Christmas Thoughts

by Brad Nelson12/24/17
Aka “It’s a Wonderful Life…some of the time.” •  I’ve never heard what happens on the second Noel. Also, as Pat has informed us, there are not nine reindeer (counting Rudolph). There are ten. Her name is Olive. Olive the other Reindeer.And…is it okay to have a White Christmas or is that term a “trigger” for some? Whatever the case may be, we’re having a white Christmas Eve….soon to turn into a slush Christmas Eve.

If Clarence is the angel who makes an appearance in It’s a Wonderful Life, is there also a demon? Is he the guy at the school dance who whispers into Alfalfa’s ear and tells him about the retractable floor with the swimming pool below, and then just happens to have the key and gives it to him?

Speaking of which, why the heck was Uncle Billy ever entrusted to make bank deposits involving large wads of cash?

I watched that movie tonight after a hiatus of a couple years. Perhaps Gone with the Wind is the only other movie with an actor in the lead role who was irreplaceable and without whom the movie would have been a pale reflection of itself. This is even more the case with Jimmy Stewart. Interestingly, this is his first film after coming out of the army. Stewart wasn’t sure he still had it in him. But not only did he still have the small-town-boy-makes-good charm, his dramatic moments in It’s a Wonderful Life are superb and believable.

Donna Reed was a late choice but an inspired one for Capra who was a master of casting, at least for this film. In the extras on the CD it notes that Capra pulled stereotyped H. B. Warner out of relative obscurity to play Mr. Gower. Warner was Cecil B. DeMille’s definitive Christ in 1927’s The King of Kings.

I can never remember if Ernie is the cop and Bert is the taxi driver or if it’s the other way around.

So what does this movie mean? Surprisingly, although Frank Capra’s nickname within the industry was “Capracorn” because of his propensity for sentimentality, this is a much edgier movie than commonly given credit for being. It is by no means certain that George Bailey is a good and decent man beyond being a man who simply does his duty and sacrifices for others.

But he didn’t necessarily do so happily. His bitterness at being stuck in that old small-town building-and-loan, as well as never being able to travel the world and to become an architect, make him a pressure-cooker ready to blow. And blow he does when Uncle Billy misplaces the money and George suddenly realizes that he is in the role of Job. For all of his faithfulness to family, hard work, and sacrifice he is faced with inevitable scandal and likely prison time. (Despite his tongue-lashing of Billy and declaring that he, George, sure as heck wasn’t going to prison for this, you knew in your heart of hearts that George would have taken the blame for the misplaced funds.)

Even in the midst of his slow breakdown, he has nothing but patience for little Zuzu. That is George’s character. He’s always looking out for the little guy, even if the little guy is his old boss, Mr. Gower. George’s character is revealed in full when he shows the wisdom and sensitivity in response to Gower switching medicines and almost poisoning a young boy because of his overwhelming grief over the death of his own son due to influenza. George takes ear-smacking abuse from Mr. Gower but never, ever has anything but compassion for the man…a compassion that redeems him, at least compared to the alternate non-George-existing-Pottersville wherein Mr. Gower winds up a drunk.

Would any of us as an adult have the grace to handle that situation like that? Almost certainly not.

The Code in effect at the time meant that words such as “jerk” and “damn” were excised from the script. No doubt the word “tramp” would have been forbidden as well as an apt description of Violet played to sinful delight by Gloria Grahame. Was she an actual prostitute or just a very loose woman? It’s never quite clear. But hers is another life redeemed, in small part, by George Bailey.

And could there have ever been a wonderful life without Donna Reed? She sets all the wheels in motion — at least in regards to keeping it Bedford Falls and not Pottersville. She is the hopeful small-town soul whose world need not be larger than her family. It’s politically incorrect nowadays — and probably quite offensive to feminist hags — but in the non-George-existing-Pottersville she’s an old maid, and a frumpy one at that with no man and only her career as a librarian. Imagine a time when the image of a woman self-actualizing was to find and partially redeem a man.

