2. The rights are mighty sticky. One of the first to talk people off the ledge on Twitter was the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick, who tweeted, “Don’t worry, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE sequel not gonna happen. Rights hopelessly tangled, as those behind 1980s Broadway musical discovered.” He’s right; A Wonderful Life, with music by Joe Raposo (Sesame Street) and book and lyrics by Sheldon Hamick (Fiddler on the Roof), had its hopes of a Broadway run dashed by controversy over the material. It’s a Wonderful Life is based on the Phillip Van Doren Stern story “The Greatest Gift,” and it was that branch of its origination that ultimately rescued the film from the public domain — a lapsed copyright on the film itself led to the proliferation of shabby VHS releases, Ted Turner’s ill-advised colorization, and the endless holiday screenings that ultimately made it a seasonal favorite. So a sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life would have to clear the rights to not only the screenplay (by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, and director Frank Capra), which changed names and added characters, but the original Stern story as well. None of those clearances are mentioned in the Variety story. Not that such accommodations can’t be made…
3. We’ve been through this before. Those with knowledge of the more obscure corners of moviedom (and made-for-TV-moviedom) have been quick to point out that the picture is not exactly untouched. In 1977, ABC aired It Happened One Christmas, a gender-reversed remake starring Marlo Thomas, Wayne Rogers, Cloris Leachman as the angel “Clara,” and Orson Welles as Mr. Potter. It’s mostly forgotten today, never issued on home video (possibly due to those same rights issues). And in 1991, a made-for-TV sequel called Clarence, featuring Robert Carradine in Henry Travers’ guardian angel role, aired to mass indifference.
Nobody remembers those movies, and everyone remembers It’s A Wonderful Life, and that’s kind of the point: for all of our wailing and gnashing of teeth and natural instincts, as film lover, to “protect” the classics, we don’t actually have to worry about them. They remade Casablanca and turned it into a TV series (twice!). They made a TV-miniseries sequel to Gone with the Wind. They made Return to Oz. None of them extinguished our affection for the original—and nothing could. The notion of an It’s a Wonderful Life sequel is sad, sure, but it probably won’t happen. And if it does, it will end up yet another long-forgotten footnote in the long history of people trying, and failing, to recapture Hollywood magic.
And if you really needed more closure on George Bailey and the family, well, there’s always this: