This is my all time favourite movie, a couple of facts I just learnt ……… It's Based on a Christmas Card Philip Van Doren Stern wrote the original story, "The greatest gift" in 1943. Unable to get it published, he printed 200 copies of the 4,000-word fable and sent them as Christmas cards to friends, relatives and his Hollywood agent, who sold the film rights to RKO for just $10,000. An RKO producer then showed the story to Cary Grant, who liked it so much that he wanted to play George Bailey—the part that eventually went to James Stewart. During World War II, James Stewart gave up a $12,000-a-week Hollywood salary for a military paycheck of $21 a month. He flew dozens of combat missions in Nazi-occupied Europe and came home a decorated war hero. But after five years without acting, Stewart felt insecure about his performance in front of the camera. "I couldn't tell if I was good or bad," he later said. The actor finally hit his stride thanks to a pep talk from Lionel Barrymore, who played Henry F. Potter, "the richest and meanest man in the county."