The Greatest Gift (story) - History

History

Inspired by a dream, Stern finished the 4,100-word short story in 1943 after working on it since November 1939. Unable to find a publisher, he sent the 200 copies he had printed as a 21-page booklet to friends as Christmas presents in December 1943. Stern privately published the short story in 1945, and it was copyrighted in 1945.

The story came to the attention of RKO Pictures producer David Hempstead, who showed it to actor Cary Grant, who became interested in playing the lead role. RKO purchased the motion-picture rights for $10,000 in April 1944. After several screenwriters worked on adaptations, RKO sold the rights to the story in 1945 to Frank Capra's production company for the same $10,000, which he adapted into It's a Wonderful Life.

The story was first published as a book in December 1944, with illustrations by Rafaello Busoni. Stern also sold it to Reader's Scope magazine, which published the story in its December 1944 issue, and to the magazine Good Housekeeping, which published it under the title "The Man Who Was Never Born" in its January 1945 issue (published in December 1944).

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