It Happened One Christmas (1977)

  • Year: 1977
  • Released: 11 Dec 1977
  • Country: United States
  • Adwords: Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. 2 nominations total
  • IMDb:
  • Rotten Tomatoes:
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: TV-PG
  • Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
  • Runtime: 109 min
  • Writer: Philip Van Doren Stern, Lionel Chetwynd
  • Director: Donald Wrye
  • Cast: Marlo Thomas, Orson Welles, Wayne Rogers
  • Keywords: christmas,

It Happened One Christmas Storyline

On Christmas Eve 1944 in the small town of Bedford Falls, New York, a despondent, suicidal Mary Bailey Hatch is praying for guidance on what to do about an incident that was not her fault but threatens her name and the town standing of her longtime family business, the Bailey Building and Loan, which she took over after her father’s passing. What she does not know is that most everyone in town, including her husband George Hatch and their children, are also praying for her. All their prayers are heard by Joseph, God’s gatekeeper of prayers. As there are no other angels available on such a busy day, he assigns Clara Oddbody, angel second class (she has yet to receive her wings), to Mary’s case, which he reluctantly does as she has never been assigned one on her own in the two hundred years she’s been in Heaven for good reason. As she learns about Mary’s case, she sees a selfless woman who always wanted to explore the world but never did, while others around her were able to fulfill their own dreams because of her sacrifice. She always decided to do what was better for others instead, especially in dealing with Henry Potter, the town’s richest and power-hungriest man. When Clara begins to help her over this crisis, Clara believes she’s come up with a way to show her how important her life is when she says that the world would have been better off if she had never been born.—Huggo

It Happened One Christmas Photos

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It Happened One Christmas Movie Reviews

I loved this movie!! It happened One Christmas.

I saw this movie when I was 15 years old. I never forgot it. It has remained in my heart all these years. I forgot the name of the movie but not that Marlo Thomas was in it. I have been trying to get a copy of this movie now, that I know the name of the movie. It is a great movie. I have Its A Wonderful life and its good too. I just like It Happened One Christmas better. It touched my heart and got into my soul. Some movies do that to you and this one did it for me. I loved that it was in color. I love the modern version. I liked the switch of gender. I related to the struggle in the movie. I was going through a hard time in my life at the time and it gave me hope.It also made me realize that perhaps our lives are not only for ourselves but for others as well. This movie is a real jewel. You can watch it alone or with your family. One movie is not hard to find and the other should be made available so more people can decide for themselves. I wish It happened One Christmas to everyone. We are not all going to be moved by the same movie.This movie did it for me. If you want a copy of this movie I just found a great website for those hard to find movies. Go to click on holiday movies. scroll down until you find the title of the movie,It Happened One Christmas. You can also try My and contact Toni and give him the name of the movie you are looking for.

I can’t wait to see the movie after all these years. I have only seen it the one time. The impact of It Happened One Christmas is profound to me. I want it in my collection, and so should anyone who wants it.

I’ll take THIS version EVERY time. If Universal was smart they should put it on DVD!

I must admit, I liked “It Happened One Christmas” *much* better than “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As with a few other IMDbers, this was the first version of the story I ever saw; when ABC stopped running the film after 1978, and until Universal Television syndicated it to local stations in 1986, I had to settle for “It’s a Wonderful Life” in the interim, which I think couldn’t, and *never* will, hold a candle to “It Happened One Christmas” (for one thing, Marlo Thomas *doesn’t* go screaming all the way through the scenes, like James Stewart did in the original, where she saw what life would be like without her. Much like Janet Burston in the later “Our Gang” shorts, Stewart’s screaming gave me many headaches which lasted long after the film was over); for another, Ms. Thomas’ version was in Technicolor; and for yet another, there was the novelty of the gender switch in the lead role, telling the story from Mary Bailey’s point of view. And, there was yet another plus in seeing such up-and-coming stars as Doris Roberts and Christopher Guest in one of their earlier roles).

