IT is the quintessential Christmas film, once again voted the most-loved movie for this time of year. Now a new 4k collectors’ edition of It’s a Wonderful Life has been released as the movie endures through the decades.

When was it first released?

The movie premiered on December 20, 1946, directed by Frank Capra, the Italian-born American film director, producer and writer who was the creative force behind some of the biggest movies of the 1930s and 1940s, including Mr Smith Goes to Washington and It Happened One Night.

Was it a hit?

Made with a budget of $3.18 million, it fell around $500,000 short of making its money back and initial reviews were mixed. The New York Times said it was a “quaint and engaging modern parable”, adding: “…the weakness of this picture…is the sentimentality of it”. Star James Stewart said in a later interview: “By the end of 1947, the film was quietly put on the shelf.”

The film’s story is well known?

Stewart plays George Bailey, a businessman facing financial ruin. On Christmas Eve, he is contemplating suicide but is saved by a guardian angel, Clarence, who is attempting to earn his wings. Clarence shows George the positive impact he has had on the lives of people in his hometown of Bedford Falls and filled with a new perspective, he returns home to find his neighbours have donated money to save his business.

It was Stewart’s first film after the war?

When he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941, he had just won an Academy Award for The Philadelphia Story. He ended the war with 20 combat missions and It’s a Wonderful Life was his first major movie offer in five years. His biographer Robert Matzen said: “'It's a Wonderful Life' was a result of Jim's war experiences because it unlocked this depth of soul in Jimmy.”

Those tears are real?

In one of the film's most iconic scenes, when George says: "I'm not a praying man but if you're up there and you can hear me, show me the way”, crying was not scripted. But Stewart later said: "As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn and my eyes filled with tears.”

How did the movie become a classic?

The firm that owned the copyright failed to renew its rights in the 1970s and TV channels began to play the free content on repeat, reaching new audiences.”

A new release?

The 4K UHD Blu-Ray Steelbook special edition has been released, packaged in a collectors metal case. As well as the ultra high definition restoration, features include a footage from the wrap party. The movie also airs on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve.

Fans made it a hit?

In a 1987 interview, Stewart said: “The movie refused to stay on the shelf. Those who loved it loved it a lot, and they told others. They wouldn't let it die any more than the angel Clarence would let George Bailey die.”

It's topped a new poll?

The classic has topped a ranking of 12 festive films of all time - with Die Hard in second place. Seasonal favourites The Muppet Christmas Carol, Home Alone and Elf completed the top five, voted for by BBC Radio 2 listeners.