In a report titled “Communist Infiltration into the Motion Picture Industry,” a special agent in the FBI’s Los Angeles office “conceded that the film was ‘very entertaining’ but also identified what they considered a malignant undercurrent in the film,” Noakes said.
And “working closely with industry informants,” the FBI concluded the filmmakers used “common tricks” used by Communists to inject propaganda into the film, specifically the trashing of “values or institutions judged to be particularly American.”
Those “tricks,” as reported by Smithsonian Magazine, include the character of “the capitalist banker, Mr. Potter, [who] is portrayed as a Scroogey misanthrope” – glorifying “values or institutions judged to be particularly anti-American or pro-Communist.”
Also cited were the Oscar-nominated film’s themes of depression and existential crisis, “an issue that the FBI report characterized as a ‘subtle attempt to magnify the problems of the so-called ‘common man’ in society,” according to The Smithsonian.
According to The Washington Post, the FBI claimed two of the film’s screenwriters, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, “were very close to known Communists and on one occasion in the recent past . . . practically lived with known Communists and were observed” eating lunch every day with them.
The federal agency also claimed the movie “deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters,” The Post said.
But the FBI’s conclusions didn’t go far.
It submitted its findings to the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was created to ferret out groups and individuals with Communist ties. But the committee declined to take action and the film was allowed to continue to be screened.
In a 1946 interview, Capra said his movie promoted “the individual’s belief in himself” and that he made it “to combat a modern trend toward atheism.”
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” which also stars Henry Travers, Lionel Barrymore, Gloria Grahame and Beulah Bondi, is considered the best Christmas film of all time by the movie-review website Rotten Tomatoes, which calls it “the holiday classic to define all holiday classics.”
It will be aired Sunday, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC-TV.