Was it a wonderful life for George? Well, not until he saw the alternative. He had a good life but, like most of us, didn’t appreciate what he had. And much of what he lived was a bit of a downer in regards to the overall. He didn’t get to travel the world. He didn’t fulfill his dream of building big things and becoming an architect. He didn’t escape his smothering small-town and his familial responsibilities of maintaining the Bailey Building & Loan. He didn’t, in modern parlance, get his semi-yearly vacation in Cabo. Instead, he took part in a local battle — one seemingly unrewarded and unregarded — against the Mr. Potters of the world.

George fought the battle of Bedford Falls while his brother, Harry, fought and won a much more prominent battle and received the medal of honor for do so. All George got for his humble efforts was the threat of imprisonment and scandal.

Does anyone today actually believe the small battles are the most important ones? Is there anyone in this culture, outside of good parents (whose very lives become one of sacrifice by virtue of being a good parent), who truly believes that anything worth doing doesn’t alway require a showy reward if not a thousand Facebook “Likes”?

It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of hard virtues and sacrifices that can leave us feeling unrewarded, unappreciated, and bitter. In the real world as it exists today, the Violets are the ones winning Emmys for “twerking” while the Donna Reeds are shamed as slaves of the patriarchy. George Bailey — without the direct intervention of an angel, mind you — is a suicide victim with the natural result being that Bedford Falls falls to the equivalent of Harvey Weinstein and becomes Pottersville.

No one, so far as we know, intervenes for us in the way Clarence did. We have to do the honest and right thing knowing that this world tends to shit on such things and rewards the opposite. It’s even possible that millennials would view It’s a Wonderful Life as some kind of parody and have a laugh, even at the dramatic moments.

Like I said, I find this movie to have much more grit in it than just the simply “Capracorn” it is usually known for. There is indeed a happy ending. But for many of the real George Baileys of the world, they are roadkill for the Mr. Potters, and few know or care. This movie is therefore like a Psalm. It’s a reminder that the world works one way but it’s good to be reminded there are other ways to be. And, most importantly, we must reward and appreciate the George Baileys of the world or else his kind are doomed to extinction.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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36 Responses to Christmas Thoughts

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    They had this on last night on NBC, so I can say that Bert is the policeman and Ernie the cab driver. A few days from now, I probably couldn’t answer the question.

    Note that when Clarence mentions that George has really had a wonderful life, it has nothing to do with George’s own happiness — only the fate of various specific people (such as Mary, Mr. Gower, Harry Bailey, and the people whose lives Harry saved) and of the poor and working class people of Bedford Falls in general. It’s a thought that didn’t occur to me in watching, but reading your comments reminded me of it.

    The ending is indeed very sentimental; I believe I had a trace of tears in my eyes, which I hadn’t earlier.

    And Merry Christmas to you and everyone else here.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Note that when Clarence mentions that George has really had a wonderful life, it has nothing to do with George’s own happiness — only the fate of various specific people

      That’s a fair and good point, Timothy. Certainly George had a good life, if not a wonderful one. It’s all relative. Had he lived in one of the thousands of small villages throughout the ages which were sacked by invading armies — complete with the typical raping and murder — he’d have thought that his life was wonderful indeed and Mr. Potter hardly noticeable as a flaw. But relative to his hopes and dreams, he was, as Mr. Potter aptly noted: “You once called me a warped, frustrated old man. What are you but a warped, frustrated young man?”

      Ouch. That hit home. This is one thing I love about this movie. Although for the drive-by-viewer it’s all smiles and happy endings, the truth is that George was functioning well — and, as you said, helping make other people’s lives wonderful — but he himself, while comfortable and useful, was not living a wonderful life.

      Clarence brought in the wonder from above. As you noted, George saved Mary (from being an old maid), Harry (his very life), Mr. Gower (his dignity and worth), and the many people ensconced in Potter’s slums living semi-degraded lives.

      Perhaps that is why the metaphor of Christ strikes such a chord. We are all martyrs. We are martyrs to the hopes and dreams unfulfilled. God could have come down from on high and given everyone a new Playstation 4 and a million-dollar bank account. Instead, he knew the way to reach mankind was in mankind’s unending need to view himself as a victim, a martyr. Only by doing so could we put our own lives into perspective.

