The Martini House from “It’s A Wonderful Life”Dec 22nd, 2009 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
As difficult as it may be to believe, even though I absolutely love Christmas and even though I am a huge film buff, up until this past weekend I had never in my life watched the 1946 holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life. I know, I know, for a person like me, not having seen that movie borders on sacrilege! But when fellow stalker David contacted me a few months back and let me know that he had tracked down a location used in the film, I just HAD to stalk the place – and, of course, include it in my Christmas posts. I also just HAD to sit down and finally watch It’s A Wonderful Life, which my fiancé and I did this past Saturday night. I have to admit that I didn’t actually have high hopes for the flick, as I pretty much expected it to be right on par with Citizen Kane, a movie I could hardly sit through despite the fact that it is generally regarded as the greatest film of all time. So, I was absolutely shocked when I ended up LOVING It’s A Wonderful Life. The movie was funny, heart-warming, and poignant. Most shocking of all, though, was how prevalent and timeless it actually was, despite the fact that it was filmed over 63 years ago. I literally almost fell off the couch laughing in the scene in which the Bailey’s housekeeper, Annie, eavesdrops on George and his father’s dinner conversation, causing George to say, “Well, Annie, why don’t you draw up a chair, then you’d be more comfortable and you could hear everything that’s going on.” LOL LOL LOL For those of you hold-outs out there who have yet to watch It’s A Wonderful Life, the movie truly is a must-see – especially in these days leading up to Christmas.
Unlike me, fellow stalker David has long been a fan of It’s A Wonderful Life. In the late ‘80s, he even got to stalk the inside of the Beverly Hills High School gym, where the infamous Charleston dance contest scene took place. And, yes, the floor of the BHHS gym really does open up to reveal a 25-yard swimming pool which is housed beneath. You can see a photograph of the pool here. So cool! Anyway, flash forward to about twenty years later when David’s wife bought him a book about the making of It’s A Wonderful Life for Christmas. The book stated that the house belonging to the Martini Family in the movie was located somewhere in La Canada Flintridge, a small city situated just outside of Pasadena. So, of course, David got to cyber-stalking, but, sadly, couldn’t seem to locate the residence. A short while later, though, he discovered a little website called Zillow, which he used to search the La Canada Flintridge area, and voila, it wasn’t long before he stumbled upon the correct house! YAY! David immediately posted the newfound address on Wikipedia’s It’s A Wonderful Life page, but – surprise, surprise – that information was quickly removed due to the fact that no source had been cited. Why legitimate information on Wikipedia is continuously removed while incongruous information is allowed to stay posted is BEYOND me. Not that I am bitter about it or anything. 😉 Anyway, David got into a bit of a Wiki-war with the administrators of the encyclopedia website, re-posting the information each and every time it was taken down LOL, which finally resulted in his posting about the house being deleted from the site for good. But, ironically enough, in the midst of the Wikipedia battle, numerous filming location websites and It’s A Wonderful Life fansites picked up David’s information and posted it online, ultimately resulting in Wikipedia re-posting the address and deeming it “reliable” years later. LOVE IT!
The Martini House is featured very briefly in It’s A Wonderful Life, in the scene in which George (aka James Stewart) welcomes the Martini Family to their new home in Bailey Park and his wife Mary (aka Donna Reed) presents them with bread, so “that this house will never known hunger”, salt, so “that life will always have flavor”, and wine, so “that joy and prosperity may reign forever”. I am very happy to report that the house looks EXACTLY the same today – over 63 years later!!!!!! – as it did when the movie was filmed! Even the position of the address number, the doorbell, and the mail slot are EXACTLY the same! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT!
The Martini’s neighbor’s home, which flashes by quickly in the scene, also looks very much the same as it did back in 1946.
A few of the other homes on the street were also featured briefly in the Martini house scene, but as you can see in the above screen captures and photographs, those residences look much different today.
And try as I might, I have not been able to determine the exact house in front of which Sam Wainwright was parked during that scene, but I am pretty sure it is the property pictured above, which as you can see, has also changed significantly. Don’t quote me on that one, though.
The shot showing the Bailey Park entrance sign was filmed just down the street from the Martini House, at the corner of Viro Road and Lamour Drive, but as you can see in the above screen capture and photograph, that corner looks much different today. The curved tree where the sign once hung is now gone and new foliage has popped up all along Viro Road blocking the view of most of the houses.
In real life, the Martini neighborhood was completed in 1946, just prior to the filming of It’s A Wonderful Life. With the picturesque mountains in the background and the obviously new construction, it’s not hard to see why producers chose the community to stand in for the newly built Bailey Park neighborhood in the flick. As you can see, though, the area has grown quite significantly since the ‘40s.
I highly recommend stalking the Martini house to all fans of It’s A Wonderful Life. It truly is remarkable to see a location look exactly the same in person as it did in a movie which was filmed over six decades ago!
Big THANK YOU to David for finding this location.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Martini house from It’s A Wonderful Life is located at 4587 Viro Road in La Canada Flintridge. The neighbor’s house is located at 4581 Viro Road. The entrance to the Bailey Park community can be found at the Southwest corner of Viro Road and Lamour Drive. In the shot showing the Bailey Park sign, the camera was looking north. In the scene, George’s car turns west off of Viro Road onto East Lamour Drive, but, in reality, he should have just continued straight on Viro Road to head to the Martini House. The houses George and Mary walk in front of at the end of the scene are located at 4588 and 4592 Viro Road. And, finally, I believe that the house where Sam’s car was parked is located at 4582 Viro Road.