Former child actor Robert J. Anderson, best known for his role as little George Bailey in the 1946 holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” has passed away. He was 75.
Stephen Cox, family friend and author of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book,” said that Mr. Anderson, who was called Bobbie as a child and Bob as an adult, passed away from melanoma on Friday at his home in Palm Springs, California.
Who Played Young George in it’s a Wonderful Life
Mr. Anderson was 12 when he was cast as Jimmy Stewart’s young counterpart in the Bedford Falls-set touching tale by director Frank Capra. As an adult George Bailey struggles with suicidal thoughts, his past is recounted in flashback so that his guardian angel, Clarence, can come to know him.
George the youth saves his brother from drowning, dreams of adventuring, and prevents Mr. Gower, the town pharmacy, from inadvertently poisoning a customer.
On the 50th anniversary of the film’s premiere in 1996, Mr. Anderson reflected on his time on set with H.B. Warner, who played Mr. Gower.
Mr. Anderson told Cox, “He absolutely bloodied my ear,” for a story in the Los Angeles Times. “My ear was bleeding, my cheeks were red, and I was crying. When we started, I had no idea why we were constructing this. There was no flaw in H.B. At last, he’d arrived at the climax. When it was all said and done, he was a nice guy. To show how much he cared, he snatched me in his arms and gave me a tight hug.” While it may have bombed in the theatres, thanks to repeated airings on television when the copyright expired in the 1970s, it has become a holiday staple in recent years.
On March 6, 1933, Mr. Anderson was born into a famous Hollywood family. Gene Anderson Sr. worked on the production side at Columbia Pictures, and William Beaudine Sr. directed many films. Bobbie Anderson made her film debut in the 1940 Shirley Temple film “Young People,” and she went on to star in such films as “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945) and “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947). He also made a few TV appearances in the 1950s, including one as a supporting character for Disney’s “Spin and Marty.”
Mr. Anderson worked as a photographer in the Navy before transitioning into the roles of assistant director, production manager, and producer at a number of different studios.
Since “he kept behind the cameras,” Mr. Cox said on Saturday, “most people don’t know what happened to (Anderson). “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a fan of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He took great pride in his contributions there.”