      And that is the gift that Clarence brings to George.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        An interesting further analysis. Incidentally, in discussing this with my nurse as she bandaged my legs just now, it occurred to me that there’s at least one other person whose life George influenced — the child who would have been killed by the poison Mr. Gower put in that batch of medicine. I wonder what happened to him in the world where George saved his life as well as Mr. Gower’s reputation.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I’m always picking stuff up when re-watching a favorite such as this. For the first time I noticed that it was a child who was saved from the poison. I’d never picked up on that before.

          And the alternative universe Pottersville shows that Uncle Billy was saved as well. In the Pottersville world, he’s in an insane asylum. And George’s mother isn’t that sweet old lady of Bedford Falls. She’s more like some of the gangster-mother roles she’s played. At least I remember her playing some rough ladies. I don’t remember which movie though. Beulah Bondi won a couple Oscars, one for playing Rachel Jackson in The Gorgeous Hussy which has a magnificent cast, including Jimmy Stewart. I might have to find a copy of that.

          And that kid saved from the poison no doubt turned to a life of crime. He was a serial murderer who left a trail of 25 victims. Life is complicated. 😀 Or maybe he ended up inventing lawn darts. Maybe the latter is a more pleasing notion.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            There is no doubt that this is a morality tale, and I can’t help but think that it being made so soon after WWII had something to do with this.

            Clearly there are several messages in the movie, all of which can be seen as Christian. The first is that a person is to do what is right because it is right, regardless what it costs one. Second is the message that by leading a righteous life, a person can touch many others in a positive way without knowing it. A positive example can work wonders. Third, we should help each other as we are all human and will fail from time to time. Fourth, never despair as God is always near you.

            On a lighter side, one must wonder how important old George was to the angels. Clearly, they didn’t think much of Clarence so sending him to help out would seem like sending in the third string when the team is trailing badly. But of course, angels have more information that us humans, and everything did turn out alright.

            Finally, I think the film is just as much Clarence’s story as it is George’s. After all, it would seem Clarence had been something of a failure until he took George in hand. And having done that, he helped both George and himself.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I don’t recall any mention of who the kid was or what happened to him. Who knows? Maybe he’s one of the two boys who opened up the pool. (No one other than George, Mr. Gower, and probably Mary knew what had happened.)

            A quick scan of Beulah Bondi’s filmography doesn’t seem to show any obviously roles as a rough woman. She did play Stewart’s mother in 3 other movies, and also a governess for James Reavis’s future bride in The Baron of Arizona (which apparently heavily fictionalizes that fascinating story, a classic of Americana).

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    A very nice and interesting critique’ of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    If Clarence is the angel who makes an appearance in It’s a Wonderful Life, is there also a demon? Is he the guy at the school dance who whispers into Alfalfa’s ear and tells him about the retractable floor with the swimming pool below, and then just happens to have the key and gives it to him?

    A sharp observation. I watched part of the movie last night and this was the last scene I saw. I wondered “Where the hell did this guy come from? Why does he want to give George a hard time? Is there something else I am missing?”

    Speaking of which, why the heck was Uncle Billy ever entrusted to make bank deposits involving large wads of cash?

    This has long been the weak point of the movie. What type of nut would give hare-brained Uncle Billy responsibility over cash? After the many hard years of work and disappointment, a sane George certainly wouldn’t. He would have more sense than that, and he would understand and accommodate Uncle Billy’s limits.

    Yet without this unlikely/crazy scene, the basis upon which the movie is predicated is impossible. Was George unconsciously trying to undo himself by putting his fate in the hands of an unreliable Uncle Billy? Was George secretly self-destructive? Was George temporarily insane when he allowed Uncle Billy to carry the cash? The scene is a sort of deus ex machina in reverse.

    I do like the casting. Donna Read is perfect and I have long been a fan of Gloria Grahame. Henry Travers as Clarence works well. But I must say I like Ward Bond’s Bert as much as any of them. That may just be a result of him being a part of my childhood as the wagon master in “Wagon Train” and part of John Wayne’s troop in a number of Westerns.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Mary had been with another boy when she started dancing with George, and I assume he’s the one who turned the key to open the floor. But I have no idea why the other boy provided him with the information and the key.

