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“It’s a Wonderful Life” is almost unavoidable during the Christmas season. It was a massive flop when it first premiered and the studio neglected to renew the copyright in the 1970s, so into the public domain it fell. So long as they play the original, black and white, uncut version of it any TV station can play it as often as they like without paying a single penny for it. There are few things TV executives love more than saving a penny, so you can pretty much guarantee you’ll find it in every major network’s holiday programming.
It had been a few years since we’d last watched it, and my Mom and I decided that if we were going to get our Christmas tree decorated in one fell swoop, what better movie to watch than a holiday classic? We turned it on and got down to tree-decorating business, ready to be as festive as possible.
After what seemed like half an hour, we were a little surprised to find that God and Clarence seemed to still be talking as stars. Wasn’t there a lot of story to go through here? The runtime was a bit over 2 hours and it seemed like we were spending a lot of time watching two stars twinkle and talk at each other.
“Has this part always lasted this long?” I asked
“Ummmm, I guess?” Mom replied, unconvincingly
Obviously, our memories of the movie had failed us and we’d only remembered the real action, which surely we’d get to soon enough. We agreed this was on us and laughed as we went back to searching out the perfect placement for our ornaments. What seemed like 40 minutes later…
“Mom, seriously? When does Clarence fall in the river? Why are we still watching these stars twinkle at each other?!”
“Kendall, honestly, I don’t remember this taking this long.”
“This movie is boring.” my Dad added, helpfully.
After what felt like HOURS, (spoiler alert) just as George Bailey is about to end it all, Clarence finally fell in the river and set off the chain of events that would lead to George Bailey learning to appreciate all life has to offer. We finished decorating the tree in time to watch everything work out and sing along to “Auld Lang Syne” with the rest of the Bailey family.
Unlike most TV we watch these days, we were watching this movie live, and (though my memory is probably exaggerating) I’m almost positive they had it running for 4 hours. I haven’t watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” since then, and if I do, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll fast forward to Clarence falling to earth. For years after watching, we swore up and down, back and forth to anyone that would listen that we had watched some secret 6 hour cut of the film that had been randomly uncovered and hasn’t aired since.
Do you and your family have any Holiday movie traditions? Any you’ll never watch again? Let us know in the comments! As always, thanks for following along on our countdown to Christmas.
We’re glad to have you with us,
Kendall and all of us at Beth’s Christmas