The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 5, No. 4

The Greatest Gift

by Philip Van Doren Stern

Unable to find a publisher for "The Greatest Gift," Philip Van Doren Stern printed two hundred copies of the story and distributed them as Christmas cards in 1943. From this humble beginning, a classic was born. Van Doren Stern's story captivated Frank Capra, who said he "had been looking for [it] all [his] life." Capra's beloved adaptation, It's a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, was released in 1946; and while the film—which received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director—failed to win an Oscar, it did secure a place in the American holiday tradition.