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Today in History: Wednesday, December 20, 2023

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Television and Theater
The original production of musical “Wildcat” starring Lucille Ball opened on Broadway in 1960. The cast included Paula Stewart and Swen Swenson, with Valerie Harper among the chorus members. Ball realized audiences had come expecting to see her Lucy Ricardo from “I Love Lucy” and began mugging and ad-libbing to bring the characterization closer to her classic character. It ran for 171 performances…Two classic game shows launched on ABC daytime in 1965: “Supermarket Sweep” hosted by Bill Malone and “The Dating Game” with Jim Lange. The former originally ran for 19 months; the later, for 8 years…”Million Dollar Money Drop“, based on the British original “The Million Pound Drop Live“, debuted on Fox in 2010. The game show, hosted by actor-comedian Kevin Pollak, only aired for 12 episodes within a six-week span…The inaugural season of fantasy drama “The Witcher“, based on the book series by Andrzej Sapkowski and starring Henry Cavill, launched on Netflix in 2019.

Holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, starring James StewartDonna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, opened in New York, in 1946. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made…“Harvey”, also starring James Stewart, premieres in New York in 1950…“The Godfather Part II”, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, opened in theaters in 1974. It won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Director and Actor in a Supporting Role (De Niro)…“Working Girl”, directed by Mike Nicols, and starring Melanie GriffithHarrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver hit the theaters in 1988. It won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song (Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run”)…Other film openings: The updated version of “Father of the Bride”, starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and Martin Short in 1993; horror-themed “Scream”, starring Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in 1996; and “Gangs of New York”, starring Leonardo Di CaprioDaniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz in 2002.

“The Breakthrough”, the seventh studio album by Mary J. Blige, was released in 2005.

The first preview issue of “Ms” magazine, launched by Gloria Steinem, was published in the United States in 1971.

Celebrity Birthdays
Former child star Tommy Cole (“The Mickey Mouse Club”) is 82; “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf is 77; illusionist Uri Geller is also 77; musician Alan Parsons is 75; actress Jenny Agutter (“Call the Midwife”) is 71; actor Michael Badalucco (“The Practice”) is 69; singer Billy Bragg is 66; singer-bassist Mike Watt is also 66; actor Joel Gretsch (USA Network’s “The 4400”) is 60; The Black Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson is 57; actress Nicole deBoer (“The Dead Zone”) is 352; season seven “American Idol” winner David Cook is 41; former New York Mets third baseman David Wright is 41; actor Jonah Hill (“Superbad”) is 40; actor Bob Morley (“The 100”) is 39.

Did You Know?
Two actors from family drama “The Waltons” appeared in classic theatrical “It’s A Wonderful Life”Beulah Bondi as George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) mother Mrs. Bailey; and Ellen Corby in a cameo appearance as Mrs. Davis. According to Ellen Corby: “During the run on the Bailey Building and Loan I requested seventeen dollars. There were many rehearsals and many takes and then Mr. (Frank) Capra came up to me and whispered in my ear. On the next take I asked for an odd amount…not seventeen dollars, but seventeen-fifty. That threw Jimmy Stewart off. He was expecting me to say the amount I had requested in the rehearsals and takes we’d already tried. But Stewart was wonderful. He ad-libbed his reaction and kiss. That was pure Capra. He knew how to keep things fresh.”