News of the Week: The Greatest Gift, Scottish Snowplows, and Nancy Drew Turns 90

In the news for the week ending December 18, 2020, are Jimmy Stewart, Jim Thorpe, “Snowbegone Kenobi,” Colonel Sanders, Nancy Drew, a bunch of holiday recipes to try out, and more.

Still from the movie, It's a Wonderful Life
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The Man Who Was Never Born

’Tis the season of Zuzu’s Petals.

I’m gearing up for my annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life. Contrary to old jokes and expired trivia, it’s only on broadcast TV a few times a year, ever since NBC bought the TV rights in 1994. (It airs Christmas Eve at 8 p.m.) But if you miss that, it’s playing on the E! Network, which is owned by NBC, all day long on Christmas.

It’s a Wonderful Life is not only my favorite Christmas movie of all time, it’s my favorite movie period. It’s a perfect blend of realism and fantasy, of light romance and dark themes (parts of the movie are practically film noir), a film that pretty much sums up what life is all about, or at the very least what life should be about, beautifully acted and written and directed. It’s the movie the Earth should put in a time capsule to tell future visitors what we were all about.

Before I watch it again, I decided I’d read The Greatest Gift. That’s the novella the movie is based on, written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943. He couldn’t find a publisher for it, so he self-published it (yes, they even did that back then) as a 21-page booklet and sent 200 copies to friends and family as a holiday gift. It became a book in late 1944, and the story was published in two magazines, Reader’s Scope and Good Housekeeping, which published it under the title “The Man Who Was Never Born.” Director Frank Capra loved it, and the movie, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, was released by RKO in 1946.

Stern’s story is terrific. A lot of the situations and even the characters are different than the movie, some with different names or they have the same names but different occupations or roles (it can be disorienting to read a book with the same story after you’ve seen the movie a dozen times), but it’s a solid piece of work, and you can see what Capra and the studio saw in it.

Make sure you get an older version of the book. The one linked above is fine, it just changes the original name of the character from George Pratt to George Bailey, to match up with the name of Jimmy Stewart’s character in the movie. If you’re a purist, you might want the text exactly as it was written. It’s not a deal breaker though; the rest of the book is the same.

An Olympic-Size Controversy

Jim Thorpe was one of the greatest athletes of all time, one who excelled at every sport he played, but he was stripped of the gold medals he won at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics because he had made $25 a week playing minor league baseball. The International Olympic Committee gave the medals back to Thorpe posthumously in 1982, but he shares the medals with the men who were rewarded with them after he was disqualified, even though he actually beat them in the events, the decathlon and pentathlon.

Now an American member of the IOC’s board is asking them to reconsider, and others have joined the fight. They not only want to set the record straight, medal-wise, they also want to restore his good reputation.

Scotland Names Their Snowplows, for Some Reason

This graphic has been making it around the web the past week. Apparently Scotland gives all of its snowplows cool (no pun intended) names, and they’re pretty great. Included in the fleet are “Darth Spreader,” “For Your Ice Only,” and “Snowbegone Kenobi.”

My favorite name is “Sir Andy Flurry.” It helps if you’re a tennis fan.

I Hate Twitter, but This Is Funny

Last week I mentioned Colonel Sanders. I saw this today and actually laughed out loud.

Nancy Drew Is 90 Years Old

Great CBS Sunday Morning piece on the long-running series about the girl detective, who made her debut in the 1930 novel The Secret of the Old Clock.

Uploaded to YouTube by CBS Sunday Morning

RIP John Le Carré, Charley Pride, Ann Reinking, Dennis Ralston, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, and Don Marion Davis

John Le Carré was the acclaimed author of several best-selling spy novels, including the classics The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, The Little Drummer Girl, and Smiley’s People. He died Saturday at the age of 89.

Charley Pride was the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He had several hits, including “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone?” He died Saturday at the age of 86.

Ann Reinking won two Tony Awards, one for choreographing Chicago (which she also starred in) and one for directing Fosse. She also had several other Tony nominations and acted in movies like All That Jazz and Annie. She died Saturday at the age of 71.

Dennis Ralston was a five-time Grand Slam winner in doubles and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He died last week at the age of 78.

Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr. was a prolific character actor who appeared in dozens of movies, including Friday, Jackie Brown, Beverly Hills Cop II, and The Fifth Element. He was also a regular on the TV show 1st & Ten. He died last week at the age of 62.

Don Marion Davis was a former child actor and one of the last surviving performers from the silent era. He died last week at the age of 103.

This Week in History

Mona Lisa Recovered (December 12, 1913)

The thief was caught two years after stealing the painting from the Louvre and insisted he had acted alone. But was that true?

The Simpsons Premieres (December 17, 1989)

Creator Matt Groening’s animated family was featured in a series of shorts on Fox’s The Tracey Ullman Show from 1987 to 1989 but then got their own show, which debuted with the episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Merry Christmas from the IRS (December 17, 1960)

Don’t automatically think the worst. Maybe it’s a Christmas card.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Every year I wonder, what mix of recipes can I bring you for Christmas? There are so many online that I could simply link to two or three big collections of recipes and send you on your way. I can do that (here are Christmas recipes from Betty Crocker and Country Living), but I’d also like to pick out a few specific ones I think you might enjoy trying, recipes you may not have thought of.

For an appetizer, how about Stuffed Celery or Curtis Stone’s Herbed Deviled Eggs? For a main course, maybe you can skip the turkey this year and try this Rosemary and Lemon Roast Chicken from BBC Good Food, or this Roast Beef Tenderloin from Epicurious. Sides? How about these Creamed Brussels Sprouts from Delish or this Best Macaroni and Cheese from Bon Appétit. For dessert, try this Figgy Pudding (it is Christmas, after all) or this Saltine Toffee Bark from Taste of Home. Cookies are always a good choice too, and as a Post reader you should make Norman Rockwell’s Oatmeal Cookies.

Don’t forget the cocktails! Olive magazine has a bright Christmas Gin Cocktail, while has some Boozy Hot Chocolate. And if you want to drink like angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, try Clarence’s Mulled Wine from American Pulps.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Winter Begins (December 21)

If you’re keeping track, it starts at 5:02 a.m. EST.

Crossword Puzzle Day (December 21)

I bet you can’t solve these 1879 crossword puzzles.

(Note: Those are crossword puzzles from the year 1879, not 1,879 crossword puzzles.)

Featured image: National Telefilm Associates, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. I gotta tell ya I got sooo burned out on “It’s A Wonderful Life” from sooo many showings of it in 1991 and ’92, I haven’t been able to watch it since. I really hate NBC (as you know) but I might watch it this coming Thursday, despite that.

    Sounds like the Scots are happy and having fun in the form of naming their snowplows. Must be nice to live in a country that cares about its people instead of corporations and spending trillions on unnecessary defense contracts; that pays 80% of their wages every month. No supposed “civil servants” making billions while their own people are starving and losing their homes, Bob!

    Was the real Mona Lisa recovered after all in 1913? I’d like to think SO, but her gaze leaves me in a daze of wondering.

    ‘Merry Christmas from the IRS’. Don’t automatically think the worst, or that this cover’s a Rockwell. It’s NOT!!


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