Christmas Movies and Law

McFarland, 2018

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Right?

Rudolph’s red nose. Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. And Jimmy Stewart’s joyous sprint through Bedford Falls.

But while Christmas is wonderful—even magicals—it also reflects the cornerstone of society: the law.

Have Yourself A Merry Legal Christmas: Holiday Movies and Law is a non-fiction book that carves a new niche in the Christmas genre.

With humor, history, and heart, it takes you on a journey through your favorite Christmas tales, their most beloved characters, and the laws that connect everyone from Scrooge to Santa Claus.

Have Yourself A Merry Legal Christmas combines the whimsy of The Law of Superheroes with the spirit of the Christmas season and the foundations of American jurisprudence.

Examples include:

Is Ebenezer Scrooge committing usury in his business dealings in A Christmas Carol? Charles Dickens paints his best-known character as a miser and a misanthrope. And we all know someone just like Scrooge. Or pretty close, anyway. But are Scrooge’s actions reflective of someone being a hard-nosed businessman with a zero-tolerance policy or a shady businessman acting without regard to the law or social boundaries? In today’s economic climate, the question will arise no matter how many times we read A Christmas Carol and watch any of the dozens of television and movie adaptations.

Is adultery committed in I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus? Banned by the Roman Catholic Church in Boston when it debuted in 1952, the song triggers racy images of a benign Christmas symbol. Did the song’s theme fire the first shot in the sexual revolution?

How did Fred Gailey prove that “Kris Kringle” is the real Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street? Gailey relied on the United States Post Office – a branch of the federal government – sending its Santa Claus letters to Kris at the courthouse. But would this legal maneuver in the climactic courtroom scene satisfy a real court of law? And would the real Santa Claus have a right of publicity claim against this imposter?

What copyright loophole allowed television stations to broadcast It’s A Wonderful Life as many times as they wanted during the 1970s and 1980s with no licensing fee and why did they stop broadcasting the film in the 1990s? A financial disappointment when it debuted in 1946, the movie lost a gold mine of licensing fees from television stations and the home video market – the production company owning the movie neglected to renew the copyright in the 1970s.

But was there a silver lining? The increased airings brought new generations of fans to It’s A Wonderful Life and the company’s merchandising of everything from Christmas tree ornaments to Christmas cards featuring scenes from the movie.

Building on the Socratic tradition of law reviews and law schools using hypothetical scenarios involving fictional characters to illustrate legal theories, Have Yourself A Merry Legal Christmas makes the law accessible to a general audience by being smart, nostalgic, and fun.

Have Yourself A Merry Legal Christmas will be the perfect stocking stuffer for lawyers, business executives, popular culture buffs, and anyone that once believed in Santa Claus.

Or still does.