MOVIES

What Happened To Donna Reed After It’s A Wonderful Life?

It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Donna Reed playing James Stewart’s wife in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But Reed was not exactly a shoo-in for the role. Movie director Frank Capra first considered Stewart’s previous movie co-star Jean Arthur for the part, according to The Stream. In addition, screen legend Ginger Rogers and several other big-name stars were also offered the role but passed on it. Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, told Fox News that amid his casting search, Capra “knew right away” that Reed was his Mary when he met her for the first time. “Her experience of working with Frank Capra was nothing like she’d ever experienced before or after,” Owen said. “It was demanding work, but it was the most deeply satisfying work she’d ever experienced. She had worked in MGM films up to that point … But Capra was independent and a visionary. He did things completely differently. And she loved it.”‘

Reed had the opportunity to publicly thank Capra when she paid tribute to him at the 10th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 1982. “When I finished making [It’s a Wonderful Life”] I thought perhaps I might not make any more movies,” Reed said in her speech. “I suppose I knew on some deep level that I would never have another experience in a film to equal it.” Reed added that she “never dreamed” that people would watch the film every Christmas Eve for decades to come. To Capra, she said directly, “Frank, I am very grateful and beholden to you for letting me be Mary Bailey. Thank you.”

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