      The Wall Street Journal once had an article in which various bankers critiqued George Bailey’s performance as bank executive. They found him a bit too trusting of his loan recipients (relying on verbal agreements), and also were critical of Uncle Billy’s role. No doubt he had things he could do, but he wasn’t reliable enough to handle a key responsibility.

      Actually, we don’t know how much cash the uncle was about to deposit — in the end, George was $8000 short. I don’t see this as self-destructiveness, though that is an interesting possibility for a “warped, frustrated young man” (though middle-aged would be more accurate), which he already was. But more likely this was simply his nearly compulsive helpfulness to the unfortunate as well as family loyalty.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        But I have no idea why the other boy provided him with the information and the key.

        This is the guy I was referring to. I can understand why Alfalfa would be pissed off, as he was the one speaking to Mary when George broke in. But that guy with the info and key does seem a bit like a demon turning up out of nowhere just to cause mischief. He used Alfalfa’s anger and turned it into a spiteful act, which was the real evil.

        As I recall, Alfalfa committed suicide at a fairly young age.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Carl Switzer indeed died fairly young (32). He was shot in a dispute over money. (I checked wikipedia.) After he left Our Gang he found he had become typecast as Alfalfa and could only get bit parts, as in this movie,, and ultimately quit acting. But his tempter in this case wasn’t even credited, though mentioned in wikipedia.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Life can be strange.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            What a sad story about Alfalfa. I had no idea. He also makes a photo appearance in “White Christmas” as the brother of Judy Haynes (Vera Ellen), an old army buddy of Bing’s who she uses as an in to have the team of Bob and Phil come and see the sisters’ show.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        They found him a bit too trusting if his loan recipients (relying on verbal agreements), and also were critical of Uncle Billy’s role.

        I do think (or want to think) that when he loaned Violet some money for her to start a new life, he indeed did expect her to pay it back — and that she eventually did. But, jeepers, business was a bit casual at times. Mr. Potter, surely in rhetoric meant to be dishonest, might have a point when he says:

        You see, if you shoot pool with some employee here, you can come and borrow money.

        It’s a movie. Mr. Potter is made severe in his attitude and the Baileys are loosey-goosey. We’ve already seen what the Bailey approach gets you. That was behind the housing boom and bust of 2008.

        Somewhere between those extremes is the way to go about business. And most businesses that can make money and thus stay in business are in that middle somewhere. But then you wouldn’t have a much of a movie if you just aimed a camera at a typical loan officer in a commercial bank.

        Regarding the $8000 shortfall, if it was just a matter of balancing the books one can be sure that Sam Wainwright would have bailed him out.

        Regarding Violet, another thing that registered with me for the first time was that she, too, was coming home and making peace with being in Bedford Falls. At the end of the movie she drops the money saved for her move to New York into the basket. She’s not going to New York. She changed her mind. The clear implication is that she is no longer going to be running away from her problems and is going to straighten out her life here in Bedford Falls first, come what may in the future for her. (Still…she is a little kinky. I like to think that she falls in love with and marries Mr. Gower.)

        • Timothy Lane says:

          One reason Potter doesn’t care about never making loans to the poorer citizens is that he can gouge them on rent in his slums. He figures he does better as a slumlord. That’s probably why he hates the Baileys and their loan business.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yes, Potter is no doubt making money as a slum lord. The upkeep and maintenance costs for a slum are minimal compared to what it takes to construct Bailey Park. But, really, this was about an angry, bitter man who wanted to share his misery with others. He cared little about creating a “thrifty working class.” He cared about as much about that as Obama did to create “affordable health insurance.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      A sharp observation.

      Thank you, Mr. Kung. That is gratifying. You will accept it in the manner it is offered when I tell you that I often cringe before casting my pearls before swine. Let’s just say that you don’t “oink.”

      Yes, Uncle Billy in charge of cash deposits is a bit of a weak point in the plot. Still, the way it plays out is very very good.

      Was George unconsciously trying to undo himself? That is not so fanciful a notion as the drive-by movie aficionado might think. I am utterly convinced by some people I know that unconscious motives are what drive them. Because this line of reasoning is indefinite, it is easy to paint castles in the clouds and start reading motivations into things as if you were telling fortunes by reading the bumps on a person’s head.

