Weird History Ayn Rand Tried To Convince The US Government "It's A Wonderful Life" Was Communist Propaganda  

Lassie Smith
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Remember when Ayn Rand investigated Hollywood? 

Probably not, but during the 1940s and 1950s, the threat of Communism in the US had people scared. Really scared. As a result, Russian-born author Ayn Rand was tasked with rooting out communism from the film industry.

During the Red Scare, over 200 movies were investigated for hints of communist propaganda. Rand was put in charge of looking into films, directors, and writers, and she came to conclusions that resulted in censorship and blacklisting professionals. 

One of Rand's most surprising conclusions was there was communism in It's A Wonderful Life. Rand - and a slew of other people part of the House Un-American Activities Committee - believed Frank Capra's film about everyman George Bailey was a Trojan horse designed to subliminally convert the America public into comrades.

The FBI Labeled The Film As Su... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Ayn Rand Tried To Convince The US Government "It's A Wonderful Life" Was Communist Propaganda
Photo:  It's A Wonderful Life/RKO Pictures

The FBI Labeled The Film As Subversive


It's a Wonderful Life, a mainstay around the holidays (although it only mentions Christmas once) was once on a list of movies the Federal Bureau of Investigation thought advanced a communist agenda.

The film was based on a story by Philip Van Doren Stern and the screenplay went through several iterations before director Frank Capra acquired the rights. Screenplays by Dalton Trumbo and Clifford Odets were replaced by the written words of Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Jo Swerling, and Capra released the movie in 1946. Although it was initially supposed to star Cary Grant, it starred James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, and Donna Reed. The movie was a flop at the box office.

The year it came out, It's a Wonderful Life got unwelcome attention, however, from the FBI. The government, which had been investigating Hollywood since 1942, called it "practically a Soviet production."

According To Informants, The F... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Ayn Rand Tried To Convince The US Government "It's A Wonderful Life" Was Communist Propaganda
Photo:  It's A Wonderful Life/RKO Pictures

According To Informants, The Film Tried To Discredit Bankers And Capitalism


It's not clear how much Ayn Rand contributed to the report on the film industry - it was 13,533 pages - but the FBI definitely consulted with her when producing it. When it came to It's A Wonderful Life, the FBI concluded it "was a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a 'scrooge-type' so that he would be the most hated man in the picture."

By making capitalism seem unappealing and unpleasant, the film had to be communist propaganda. The movie could have shown the banker, Mr. Potter, as simply following mandates of the State Banking Examiners when it came to making loans, according to the FBI.

The Screenwriters Were Said To... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Ayn Rand Tried To Convince The US Government "It's A Wonderful Life" Was Communist Propaganda
Photo:  Liberty Films/WikiMedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Screenwriters Were Said To Be Close Associates Of Communists


One of the reasons It's a Wonderful Life was so laden with communist propaganda - according to the FBI report - was because of two of its screenwriters, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, were thought to be Hollywood communists.

Goodrich and Hackett, a married writing team, actually left the project before the film was complete because they got into a disagreement with Capra, but they were still attached to the movie. The FBI report indicated they were "very close to known Communists and on one occasion in the recent past... practically lived with known Communists and were observed eating luncheon daily with" known Communists. 

The Film Encouraged Class Awar... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Ayn Rand Tried To Convince The US Government "It's A Wonderful Life" Was Communist Propaganda
Photo:  Liberty Films/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Film Encouraged Class Awareness And Class Conflict


In addition to making bankers look bad, It's A Wonderful Life exposed audiences to issues of class differences by "deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters." 

That wasn't all. By showing the main character, George Bailey (played by James Stewart) as a sympathetic "everyman," the film made a"subtle attempt to magnify the problems of the so-called 'common man' in society."