Seneca Falls
Debra Millet—Getty Images
By Raisa Bruner
December 9, 2016

Frank Capra’s seminal holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life is as much about protagonist and all-around good man George Bailey as it is about the mechanics of the small town he lives in, Bedford Falls. But while Bedford Falls is ostensibly a fictional place, one village in New York insists that their municipality is the inspiration behind it, NPR reports.

Seneca Falls is perhaps best known as the site of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, a landmark event in the history of women’s rights in America. But the town is touting another claim to fame, this time in relation to Capra’s film. Sitting just off the Finger Lakes, it’s exactly the quaint kind of place you’d want to set a movie: a traditional Main Street, a river and bridge, even a mill. And to top it off, residents of Seneca Falls tell stories of director Capra’s visit to their hometown before he made the movie.

“I really believe this is what inspired Capra. It’s got the canal, it’s got names of the streets, it’s got the Victorian houses—I mean, it’s got it all,” Karolyn Grimes told NPR. Grimes plays Zuzu, George Bailey’s daughter, in the 1946 film; she was six at the time of production. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the beloved movie’s release, which Seneca Falls will be celebrating during its annual holiday festival. The town even boasts a museum dedicated to the movie—and a local historian remembers Capra visiting and getting his hair cut. So although he never named it as the inspiration, there’s plenty of evidence in favor of Seneca Falls, even down to that bridge from which one could ponder the value of one’s life.

 

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