusty copy of a favorite Christmas film often numbers among them. In my house, we watch that movie snuggled under blankets, with big bowls of popcorn and mugs of frothy hot chocolate. My kids will likely choose It’s a Wonderful Life to be our film; they usually do.
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love this film and its uplifting story, but few know how close it came to never seeing the bright lights of Hollywood or the adoration of millions. For this story, with all it’s big heart, memorable characters and a message of unerring love, is a 1943 self-publishing success story.
Philip Van Doren Stern dreamed the bones of this tale one winter night, and crafted it into an inspirational short story. After finishing it, he did what every other author does, he sent the project to publishers, all of whom quickly rejected it. Stern took his own money and printed 200 copies. He called his book The Greatest Gift and it numbered under 50 pages. Stern wanted to share his story and hoped its message of redemption and community would resonate with others. He decided to send out all two hundred copies to his family and friends as a Christmas card.
A few years later, one of those two hundred copies landed in the hands of filmmaker Frank Capra and he loved the little unknown book’s story. It sparked a deep passion inside Capra, and he quickly bought the rights, and adapted a script and filmed it.
Capra finished the movie just in time for release at 1949 Christmas season.
It’s A Wonderful Life captured five Academy Award nominations, including one for the Best Picture category and still ranks on many fans’ favorite movie lists. Plus, it holds the American Film Institute’s number one spot for most inspirational American film of all time.
Not bad for a story no one in the publishing industry wanted.
So in honor of Christmas, I give the world back Philip Van Doren Stern, an author with a story no one wanted to buy, who somehow, even after bitter rejection, found the faith to send his story out into the world, and watched as it changed lives.