My wife likes to tell people I have a “It’ A Wonderful Life” philosophy of life. I do believe that everyone’s life is important. We all have a part in the way this world is.
The reference is, of course, from 1946 film produced and directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It takes place in the town of Bedford Falls where plays Stewart as George Bailey, a man whose attempted suicide on Christmas Eve, gains the attention of his guardian angel, Clarence who is sent to help him in his hour of need. Much of the film is told through flashbacks spanning his entire life as we see all the people whose lives have been touched by George and the difference he has made to the community in which he lives.
During those flashbacks young George is played Bob Anderson. It is Anderson who has taken his Final Taxi at age 75.
Robert J. Anderson grew up in Hollywood to a movie family. His father, Gene, was an assistant director and later a production manager. His uncles were directors William Beaudine and James Flood and his brothers and cousins were editors and production managers.
Anderson’s introduction to films began when he was literally snatched from his crib by relatives to appear in a movie scene that called for a baby..
He was 7 when he appeared in the 1940 Shirley Temple film “Young People” and went on to appear in other movies such as 1945′s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”
But he was best known for his role as the young Bailey in Frank Capra’s 1946 “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In one scene, the story called for him to spot a potentially fatal error made by a drunken druggist, played by H.B. Warner.
Warner took the role seriously and on the day of shooting had been drinking and was “pretty ripe” as the scene called for Warner’s character to slap the boy.
Anderson told the Los Angeles Times in 1996 that the scene and its rehearsals were painful.
“He actually bloodied my ear,” Anderson told the paper. “My ear was beat up and my face was red and I was in tears.”
“At the end when it was all over, he (Warner) was very lovable. He grabbed me and hugged me, and he meant it,” Anderson said.
After “Wonderful Life” Anderson played in “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947), and in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah ( 1949) among others. He also appeared on TV, including a supporting role to Disney’s “Spin and Marty” characters in the 1950s. I remember seeing this during the reruns of the Mickey Mouse Club.
Anderson enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War, serving as a photographer on aircraft carriers. After the war, he spent four decades in the movie industry. From the 1950s through the 1990s he worked steadily, rising from second assistant director to production manager for movies and TV shows.