‘It’s A Wonderful Life’: Why You Shouldn’t Watch The Streaming Version

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It's a Wonderful Life: The streaming version is an abominationIt's a Wonderful Life: The streaming version is an abomination

The 1946 American Christmas supernatural drama film It’s a Wonderful Life, which Frank Capra directed, is based on the short story, The Greatest Gift, which was authored by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943. The book itself was loosely adapted from the 1843 Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol. Despite It’s a Wonderful Life’s grand storyline and being nominated for five Academy Awards, the movie initially garnered a mixed reaction and was unsuccessful at the box office.

Over the years, the film gained popularity and is now regarded as one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. JoBlo’s Editor-in-Chief, Chris Bumbray, recently expressed his dissatisfaction with the streaming version of the movie airing on Pluto, Tubi, and Roku, referring to it as “an abomination with a new title and a terrible new musical score.”

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ streaming version is an abomination

It's a wonderful lifeIt's a wonderful life
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Thomas Mitchell, Donna Reed, James Stewart, Karolyn Grimes Wilkerson, Beulah Bondi, 1946

“Not since old man Potter stole $8000 from Uncle Billy and the Savings & Loan has poor George Bailey had to deal with so much misfortune on Christmas Eve,” Chris shared his thoughts about the streaming version of the movie. “At least, that’s what I thought when I was skimming PlutoTV last night and discovered, to my horror, that the version of It’s a Wonderful Life streaming on the service’s 24-hour channel dedicated solely to that movie has an alternate score.”

“Indeed, Dimitri Tiomkin’s classic score has been replaced by a new score that sounds like it was lifted out of a Hallmark holiday movie. No, scratch that,” he wrote. “That’s not fair to Hallmark movies. It sounds like the kind of score you’d hear in a Canadian Hallmark rip-off or something on the Great American Family Network. And that’s not it.”

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE,
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, James Stewart, Thomas Mitchell, Donna Reed, 1946

Chris shares more thoughts about the film production

The Editor-in-Chief explained the copyright issues the ’50s film is facing. “So what gives? It comes down to a rights issue. One of the interesting things about It’s a Wonderful Life is that the film was a notorious flop when it came out in January of 1947,” he shared. “Audiences at the time, perhaps reeling from the fallout of WW2, were more interested in film noir than an upbeat Christmas movie (albeit one with a heavy dose of noir-inspired melancholy worked in), stayed away, and the film sunk into obscurity.”

“It was put out by a short-lived company, Liberty Films, founded by the movie’s director, Frank Capra, but it went under, and Capra’s career never recovered. Most of the company’s films lapsed into public domain, including It’s a Wonderful Life,” he added. “Oddly, that was the movie’s salvation, as TV networks could show the film for free whenever they wanted to. It became constantly shown around the holidays beginning in the seventies, and that’s how it became a holiday staple.”

It's a Wonderful LifeIt's a Wonderful Life
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, from left, Carol Coombs, James Stewart, Donna Reed, 1946

“Eventually, Republic Pictures (now owned by Paramount) could resecure the copyright because while the film elements were no longer protected by copyright, the musical score was. Thus, while still being shown by networks like NBC (who are still showing the legit version), the movie was no longer free to air,” Chris concluded. “However, some ad-supported streaming services who don’t want to shell out big bucks for the streaming rights have found a way around this legal loophole by (badly) muting the score by Dimitri Tiomkin and replacing it with a cheap new version.”

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