Every year, Kelly Stewart Harcourt looks forward to seeing her father James Stewart on the silver screen.
The actor famously started as George Bailey in the 1946 classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The beloved drama, directed by Frank Capra, tells the story of an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) who is sent from heaven to help George Bailey (Stewart), a desperately frustrated businessman on the verge of suicide. Clarence then shows George what life would really have been like if he had never existed.
The black-and-white classic has become a staple during the holiday season and is still recognized as one of Stewart’s most iconic films.
“My father often said his favorite movie was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’” Stewart Harcourt told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue currently on newsstands.
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The 69-year-old told the outlet that her famous father, who passed away in 1997 at age 89, always made sure to make their family’s Christmas celebration extra special.
One of Stewart Harcourt’s favorite memories involved a trip to Hawaii in 1958 where someone made a surprise appearance.
“Once my dad dressed as Santa Claus and came into our bedroom — my sister and I were astounded,” she said
Stewart Harcourt insisted that her father never broke out of character.
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“I slapped him on the back and nudged him, but he just carried on as Santa,” she said.
Stewart Harcourt is aware that watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” has become a treasured family tradition for many Americans. She said that Stewart was initially drawn to the script for its hopeful message of love.
James Stewart and wife Gloria Stewart with daughters Judy and Kelly.
(Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images)
“When he needed strength, help and comfort, he would pray and go to church,” she said.
Back in December 2019, Karolyn Grimes and Jimmy Hawkins, the former child actors who played Zuzu and Tommy Bailey in the film, told Fox News they still had fond memories of Stewart.
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“Well, when I was upstairs in the petal scene with him and I was sick, I messed up a line,” said Grimes, 80. “Jimmy Stewart said, ‘That’s OK, Karolyn. You’ll get it right next time.’ We did the scene again and I got the line perfectly. I’ll tell you, it was really good for my ego and my self-confidence. He really gave me a pat on the back there, and I’ll never forget that. He was a wonderful, wonderful man. He touched a lot of lives, just being him. He was George Bailey in real life.”
“He was,” chimed Hawkins, 79. “You could see where Jimmy Stewart came from. Indiana, Pennsylvania — kind of a small town. And of course, Donna Reed in Denison, Iowa. They brought the elements of those towns to that movie. You could see it. They were just regular people and they captured who they really were, from small-town America.”
Clockwise from top: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Carol Coombs, Jimmy Hawkins, Larry Simms and Karolyn Grimes.
(Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images)
“The thing you remember most is years after the movie, how when you run into Jimmy Stewart, or — I had the pleasure of working with Donna Reed years later, too, — and how nice they were,” he continued. “They were just very nice people. And very giving. That’s the best memory you can take away from doing a picture at 4 and a half years of age. These people were very nice. Very, very nice.”
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