Saturday, November 27, 2021

It's a Wonderful Life: The Official Bailey Family Cookbook

It's a Wonderful Life
The Official Bailey Family Cookbook
by Insight Editions
October 2021
Hardcover ISBN: 9781683839453
128 pages

George Bailey: There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?
Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner...

Food plays a small but important role in the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Now fans of Frank Capra's uplifting drama can celebrate with a cookbook inspired by scenes and characters from the movie. 

Published by Insight Editions, It's a Wonderful Life: The Official Bailey Family Cookbook is a retro-style collection of recipes and craft ideas sure to win over any classic movie fans this holiday season. The book is divided into seven sections: Appetizers, Sides, Entrees, Desserts, Cocktails and Drinks, Christmas Crafts and Vintage Christmas Dinner. Each recipe comes with a little introduction tying it to the film. Some of these connections are more obvious than others but are all in the spirit of the movie. Some with direct connections include Annie's Mixed Berry Pie (served by Annie to Harry Bailey for the high school graduation party), Phonograph Fowl (the honeymoon scene has Mary turning chickens over a fire with the help of a phonograph), Coconut Fudge Icebox Cake (inspired by when a young Mary orders chocolate ice cream and young George tries to convince her to add coconuts), Zuzu's Gingersnaps (a reference to when George calls Zuzu his "little gingersnap") and more. There are also a few Italian recipes in the bunch as a tribute to the beloved character Mr. Martini (William Edmunds). I'm quite impressed with how the recipes stay true to the movie because I feel it would have been very easy to stray away from that concept.

I loved the retro-style photography. This truly does look like a cookbook born out of the mid 20th century.

There were a few recipes I really couldn't make because of the level of detail and the extra ingredients I would need. However, the majority of the recipes were very approachable for the average home cook, like myself. The highlight of the book is really the deserts and the cocktails. For those who abstain from alcohol, there are two non-alcoholic drink recipes and one that can be modified.

George Bailey: I'll give you the moon, Mary.

Mary: I'll take it. Then what?

George Bailey: Well, then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve, see... and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair... am I talking too much?


I had a go at making a three course meal from the book. Here is the menu:

Wedge Salad
Oven-Braised Corned Beef with Mustard Sauce
Meltaway Moon Cookies
Zuzu's Petals

Check out my latest video to learn more about my thoughts on the book and how the meal came out!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

TCM: Dean Martin: King of Cool

Premiering this week on Turner Classic Movies is the excellent documentary Dean Martin: King of Cool. Directed by Tom Donahue and produced by Ilan Arbodela, this film chronicles the life and career of Dean Martin, from his early days singing in the nightclub circuit, becoming one half of the outrageously popular comedy duo with Jerry Lewis, to his film career, his time with the Rat Pack and his personal struggles. We learn about how Dean Martin went from being part of a close knit Italian community in Steubenville, Ohio, to making waves in Hollywood and Las Vegas. Martin was the epitome of cool and part of this was his sense of mystery. He kept everyone, including his family members, at arms length. He went by the notion of "keep yourself to yourself" and lived his life as a menefrigista (he who doesn't give a f***). Martin was also just an extraordinary talent. He mastered singing, drama, comedy and dance, was the consummate host and improvised with the best of them. There were no mistakes. He kept rolling with the punches and everyone loved his mesmerizing personality.

“What an incredible, joyous labor of love it has been to tell the story of one of the 20th Century’s greatest entertainers... The more I learned, the greater and deeper my appreciation and affection for this man became.” — Tom Donahue


What's truly extraordinary about this documentary is the sheer number of people who were interviewed. Half the fun is seeing so many familiar faces, including Martin's peers, friends, family and even classic film authors (whose books I've reviewed on this blog!). 

Notable talking heads include:
Deana Martin
Norman Lear
Bob Newhart
Frankie Avalon
Regis Philbin
George Schlatter
Dick Cavett
Barbara Rush
Florence Henderson
Peter Bogdanovich
Angie Dickinson
Lainie Kazan
Carol Burnett
Barry Levinson
Todd Fisher
Jon Hamm
James Kaplan 
Jeanine Basinger
Henry Jaglom
and many many more

Hearing from them alongside family members and those who inhabited Dean Martin's world really add to this documentary. It also includes audio recordings, never-before-scene archival footage and film and television clips from Martin's numerous appearances. There are a couple controversial figures included in the interviews as well as a few whom have since passed away. The film loses a bit of steam in the second half and gets quite sad when we get to the most difficult years of Martin's life. But overall it was incredibly enjoyable. Definitely a doc I'll be watching again and again.

Dean Martin: King of Cool airs Friday November 19th with an encore screening Friday November 26th. Check out the dedicated Dean Martin line-up programmed for each evening:

Friday, November 19

8 PM ET — Dean Martin: King of Cool (2021)
9:30 PM ET — The Caddy (1953) – A master golfer suffering from performance anxiety caddies for a man he's taught everything.
11:15 PM ET — Rio Bravo (1959)

Friday, November 26

8 PM ET — Ocean’s 11 (1960) 
10:15 PM ET — Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964)
12:30 AM ET  Dean Martin: King of Cool (2021)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Classic Film Book Haul and Luis Buñuel Memoir Review

I've been busy over on my YouTube channel creating some fun classic film themed videos for you all! Two recent ones include a classic film book haul with lots of great novels and two non-fiction selections as well as a review of Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel's memoir My Last Sigh. I hope you'll check them out. Please make sure you subscribe as I'm posting videos every Saturday!

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