Skip to comments.Looking Back on Playing Tommy in ‘Wonderful Life’
Posted on 12/25/2016 11:08:35 AM PST by nickcarraway
At 75, Jimmy Hawkins is just a little older than Its a Wonderful Life (1946), the film he is most closely associated with and the one for which he had his first credited screen role, as George (James Stewart) and Mary Baileys (Donna Reed) young son Tommy. Though his acting career continued including a recurring stint as Shelley Fabares boyfriend on The Donna Reed Show and he eventually became a producer, it is to Its a Wonderful Life that he keeps returning, writing numerous books on the subject.
Now, with Paramount releasing Its a Wonderful Life in a new, two-disc Platinum Anniversary edition, in both DVD and Blu-ray, Hawkins is once more sharing his memories of the holiday classic.
Q: You were so little when you made Its a Wonderful Life. What do you remember most about it?
A: I was 4½ that half was a big deal to me and I remember vividly Mom waking me up and it was still dark outside. We would take the bus and streetcar to get out to Culver City. Wed finally get to RKO Studios in Culver City and walk on Stage 14 over there. Here would be the Bailey house, the interior, and the Christmas tree was up. Here it is 90 degrees outside and freezing inside, because there was real snow outside of that house.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Quotes from Its a Wonderful Life I learned something much later from Donna Reed She said, We used to call you Rip Van Winkle. You were so cute. You could sleep anyplace, anytime, no matter the commotion going on around you. Then all of a sudden, theyd wake you up and youd be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and do whatever they asked.
I have vivid memories of Frank Capra rehearsing the scene where we come out of the living room and go into the kitchen and I keep saying, Excuse me! Excuse me! and then the final line is, I burped! That line was written the night before. Capra would be great at they call it tap-dancing. He would see something and change it right on the spot.
The pool scene they were over at Beverly Hills High School scouting the location (for the dance scene), and the assistant director, Art Black, said, You know, underneath this basketball court is a swimming pool. Capra said, Open up. Show me. Then he wrote all the stuff in the script about the swimming pool. He always was thinking.
He was thinking the night before when he wrote that Excuse me line. He wanted a lot of commotion to be going on in that scene while George is only thinking of losing $8,000 and his life is over. It was the most difficult scene in the movie to direct, Capra told me. There were so many elements going on.
Q: What do you remember about Jimmy Stewart?
A: A vivid scene I remember is putting tinsel on Jimmy Stewarts head and then, all of the sudden, he pulls me in to him. He was very professional. He didnt talk down to us. He would treat us as if he was with a professional actor. He was like, Hey, they were hired to do a job and theyre doing it.
Years later, I had the opportunity of doing something with him or being at a party with him and he was very cordial. He wanted to talk about the colorization (of the film). He wasnt a big fan of it. He thought it looked like Walt Disney threw up on (the picture).
Q: Its a Wonderful Life is 70 years old. Why do you think it has endured the way that it has?
A: Its the message. Each mans life touches so many others; if they werent around, it would leave an awful hole. Thats so true. They realize that they are important when they see that film, just like George Bailey. He didnt think he was doing anything so great. He was running Bailey Building & Loan, giving people loans so they could get a house. Why should they wait until theyre old to have a house? He was encouraging people. He helped people. Thats what the audience sees. Maybe I can make a difference. Maybe I have made a difference.
It must have been very frustrating to Frank Capra to make this great film and then it lost money at the box office. It was rewarded with five Oscar nominations. It didnt win any, but he lived long enough to see that the picture was important. I remember talking to Sheldon Leonard, who played Nick the bartender. He said, The film never changed. The people changed.
Buffalo girls woncha come out tonight
And dance by the light of the moon....
The Burt and Ernie muppets spawned off from this movie too.
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