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It's A Wonderful Memory: Boise Woman Remembers Dad As Co-Star Of Christmas Classic

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Liberty Films
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The endearment of "It's a Wonderful Life" continues to grow nearly seven decades since its modest success in 1946. The now-holiday classic is a Christmas Eve staple on NBC; and perhaps this year more than any other, its message of redemption and remembrance resonates with generations of fans.

When Deborah Gutierrez of Boise watches "It's a Wonderful Life," she sees her dad, Bob Anderson, up on the screen, playing the young George Bailey; and she loves to share that memory of her father and the film's message.

“If we can just really be present with those that are most important to us or reach out to people that we haven't reached out to in a while … be here, be now, be with the ones you love and acknowledge that you have a lot of gifts to share.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Quick, what's your favorite Christmas movie? Well, for many of us, it has to be It's a Wonderful Life. And when most of us watch it, we see Jimmy Stewart up on the screen as George Bailey; and young Bob Anderson as the young George Bailey. But when Deb Gutierrez watches, up there on the screen she sees her dad, Bob Anderson. I met Deb several years ago. She lives here in Idaho. And as we approach another holiday, I asked her to spend a few minutes with us this morning. Deb, good morning and happy holidays.

DEB GUTIERREZ: Good Morning, George. Happy holidays to you.

PRENTICE: How old were you … when did you first got a real sense of how endeared It's a Wonderful Life is to almost … well, almost everyone?

GUTIERREZ: I think really that it was  as around the fiftieth anniversary, which I believe was in 1996. My boys happened to be only about a year old at the time. They had all kinds of activities around the fiftieth anniversary. I don't think I realized it was that big of a touching point on a grand scale.

PRENTICE: It's more of an experience.

GUTIERREZ: Yeah … it was something we knew about, but it wasn't something that I really grasped until that time.

PRENTICE: Indeed, your dad costarred in a number of fabulous films, including A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the Bishop's Wife, another great Christmas movie.

GUTIERREZ: Yes.

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Credit family photo
Robert J. Anderson in 1995

PRENTICE: Your dad served in the U.S. Navy. He went on to be a producer, assistant director and production manager in Hollywood. Sadly, Bob Anderson died in 2008. Deb as It's a Wonderful Life became more and more popular through the years,did your dad embrace that popularity?

GUTIERREZ: He was in some parades, and did this for a couple of years all around that fiftieth anniversary. So, he did relish it a little bit; and he didn't need that from an ego standpoint, but he really was trying to embrace it and shine some light and some goodness. I think that was something that he really wanted to do. I think it made him feel good in spirit and he really enjoyed it. He really enjoyed connecting with others that way.

PRENTICE: Well, I must say, I just watched It’s a Wonderful Life again, for the umpteenth time, I dissolved into tears. It's a message that is so relevant this year, don't you think?

GUTIERREZ: I do. It's interesting, I just spoke with someone recently and we were talking about really being here and now, regardless of the situations around us…if we can just really be present with those that are most important to us or reach out to people that we haven't reached out to in a while… be here, be now, be with the ones you love and acknowledge that you have a lot of gifts to share. We forget about that. I think this year a lot of us have just been stuck in a loop in our minds. And so, we all have the capacity within us to share our gifts because that's what people want.

PRENTICE: And that's the message of that movie, right? We have unrealized dreams; we’re stressed and sometimes wonder if our presence means anything. But then it's like you said: the love of our friends and family and the embrace of decency.

GUTIERREZ: I didn't share that ,y dad was the young George Bailey for years and years and years. And I'm not sure why. I think growing up in the industry was just something you didn't draw attention to. So now, though, when I tell people, they just are so enamored and want to hear more about it and want to get to know what my dad thought as well. So, I do now share it. And it does give people a little spark, a little joy to go, “Oh wow. I feel so connected.”

PRENTICE: So, will you watch it again this Christmas season?

GUTIERREZ: Yes. My daughter and her boyfriend will be traveling to Boise, and then we'll all be together for Christmas. So, we always try to watch it.

PRENTICE: I love it. Deb Gutierrez: her dad was Bob Anderson. Deb, Merry Christmas to you. Thank you to you and your family; and your dad's legacy and memory lives on this Christmas and forever. Thanks so much.

GUTIERREZ: I feel honored that you reached out again. Thank you. Be well..

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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