      Still, we do see how George Bailey comes unglued regarding what would assuredly have been understood by all as an honest mistake even though there could be very serious implications. George Bailey was a dam ready to burst. He found his opportunity.

      We see this especially in perhaps the finest scenes in the movie, when George returns home and suddenly his family is something he can hardly bare, for it is a symbol of his constraints and his disappointments. Because neither George Bailey nor James Stewart are simple-minded characters/people, in the midst of his brewing derangement at home he still has the tenderness to bury all that for the sake of little Zuzu, sick in bed with a cold, a flower desperately in need of having its fallen petals pasted back on.

      No honest man cannot understand a good family as both these elements: that which gives him meaning and purpose but at the same time the thing that constrains him. When adversity strikes, this is revealed, as it is revealed when George is faced with scandal and perhaps even prison time.

      Bert (the cop, right?) is indeed a solid part of the film. It’s hard not to like the guy.

  3. James says:

    I find one of the most powerful scenes is when George finally admits his love for Mary. He was so good in that scene. His conflicting emotions come through brilliantly.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      It’s something that develops very nicely. Note that when George explains to Mr. Gower about the incorrect medicine and the latter tests is and realizes George is right, she happens to be there.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      James, that is an amazing scene. We all know good acting when we see it (or most of us do) and bad acting when we see it. (Last night I watched the “Touched by an Angel” episode from 2000 with Ann-Margret, and they all were stinking it up — and I’m an Ann-Margrock fan from way back.)

      I either saw this on the bonus material with the Blu Ray disc or read it online, but Jimmy Stewart was apparently very reticent about doing such a romantic scene. He thought he’d just look awkward. And we can understand him not wanting to look bad. This was his comeback into pictures from after the war.

      I believe they put off that scene for a while. But Capra came up with the idea of changing the staging of it. He had them both talking into the same phone. And it just exploded from there. Capra said “Cut. Print it.” But his assistant noted that Stewart and Reed had blown past two pages of dialogue. And Capra says something like “Who needs dialogue when you have that?”

      It’s hard for a non-actor like myself to put myself in that situation. But the good ones have to work for it. Perhaps Stewart’s conflicting emotions about even being able to do the scene competently helped in the end. Reed is equally good in it. I think it’s clearly the best stuff she’s ever done.

  4. pst4usa says:

    “Speaking of which, why the heck was Uncle Billy ever entrusted to make bank deposits involving large wads of cash?” As one of the proud swines I must add an oink! George is not himself today because his brother is coming home. and the whole town is excited. Now we do not know if George has some resentment or if he is just as excited as the rest, but that is the answer I gave myself many years ago. Very good analysis one and all. One of my favorites, a Christmas tradition. And as eluded to Brad, for me there is and was a Clarence figure, Jesus was that angel who came down to earth to save me. Happy New Year to one and all.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      History is full of younger brothers trying to overthrow the older ones….or older ones trying to squelch the younger ones. But my impression is that George loved his brother as a brother should love a brother. He resented the fact that Harry had job prospects right out of college that could preclude him from working at the Building & Loan while it was George’s turn to attend college. But he resented the fact, not Harry. George could not bare to squelch a good opportunity for his brother even though it would cause him disappointment. In our “me, me, me” culture, George must seem a very strange person indeed.

      And it’s not clear at all that George was paying penance for anything. He had a sense of duty and decency that was deeply ingrained. He’s the kind of guy who would never have taken off his suit coat in the Oval Office instead of getting blow jobs from interns under the desk.

      Perhaps the overall message of this movie (or one of them) is that goodness isn’t necessarily glamorous. George had all kinds of exciting notions in his head, none of them bad. It’s good to travel. It’s good to want to be an architect and to build things. But — prompted by circumstances, yes — he always chose something else over those dreams. And he had come to believe these choices made him an absolute failure. And not just a failure, but a plague on his very family and town.

      A bit of a martyr complex? Sure. George was only human. But he was also good. And like a lot of people who do the right thing without a lot of pomp and circumstance, these good things they do tend to be taken for granted. The pillars of civilization are always taken for granted until we knock them down thinking they weren’t needed at all.

