THE BASIS FOR “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”: FIRST BOOK EDITION OF PHILIP VAN DOREN STERN’S THE GREATEST GIFT; SIGNED BY HIM

  • The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale.

The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale.

$8,800.00

Item Number: 22036

Philadelphia: David McKay Company, 1944.

First edition of this classic Christmas story, the basis for Frank Capra’s beloved movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Small Octavo, original cloth. Signed by Philip Van Doren Stern on the half-title page. Fine in a near fine dust jacket with a touch of wear. Illustrated by Rafaello Busoni. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. A superior example, rare signed.

Inspired by a dream, remarkably similar to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol published in 1843, Stern finished the 4,100-word short story in 1943 after working on it since November 1939. Unable to find a publisher, he sent the 200 copies he had printed as a 21-page booklet to friends as Christmas presents in December 1943. Stern privately published the short story in 1945, and it was copyrighted in 1945. The story came to the attention of RKO Pictures producer David Hempstead, who showed it to actor Cary Grant, who became interested in playing the lead role. RKO purchased the motion-picture rights for $10,000 in April 1944. After several screenwriters worked on adaptations, RKO sold the rights to the story in 1945 to Frank Capra's production company for the same $10,000, which he adapted into It's a Wonderful Life. The film starring James Steward and Donna Reid was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made.

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