It's a wonderful surprise ... angel Clarence is from Northumberland.
Byline: Jeremy Armstrong
HOLLYWOOD'S most famous angel is to be remembered in his home town - after his family history was finally tracked down to Northumberland.
A memorial is set to be built to actor Henry Travers - who played the angel in It's A Wonderful Life, arguably the most popular Christmas film of all time.
Now villagers are calling for a blue plaque to be erected in his place of birth - with a small bell attached, a touching reminder of the most famous line in the Christmas tearjerker: "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings" Henry, who famously played bumbling apprentice angel Clarence Odbody in the festive favourite, was born in Prudhoe. Locals were unsure if it was definitely his place of birth after decades of speculation about his family background, until his birth records were traced to establish his family history once and for all.
He moved to America as a young man and found fame and fortune in Hollywood as a character actor. But he will always be remembered as the guardian angel who guides George Bailey, played by James Stewart, to appreciate the value of love, friendship and life itself.
Clarence is an AS2 - angel, second-class - trying for 200 years to become fully qualified and earn his wings. And he succeeds with the redemption of George. The finale of the 1946 classic sees a bell ringing on a Christmas tree, a signal that Clarence has at last been rewarded with his wings to become a full angel.
Born on March 5, 1874 in Prudhoe, his real name was Travers John Hearty. His father worked as a doctor in what is now the bustling town in the Tyne Valley, and the family later moved to Tweedmouth, near the Scottish border, and after school he trained as an architect.
In his teens Henry was drawn into amateur dramatics before making acting his career. He won an Oscar nomination for a supporting role in the 1942 movie Mrs Miniver.
But it is as Clarence - a role he performed well into his 70s - that he is best remembered. He died in California in 1965.
The campaign to have him recognised in his place of birth began as a discussion in a small community Facebook page called People of Prudhoe.
But the cause has been now been taken up by Labour town councillor Jennifer McGee, a former mayor of Prudhoe, who is determined to see a plaque, and bell, to recognise him.
She said: "Even if he lived here when he was young, he is still part of the town. It is probably the best Christmas film of all time.
"To watch it and know that the angel came from this town is just brilliant, and tracking down his birth details makes such a difference.
"We were pretty certain he was from here, but this establishes it - blue plaques are usually just for London, but it will be nice to do something in our town.
"I will put it to the budget committee to release funds... he is one of our most famous sons."
<BHenry Travers as Clarence the Angel, left, tries to convince James Stewart as George Baileythat he his life is worthwhile in It's a Wonderful Life
<BJames Stewart hugs Karolyn Grimes, playing his daughter Zuzu, as he struggles to hold it together in It's a Wonderful Life. Cue an intervention by a man from Prudhoe... Hulton