“I’ve always been suspicious of these people that say, we shot this picture in such a short time because we planned it completely and we rehearsed it for five weeks and we knew exactly what we were doing, and we came in and everyone knew what they were doing, so we breezed through this picture and it was no problem, and it’s so simple,” he said. “It’s not that simple. John Ford always said that the best things that have ever happened in film, in American film, have happened by accident. He’s rather an outspoken fellow. I’m sort of inclined to agree with him.”
He also recounted how Capra pitched the idea of the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” to him: “He said, ‘It starts in heaven and you're down here on earth and you’re going to commit suicide, because you think you’re a failure. And you get out on a bridge and you're going to jump off the bridge, and then your guardian angel, he comes down.’ He said, ‘Jesus, this just sounds awful, doesn't it?’ And I said, ‘Frank, if you want to make a picture that starts in heaven with a guardian angel, I’m all for it.’ And it went from there.”
Additional Interview With Jimmy Stewart
Stewart sat down with Joan Bakewell at the British Film Institute’s National Film Theatre in 1972 and covered much of the same ground as in the Columbia interview. Asked what he was “most proud of having done,” Stewart responded, “A feller came up to me the other day and said ‘I don’t know whether this means anything to you but you’ve given me and my family a lot of enjoyment over the years.’ And I said to him, ‘Does it mean anything to me? It means everything to me. That’s the ballgame. That's it.’ And I think that if I have done that to that man, and maybe a couple more … then I’m proud of that.”
To learn more about Jimmy Stewart, read his profile on findingDulcinea.