HomeCar CultureA wonderful story about ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ Dodge

A wonderful story about ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ Dodge

Upstate New York community raising money to bring the car home


Seemingly everyone’s favorite Christmas movie, Frank Capra’s multiple-Oscar-winning 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, features Stewart’s character, George Bailey, driving — and crashing — a 1919 Dodge Brothers touring car in Bedford Falls in upstate New York.

This past weekend, that car had a starring role of its own in the 75th Anniversary edition of the It’s A Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls, New York, reported.  The car, now restored, was displayed at James Chrysler Dodge Jeep & Ram throughout the annual festival, and its owner, Keith Smith, shared “Interesting Facts About George Bailey’s Car” in a presentation December 10 at Trinity Church.

At the dealership, the car was reunited with Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu), Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy) and Carol Coombs (Janie), the actors who portrayed the Bailey children in the movie.

Jimmy Hawkins, Carol Coombs and Karolyn Grimes portrayed Bailey children in the movie

During the festival, a fundraising campaign continued as the community seeks to purchase the car for permanent display at the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum.

The museum, which opened in 2010, resides in a 1913 building that was the first movie theater in Seneca Falls, an upstate community that, among other things, produced the bronze stars for the Hollywood Walk of Fame until the mid-1970s — and thus the stars that were placed to honor Capra, Stewart, Reed and Barrymore.

After its movie career, the Dodge was purchased by Bill Harrah for his collection in Reno, Nevada. It later was sold to a couple in San Diego. They hired Smith, a skilled woodworker, to help with the car’s restoration and in 2010, they sold the car, bearing Twentieth Century-Fox ID tag 789, to Smith and his wife, Marilyn.

The car was displayed at the James dealership along with a mockup of the new museum sign that will be posted on the New York Thruway to celebrate the movie’s 75th anniversary
Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.



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