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Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in December 1946. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.
The perennial Frank Capra Christmas favorite It's a Wonderful Life opened in Detroit at 5 p.m. Tuesday, December 31, 1946 at the Palms. It had earlier had its world première in New York City on December 21, 1946.
"The only regrettable thing about 'It's a Wonderful Life' is that it did not open Christmas Eve instead of New Year's Eve at the Palms-State," wrote Florence Allen in the Detroit Free Press on January 1, 1947. "Frank Capra's romantic comedy-drama is almost a modern version of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' with virtue, in the form of James Stewart, triumphing over evil, in the form of Lionel Barrymore, in a happy Christmas Eve ending."
"There's good news from Hollywood in the return of Frank Capra and James Stewart to the movie-making front," wrote Al Weitschat in The Detroit News on January 1, 1947. "In their first endeavor since their return from service, the director and the star bestow their talents on a picture certain of box office success because it is one of the most enjoyable of the year."
At the Palms, It's a Wonderful Life followed a run of Blue Skies (Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire). Second-billed with It's a Wonderful Life at the Palms was The Story of Kenneth Randall, M.D. (William Post, Jr. and Nell O'Day).
Other downtown Detroit movies on December 31, 1946 included the Alfred Hitchcock mystery Notorious (Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant) at the Broadway-Capitol; The Razor's Edge (Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney) at the Fox; The Time, The Place, and The Girl (Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson) at the Michigan; The Secret Heart (Claudette Colbert, Walter Pidgeon, June Allyson) at the United Artists; The Jolson Story (Larry Parks) at the Adams; The Big Sleep (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall) at the Madison; and the Italian war drama Open City at the Cinema.
In the neighborhoods, the Redford hosted a double bill of Black Beauty and The Stranger (Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young). At the RKO Uptown, a Gala New Year's Eve Jamboree from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. included The Big Sleep (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall), A Cock-Eyed Miracle (Keenan Wynn, Frank Morgan), a cartoon, and an organ sing.
"James Stewart returns to the screen and with Donna Reed finds 'It's a Wonderful Life' growing up in a small town, the locale for this romantic comedy - At the State," read a photo caption in the "Attractions in Ann Arbor Theaters Next Week" section of The Ann Arbor News of March 8, 1947.
Also playing in Ann Arbor on March 9 was the MGM all-star musical Till the Clouds Roll By at the Michigan, starring Van Johnson, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, June Allyson, and others. The Wuerth was screening The Return of Monte Cristo (Louis Hayward, Barbara Britton). The Whitney was showing Lighthouse (Don Castle, June Lang, John Litel).
Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of It's a Wonderful Life.
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