"What's even the point of having an Internet if I can't buy a replica kid's plastic Santa Claus mask from 'It's a Wonderful Life'?" That's the question my friend Evan Prodromou recently posed on Facebook. He then tagged me in the comments, "I'm pretty sure Rusty Blazenhoff could find these if I asked her."
Well, I don't anything about them or where to find them but I'm always up for a challenge. So, I went to my expert-in-all-things-novelty friend David Wahl, the Director of Awesome for Archie McPhee, and asked if he knew anything about the masks. I figured if anyone would know, it would be him. His response made me chuckle. He told me it's something he and Shana Iverson, the company's High Priestess of Rubber Chickens have already discussed. Because, of course they have!
This is what he knows:
"It’s papier mâché, so it probably wouldn’t have survived unless someone took special care of it. We haven’t seen them anywhere in any catalog or weird show. I think it was made just for the movie. It also could just be a local item to LA during Christmas that year. There were tons of small companies doing stuff like that."
Sounds right. Just to see, I searched on the internet for any mention of the masks.
In a Movieweb interview from 2006, Jimmy Hawkins, the child actor who played Tommy Bailey in the 1946 film, recalls the masks being uncomfortable:
"...I also remember sitting on Jimmy Stewart's lap. I'm putting tinsel on his head. He's thinking of losing the money... he pulls me towards him and he's crying, and he's kissing me and hugging me. I had a Santa Claus mask around my neck, and every time he'd pull me into him that mask would hike up. That mask felt like sandpaper on the inside and it scraped my cheek. It kept happening over and over and I kept wondering, 'When is this man going to stop this?'"
In a 2016 Military.com interview, he reiterated the same info:
Every time he pulled me into him, the Santa Claus mask I was wearing, would hike up and inside the mask it was like sandpaper; it kept scratching my cheek. But I knew that I had to pretend it was the first time he was pulling me towards him. I knew that when we were taking it, that I had to pretend like it was the first time it ever happened, so you don’t flinch when it scratches your cheek. That’s all I remember.
Anyone out there have one of these creepy Santa masks, or ever seen one around? Would love to know!
screenshot by Frank Jones/It's a Wonderful Life