      This is the core difference between liberalism and conservatism. Liberals believe that human beings are naturally good and if impediments are removed and people are allowed to run on autopilot, things will always turn out swell. Conservatives understand, however, that life is a vacuum, a void, with its gravity always pulling toward disintegration and degradation. Good can never be taken for granted. Good is always swimming upstream.

      George was always swimming upstream. Such people face fatigue and disillusionment as a byproduct of this resistance just as Violet faced similar troubles on the opposite end of the spectrum. Violet’s cure (we hope) was in rejecting that end of the spectrum. George’s cure was in learning to live within his.

      Happy New Year, Pat. [Cue Guy Lombardo]

      • Timothy Lane says:

        George always sacrificed his dreams to help others, usually having to do with the Bailey Savings and Loan, and sometimes it was just his loyalty to his family. His sense of failure was caused not by his sacrifices, but by what seemed to be their reward. Clarence then reminded him of what he had accomplished, and what it meant.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I believe George’s sense of failure arose from a momentary lapse when he equated success and/or failure with simply material gain, or lack thereof.

          Clarence just reminded George that true success comes from living a righteous life and thereby gaining the love, respect and admiration of others.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            And George then found out how much he had gained the love, respect, and admiration of others — except for the despicable Potter, who had driven him to the brink of suicide.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Is everything working now? Maybe some upgrading was going on in the background. Or Russian hackers.

          His sense of failure was caused not by his sacrifices, but by what seemed to be their reward. Clarence then reminded him of what he had accomplished, and what it meant.

          Yes, George Bailey does make it quite plain that his sacrifices seem not to be rewarded. He offers God a small prayer in the bar while going through his Uncle Billy crisis and then soon after gets hit in the mouth by the teacher’s husband. “That’s what I get for praying.”

          George does indeed get into the victim mentality. A liberal finish from this scene forward would be for a mob to loot Mr. Potter’s bank and then they all go get drunk at “Nick’s” and self congratulate each other on their success as Social Justice Warriors.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        And he had come to believe these choices made him an absolute failure.

        Too often one hears people say, “I had no choice”, but that is never the case. The truth is, we always have choices, they may just not be the choices we wish we had.

        George was given some unpleasant choices, but generally made the right one. This may not have been easy, but doing the “right” thing is often difficult.

      • pst4usa says:

        There you go again casting those pearls Brad. I was commenting on why I thought George might have let Billie take the deposit on this particular day. I was not trying to make a comment about the nature of brotherly love or brotherly rivalry but only as a possible cause of the giant flaw in the movie. Namely the question from above. Please keep casting those pearls though! As Herbie the Elf Dentist would say, “Oink Oink….oink,oink,oink” Bumbles just love a good pork dinner.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Not only might he be emotionally distracted, but he’d also be busy making preparations for his brother’s arrival. So it’s understandable he’d want someone else to take that deposit over. It would also save him from seeing Potter, which might spoil his day.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I was commenting on why I thought George might have let Billie take the deposit on this particular day.

          Pat, making the bank deposit seemed to be Uncle Billy’s regular duty. But, yeah, with Harry’s heroic homecoming, everyone was very distracted. And Uncle Billy proved the maxim “pride comes before a fall” when, instead of acting responsibly by fulfilling his duty, he was bragging to Mr. Potter about Harry.

          We knew Mr. Potter was a hard man. What he hadn’t yet seen was that he was a dishonest man. Instead of returning the money that Uncle Billy had mistakenly place in his newspaper to the Bailey Building & Loan, he held onto it. Not only that, knowing the George was innocent he sicced the police on him. This was when Mr. Potter parted company as a mere Scrooge. Ebenezer Scrooge may have been tight with money, and hard on his employees, but so far as we know he never cheated anyone.

          I suppose one could write a sequel to this film or at least an epilogue. What happened to Mr. Potter? My guess is that he died the next day of a heart attack. George, in his equanimity, gave the eulogy because no one else would. Violet went on to form a shelter for wayward women. Harry obviously got very rich…so much so that he was able to soon send George and his wife on an all-expenses-paid world tour.