“It Happened One Christmas” not only holds some cherished memories of my “wonder years” (I was 15 years old when this film was first shown on ABC; little did I realize December 1977 would be my family’s final Christmas in Lansing, Michigan since my father capriciously decided to move us all to Illinois in June 1978), but four years later, in July 1981, my father and I took a trip to California, and we went on the Universal Studios Hollywood tour. When I saw “It Happened One Christmas” again in 1986, there were some parts of the Universal lot I recognized where the film was shot (“Leave It to Beaver” and “The Munsters” were also filmed on that same portion of the Universal lot where the exteriors of “It Happened One Christmas” were done), so yet another pleasant memory was encoded into it!

In mid-1987, shortly after my family bought their first VCR, I wrote to MCA/Universal Home Video (as the company was then known), asking if they would ever put “It Happened One Christmas” on videocassette; they sent back a form letter essentially saying, “not at this time,” along with a catalogue of their then-current releases. Two years later, in December 1989, the film was rerun on USA (which Universal had a stake of ownership in at that time, and still does today); I was lucky to have taped “It Happened One Christmas” then (USA showed the entire film uncut, not edited to fit the time slot), but now the tape is beginning to deteriorate after 17 years. (I almost rerecorded “It Happened One Christmas” when it was shown on the ion Network December 22, but was glad I didn’t after seeing the “hatchet job” they did on it – all the more reason Universal should put the film, uncut, on DVD!)

All I can suggest is: To those of us like myself who DID like and enjoy “It Happened One Christmas” better than “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and would like to see Universal Studios Home Entertainment (as they are now known) release the film on DVD, Universal’s contact e-mail and snail-mail addresses should be given at their website. E-mail or write Universal and tell them to put “It Happened One Christmas” on DVD; remember: the more requests Universal gets about this film, the faster they’ll unearth it and put it on DVD (one point to emphasize to Universal when writing: they *never* even released this TV movie on VHS tape)!

I give “It Happened One Christmas” a perfect 10. And to those who thumbed their nose at this version, I’d like to paraphrase a statement the late showman P. T. Barnum once made: “The critics be damned!”

Happy Holidays!

Why remake a classic? Here’s one example why.

Years after the end of “That Girl”, Marlo Thomas returned to TV with this remake of “It’s a Wonderful Life” that is surprisingly superb. The character of George Bailey is now Mary Bailey (the wife’s married name in the original), and she is married to George Hatch (Wayne Rogers) but it is her who the head of the local building and loan, having inherited it upon the death of her father at the insistence of town miser Orson Welles. He obviously wants to destroy her, both out of pure greed (the building and loan is the only business in town he doesn’t own) and pure misogyny. Through the flashbacks told to angel Clara (Cloris Leachman, doing a cockney Bette Davis impression), Mary’s past is told, up to her thoughts of suicide.

This gender reversal of the classic story is well thought out, and even being set in the first half of the 20th Century, the fact that a woman becomes successful in business in her small home town makes perfect sense because she’s got the ambition to succeed. But the rise to success brings on a tremendous fall, and Mary sees through Clara’s guidance what her hometown became because she was never born.

This differs enough from the original to have its own take on the story, and Thomas is powerful as she faces each obstacle and the revelation of what her town would be like without her. Welles is an excellent substitute for Lionel Barrymore, completely ruthless yet manipulatively charming when he needs to be. I couldn’t imagine who other than Welles could have played this role in the late 1970’s.

As for Leachman, her Emmy nominated performance is in line with the eccentric characters she played in all those Mel Brooks movies, but some audience members might find her laughable. She really doesn’t get much screen time, but she is unforgettable. Doris Roberts doesn’t get much screen time as Mary’s mother either (the Beulah Bondi part), so the impact of the two sides of the character is never felt. But the point of the film is made, and the impact is still there. It may not be an excellent remake, but I couldn’t imagine it being anymore wonderful.