Richard Goodson has lassoed many "It's a Wonderful Life" collectibles, but he's willing to part with some to help a museum dedicated to the classic Christmas movie.
Goodson, 48, of Grayslake, will be visited today by operators of the "It's a Wonderful Life" museum in Seneca Falls, New York, who are traveling coast to coast in a rented truck collecting items from the movie and talking to its fans.
He plans to loan memorabilia to the museum when the visitors arrive at the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum about 1:30 p.m.
"I began collecting in 1998," Goodson said. "My wife purchased a still (photo) signed by Jimmy Stewart as a gift. The reaction I received displaying the piece was surprising. The discussions and memories that were so freely shared were treasures in themselves."
Goodson, who works for a Rockford auto dealership, is widely considered the world's foremost collector of materials from the 1946 flick that starred James Stewart as George Bailey, and Donna Reed as his wife, Mary.
One of the movie's classic prints is "George Lassos the Moon," which was drawn for him by Mary. One of Goodson's copies of the illustration was signed by Stewart.
Despite his vast collection, Goodson said he's not interested in any personal financial gain he could derive from it. Instead, he enjoys hearing how the movie touched lives while sharing his collectibles, as he did when he brought a sampling to the downtown Grayslake museum when he met the Daily Herald this week.
"This isn't about a value," Goodson said. "This isn't about owning. This isn't about anything. This is about sharing, and a collective dialogue that ensued when you went and you sat and you showed things and you talked about it."
Museum co-founder Anwei Law said she looks forward to meeting again with Goodson, who already has allowed documents and photographs to be scanned for the tourist attraction's website.
"What is so interesting about his collection is he has so many things from people in the film," Law said this week before departing for Reed's Iowa hometown.
Goodson's appreciation for "It's a Wonderful Life" also resonates with Karolyn Grimes, who played Bailey's daughter, Zuzu. Grimes, a major donor to the museum, said she's known Goodson for about 16 years.
"He's a great, great guy," Grimes said of Goodson. "He's following the movie's theme, 'Each life touches another.'"
Starting with a visit to Grimes in Port Orchard, Washington, Law and others have traveled the United States since Aug. 1, gradually filling the truck with memorabilia to boost museum displays. They also have interviewed people on what the film means to them while trying to generate awareness and financial gifts for a planned museum expansion.
Open since December 2010, the museum features photographs, posters, magazine covers, an Academy Awards program and other items related to "It's a Wonderful Life." Law said the museum occupies part of a former movie theater built in Seneca Falls in 1913, but the goal is to buy the entire structure.
Goodson, who is a significant connection for the museum, said he can't give an exact number of the "It's a Wonderful Life" collectibles he owns, but he knows his favorites.
Topping his list are Stewart's handprints and signature in concrete previously displayed at a Planet Hollywood restaurant, an album page signed by the cast at the film's premier, and shooting call sheets formerly owned and used by artistic director Jack Okey.
Another favorite is two pairs of earrings used by actress Gloria Grahame in the film. Grahame played flirtatious Violet, who was saved from disgrace by Stewart's character.
Goodson said he acquires the memorabilia through eBay, auction houses and personal contacts. "I plan to loan the museum items consistent with their themed displays, as well as creating an online archive," he said.
The museum is in Seneca Falls because many locals believe it was the inspiration for Bedford Falls, the fake New York mill town in "It's a Wonderful Life."
Grimes said a local barber claimed he cut director Frank Capra's hair before the movie's release. And there was an old plaque on a bridge that commemorated how Antonio Varacalli jumped into an icy Seneca River in 1917 to save a woman but then drowned -- similar to a scene with Bailey and guardian angel Clarence Oddbody in Bedford Falls.
Goodson said the movie's fans have a variety of reasons why they became attracted to it. He said he hopes to keep the conversation going.
"For me, when I was growing up -- I grew up in inner-city Chicago -- there was no Christmas to speak of," he said. "We lived in a pretty rundown row house in the Humboldt Park area. I looked to movies like that for inspiration, for a way of saying, 'There is something bigger, there is something better,' and particularly the message of the film ... one person's life touches so many others, and when that person isn't there, there's quite a void."