Student Voice


May 26, 2024



‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ examined just in time for Christmas

December 5, 2014

Something that I have kept a tradition for several years with my family is watching the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Christmastime.

It is a heartwarming film, really. It centers on a man named George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. At a young age, his father passed away from a stroke which prompted the “richest and meanest man in Bedford Falls,” Mr. Potter, to try and reject home loans to the working poor. George can stop him, but only if he takes over his father’s business, The Bailey Building and Loan. He gives his college money to his brother Harry, assuming that he will take over. However, Harry is offered another job and George takes over the business.

Meanwhile, George reunites with a girl from his childhood, Mary. They get married soon after. Though on their wedding day, there is a run on the bank and leaves his business in danger of collapse. George and Mary use the $2,000 for their honeymoon to satisfy depositors’ immediate needs. They raise four children and start Bailey Park, a new housing development. George is offered business trips to Europe, something he has always wanted to do. He turns it down realizing that Potter would take over Bedford Falls. He
is also unable to enlist in the military when World War II breaks out, though his brother Harry fought as a Navy fighter pilot and earns the Medal of Honor.

Information on Harry’s heroic contributions to his country were read as George’s Uncle Billy was on his way to the bank on Christmas Eve morning to deposit $8,000 of the company’s cash funds. This is when he accidentally misplaces the money, getting it into Potter’s hands. Because of this, the Bailey Building and Loan is at risk of bankruptcy. A frantic search turns up with nothing, and George takes it out on his family when a bank examiner is set to arrive that day. Potter turns down George’s request for a loan, and George gets drunk and runs his car into a tree. He tries to commit suicide but is saved by his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody. He wishes that he was never born so that this would not happen and everyone would be better off. Clarence grants him his wish.

This is where things get very strange. Of course seeing the world in which you do
not exist is unusual, but a few things do not make any sense. So I thought of different hypotheses as to why these events turns out the way it did. The first instance was at George’s favorite bar, originally called Martini’s. He and Clarence go to get a drink at this bar in the world that he does not exist in. Now, however, it is now called Nick’s. Martini, the owner of the bar in Bedford Falls, is nowhere to be found. But my question is why would he suddenly disappear if George does not exist? Where exactly is the correlation here? My hypothesis to this sudden change is that Martini and Nick engage in a falling out without George there to stop them. This then prompts Nick to be an arrogant twit and take over, leaving Martini jealous, helpless, and poor beyond belief. It seems to make sense. If that is not weird enough, things get weirder.

George later tries to get a ride home from his friend Ernie, a taxi cab driver. He claims of course Ernie knows where he lives, but when he tells him, Ernie is shocked. That house has been abandoned for nearly twenty years. He and his friend Bert, a police officer, follow him there, sure that this man is out of his mind. That part makes a whole lot of sense to me. What does not make sense was when Ernie informs George that his wife left him and took the kids, leaving Ernie helplessly poor. Again, where is the correlation or the logic in this change? It’s simple: George had a secret job on the side as a marriage counselor. They went to him to seek advice. Honestly, they could have just told us that.

He later finds Mary closing up the library. She is an old maid. Though now, she has glasses and a bad hair style. Are they really trying to portray that women only have good vision and cute hair for a man? Now, that is a bit sexist. Perhaps George is also an eye doctor who offered Mary an affordable price for Lasik. What do you mean it wasn’t invented? It’s George Bailey; he can make it happen. There you go, all your questions answered. You’re welcome.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.