December 20: It’s A Wonderful Life

It's_A_Wonderful_LifeFrank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic American film and traditional Christmas viewing for many Americans. But did you know that the film, which was released today in 1946, took a very interesting path to becoming a yuletide staple?

When It’s A Wonderful Life premiered, it initially received mixed reviews and, even worse, a so-so box office turn out. Really, the two most notable thing to happen to It’s A Wonderful Life during the first few year after its release were its nominations for five Oscars and the following delightful FBI memo in 1947:

With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists. [In] addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters.

However, a funny thing happened which kept It’s A Wonderful Life in the public eye: In the early days of television, stations were looking for something they could broadcast that was seasonally appropriate and would fill a few hours on the schedule. At just over two hours long, It’s A Wonderful Life was perfect for filling up a night of television and more importantly; because it was not a big hit, the rights to air it were nice and cheap. So, television stations across the country began showing the film around Christmastime. Then when the movie briefly fell into the public domain during the 1970s and 1980s, local stations went crazy, and it wasn’t uncommon to see the film air on different channels on consecutive nights.

Since the copyright issues were cleared up in the mid-1990s, NBC has broadcast the film twice a year during the holiday season: Once on Christmas eve, and another airing sometime earlier in the season. If you plan on spending any of the remaining pre-Christmas evenings visiting Bedford Falls on tv, I suggest you watch it while sipping a cocktail called It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s a minty, creamy holiday concoction that fittingly uses Bailey’s Irish Cream.

It’s A Wonderful Life

  • 3 ounces half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1/2 ounce Crème De Menthe

Shake with ice and then strain into an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Dust cinnamon on top and serve.

Tomorrow: A famous kind of puzzle. (9 letters)

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