          And to this day in the middle of Bailey Park — in the middle of a grassy place central within the housing project — stands a 1/64th scale of the Pyramid of Giza that George built, having been astounded by walking in and around the real thing on his travels. It was his monument to fulfilled dreams. Written in hieroglyphics as a sort of frieze is “Remember no man is a failure who has friends.”

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Oh, I love that proposed sequel. It would fit well into the ending of the movie. Of course, an all sweetness and light movie wouldn’t sell; there would have to be some sort of difficulty to overcome.

            That’s also a good comparison between Scrooge and Potter. Scrooge was a miser, but was never shown to be a crook. He did let Cratchit have Christmas off, and he showed that he was — when touched appropriately — capable of sympathy. Potter showed that he had no such capability. I’m sure the ghosts would never have found visiting him worthwhile.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              That’s also a good comparison between Scrooge and Potter.

              You are correct. I think the difference between the two characters may have to do with the change in the public’s attitude toward businessmen between the 1840’s and 1940’s. By the 1940’s after 4 terms of Dim presidents, all successful businessmen who owned their own companies had to be crooks.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              there would have to be some sort of difficulty to overcome.

              I’ve been thinking about that, Timothy. I’m not sure where a sequel should go in this regard. We could send Mary to the Despair Farm and she could get her angel and that would be quite boring. Maybe some government is trying to bulldoze Bailey Park to make way for a shopping mall. But the original film is about a crisis of spirit not just a “big guy/little guy” battle.

              I suppose if I really wanted to extend this, I might start out by visiting heaven and see how Clarence is doing. We would be walking the tightrope in regard to sacrilege, but I can imagine Clarence having some crisis of spirit. In heaven everything works like clockwork. No one is unhappy. All needs are fulfilled. And yet Clarence is bored as hell and feels there is something missing from his life despite his new set of wings.

              He asks for permission to go live amongst humans for a while to sort things out. The conflict, deceit, and plain vulgarity that he finds — in stark contrast to Heaven — jar him. A few such incidents jolt his memory and we flashback to his former life as a living human being. We see Clarence in his younger, more vital self with his loves, his losses, his victories and his defeats. And as sorrowful as his life often was, he realizes it was the struggle that gave everything spice.

              And yet one’s struggles are softened through the eyes of nostalgia. In the here-and-now Clarence encounters serial instances of disheartenment brought on by an unbelieving atheistic/materialistic culture steeped in meaningless sex, drugs, and a baseline quasi-beastliness despite the hi-tech trappings of civilization. And although Clarence has the comforts of Heaven as his reward, he asks for permission to return to earth to try, however futility, to turn the tide of men.

              We would see Clarence interacting with a couple different people, neither of whom is the modern icon for what troubles us: “the poor” or the bastard Wall Street executive. No struggling “single mothers” to sort out. It was fitting in the original movie that a quite normal, but extraordinary man in his own way, George Bailey, was the life used to make a deeper point. Clarence would find a case or two of normal people gone astray who would, by extension, symbolize this disheartenment we are all touched by. Clarence wouldn’t necessarily use the same technique on George, but being a semi-clever angel, he might think of something interesting.

              In the end, the blazing message we would learn is that heaven is heaven and earth is earth — where not all problems can be solved — and each has different purposes and methods. For we humans, we have to have faith, work to not be so beastly, and if not actually enjoy the struggle, at least appreciate that it is our necessary lot in life which, if only by contrast, gives the Clarences of the world their sanctification and reason for being.

              For Clarence, he discovers he belongs a little in each world. In the true spirit of the Creator, he sacrifices at least some of his cushy existence to share in the pains of humanity. But not without a price. Angels of his type must necessarily also be subject to at least some of earth’s physical laws. The last scene is of Clarence wandering a back alley looking for souls to rescue. He is physically accosted by a vagrant, but Clarence has nothing worth stealing. The last shot is a fade-out from a close up of Clarence who, wiping his face says, “Well, how about that? My lip’s bleedin’.”

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I imagine Clarence would still continue his occasional guardian angel duties, which would reduce any tendency toward boredom.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            You should be writing movie scripts instead of those idiots who write most of today’s rubbish.

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