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It Happened One Christmas (1977)

It's Christmas Eve 1944 in the small town of Bedford Falls, New York. A despondent and suicidal Mary Bailey Hatch is praying for guidance on what to do about an incident no fault of her own... See full summary »



(story "The Greatest Gift"), (written for television by) | 4 more credits »
Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Uncle Willie
Karen Carlson ...
Cliff Norton ...
Sassini (as Gene Conforti)
Morgan Upton ...


It's Christmas Eve 1944 in the small town of Bedford Falls, New York. A despondent and suicidal Mary Bailey Hatch is praying for guidance on what to do about an incident no fault of her own which threatens her name and the community standing of her longtime family business, the Bailey Building and Loan, which she took over after the passing of her father. What Mary does not know is that most in town, including her husband George Hatch and their children, are also praying for her. All the prayers are heard by Joseph, God's gatekeeper of prayers. As there are no other angels available on such a busy day, Joseph assigns Clara Oddbody, angel second class (i.e. she has yet to receive her wings), to Mary's case, which he reluctantly does as Clara has never been assigned a case on her own in the two hundred years she's been in heaven for good reason. As Clara learns about Mary's case, she sees a selfless woman who always wanted to explore the world but never did, while others around her were... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Fantasy





Release Date:

11 December 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sucedió en Navidad  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title is a reference to on It Happened One Night (1934), and this TV movie is a remake of It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Both films were directed by Frank Capra See more »


When the townspeople sing Auld Lang Syne in the Baily/Hatch house, there is no attempt to sync the song with their lip movement. See more »


Remake of It's a Wonderful Life (1946) See more »

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User Reviews

I'll take THIS version EVERY time. If Universal was smart they should put it on DVD!
22 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I must admit, I liked "It Happened One Christmas" MUCH better than "It's a Wonderful Life." As with a few other IMDbers, this was the first version of the story I ever saw; when ABC stopped running the film after 1978, and until Universal Television syndicated it to local stations in 1986, I had to settle for "It's a Wonderful Life" in the interim, which I think couldn't, and NEVER will, hold a candle to "It Happened One Christmas" (for one thing, Marlo Thomas DOESN'T go screaming all the way through the scenes, like James Stewart did in the original, where she saw what life would be like without her; for another, Ms. Thomas' version was in Technicolor; and for yet another, there was the novelty of the gender switch in the lead role, telling the story from Mary Bailey's point of view. And, there was yet another plus in seeing such up-and-coming stars as Doris Roberts and Christopher Guest in one of their earlier roles).

"It Happened One Christmas" not only holds some cherished memories of my "wonder years" (I was 15 years old when this film was first shown on ABC; little did I realize December 1977 would be my family's final Christmas in Lansing, Michigan since my father capriciously decided to move us all to Illinois in June 1978), but four years later, in July 1981, my father and I took a trip to California, and we went on the Universal Studios Hollywood tour. When I saw "It Happened One Christmas" again in 1986, there were some parts of the Universal lot I recognized where the film was shot ("Leave It to Beaver" and "The Munsters" were also filmed on that same portion of the Universal lot where the exteriors of "It Happened One Christmas" were done), so yet another pleasant memory was encoded into it!

In mid-1987, shortly after my family bought their first VCR, I wrote to MCA/Universal Home Video (as the company was then known), asking if they would ever put "It Happened One Christmas" on videocassette; they sent back a form letter essentially saying, "not at this time," along with a catalogue of their then-current releases. Two years later, in December 1989, the film was rerun on USA (which Universal had a stake of ownership in at that time, and still does today); I was lucky to have taped "It Happened One Christmas" then (USA showed the entire film uncut, not edited to fit the time slot), but now the tape is beginning to deteriorate after 17 years. (I almost rerecorded "It Happened One Christmas" when it was shown on the ion Network December 22, but was glad I didn't after seeing the "hatchet job" they did on it - all the more reason Universal should put the film, uncut, on DVD!)

All I can suggest is: To those of us like myself who DID like and enjoy "It Happened One Christmas" better than "It's a Wonderful Life," and would like to see Universal Studios Home Entertainment (as they are now known) release the film on DVD, Universal's contact e-mail and snail-mail addresses should be given at their website. E-mail or write Universal and tell them to put "It Happened One Christmas" on DVD; remember: the more requests Universal gets about this film, the faster they'll unearth it and put it on DVD (one point to emphasize to Universal when writing: they NEVER even released this TV movie on VHS tape)!

I give "It Happened One Christmas" a perfect 10. And to those who thumbed their nose at this version, I'd like to rephrase a statement the late showman P.T. Barnum once made: "The critics be damned!"

Happy Holidays!

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