I've heard that the original reason U.S. television started to show It's A Wonderful Life during the holidays - besides it being a nice Christmas film - is that it got into the public domain pretty early. Someone missed to renew copyright (as was feature of copyright system back then). Television corps can show it without license. I guess if the owner of original reels restores them and then makes a great digital version, they have to pay, if they want the best quality? Not that television aims for best quality. What am I saying? 😉
Recently I heard recommendation to check out Frank Capra's other films. He is a classic director, but maybe a bit forgotten today. The one I remember being mentioned is Meet John Doe, which I think I have not seen. Being Swedish, I know most of these films from their Swedish title, so I am not sure. Anyways, I guess many are worth to see a second time. It is also PD and I found it on archive.org, so will watch it soon, I hope.
I am not a film buff at all, but I grew up watching many films on tv, from the Hollywood golden era, and also some from other countries. In pretty crappy resolution, of course. I've even seen a few classics on cinema, as that was pretty common as Sunday matinée. Yes, that makes me sound old, I guess it was a few years back by now. I think it would be best to see them on well-digitilized blue-ray. However this post is about PD ones, one can legally download for free, so maybe not always the best analog-to-digital conversion.
Wikipedia has a list of PD films, which is not complete by any measure, as is stated.
If you know what you are looking for, archive.org might have a film that is not on the list.
Wish you all Good Christmas!
Image credit. PD