- FBI informants claimed the movie was a vessel for communist messages
- Claimed screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich associated with known communists
- Report was part of 2,000 page document compiled about communist ‘influence’ in Hollywood
PUBLISHED: 21:40 EST, 23 December 2013 | UPDATED: 02:16 EST, 24 December 2013
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a Christmas classic – adored by families and praised by critics as one of the best American movies ever made.
But in 1946, when the movie came out, the FBI labelled it as subversive – a vessel for communist propaganda.
During the Red Scare after World War II, FBI informants claimed the film’s portrayal of wealthy banker Mr Potter as a greedy villain was a sure sign of communist influence.
Recently-published FBI documents also reveal that investigators had their eye on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, a husband and wife duo who were accused of associating with known communists.
‘With regard to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” [informant names redacted] stated in substance that the files represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture,’ according to a 2,000-page FBI report called ‘Communist Infiltration in the Motion Picture Industry’ that was assembled between 1942 and 1958.
‘This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by communists.’
The declassified FBI files were unearthed by writer John Sbardellati in his 2012 book ‘J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies: The FBI and the Origins of Hollywood’s Cold War.’
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ stars Jimmy Stewart as a small-town loan officer whose $8,000 deposit, enough to bankrupt his savings and loan company, is stolen by Mr Henry Potter, the greedy head of the local bank. Just as Stewart’s character, George Bailey, is about to commit suicide, his guardian angel appears and shows him what life in his town of Bedford Falls would be life if he had never lived.
The Christmas classic was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best actor. It has also been ranked No. 11 on the American Film Institute’s top 100 American films.
However, a group convened by J. Edgard Hoover’s Los Angeles FBI field office found it to be dangerous propaganda, according to media blog Aphelis.
The anonymous circle of screenwriters targeted both the writers and the film itself. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and other films were targeted under a film regime designed by Ayn Rand, the ‘Atlas Shrugged’ writer who has become an icon for some libertarian conservatives in recent years, according to Aphelis.
the writers Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett were very close to known Communists and on one occasion in the recent past… practically lived with known Communists and were observed eating luncheon daily with such Communists as Lester Cole, screenwriter, and Early Robinson, screenwriter,’ the FBI document says.
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