Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

December 20, 2013

Seneca Falls, N.Y., claims link to 'Wonderful Life'

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — Is this where George Bailey lived his wonderful life?

Folks in this quaint upstate New York town think so.

Or more precisely, they say Bailey’s make-believe hometown of Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — including the main street and the steel truss bridge — was heavily inspired by Seneca Falls.

This cannot be proven, and director Frank Capra never confirmed such a connection. But that hasn’t stopped locals from celebrating the beloved movie every December, complete with actors dressed as Clarence the Angel and mean old Mr. Potter parading down a main street gussied up to look like Bedford Falls.

“Capra always said Bedford Falls represented little slices of small towns that he had visited all across America. We’re not in a position to dispute that,” said Francis Caraccilo, a trustee for the Seneca Falls It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. “We just think we’re a bigger slice.”

Capra’s 1946 film stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a small-town, frustrated banker who realizes his life’s value after Clarence shows him what would become of Bedford Falls if George had never been born.

The homey town falls into the clutches of the greedy slumlord Potter, and his Pottersville becomes a city of sin, brimming with sleazy nightclubs, burlesque halls, pawn shops and neon lights.

If Bedford Falls (the nice one, not the naughty one) really was modeled after Seneca Falls, Capra never let on, and died in 1991. But many in this town of 9,000 say they have a strong circumstantial case.

Seneca Falls has a nice broad main street like Bedford Falls’, and there’s a bridge with a plaque dedicated to a man who jumped from the span to save a suicidal woman in 1917 — an act echoed in the film.

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