If it’s Christmas season, then you know people are popping a copy of Frank Capra’s classic holiday story, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” into their DVD players! The 1946 movie starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey is considered a holiday staple for many people. So the eternal question with the setting of the movie arises again: did Capra base Bedford Falls on Seneca Falls, New York?
There are many similarities. First, both towns are similar in that there are mill towns. Second, both towns had a grassy median run down Main Street (the median is no longer a part of Seneca Falls today), both towns had Victorian architecture and a large Italian population. The iconic bridge in Bedford Falls looked exactly like one in Seneca Falls. Lastly, the geographical setting was similar: Upstate New York close to Buffalo, Rochester, and Elmira.
However, the clincher may be that Capra is said to have visited Seneca Falls in 1945 looking for an inspiration for the town of Bedford Falls. Furthermore, he had an aunt who lived In Auburn, NY. A barber by the name of Tommy Bellissima remembered cutting his hair and discussing life in Italy and being an immigrant shortly after the movie was released.
Although Capra never mentioned Seneca Falls in his memoirs and no definitive proof exists that he visited Seneca Falls, the proud people of Seneca Falls staunchly believe that there is enough evidence to claim that Capra based Bedford Falls after their beautiful town. And you know what? I believe them!