George never thanks the town for helping him out with the money in the end. This might seem kind of rude, but it makes sense because George is so used to doing things for other people that he simply doesn't know how to react when someone does something for him. This is also illustrated during his "honeymoon" with Mary.
It comes across as his being so stunned he couldn't speak.
Also, it's not that his friends and family are doing a favor for him. They're thanking him for the many acts of kindness he's done for them all.
It's also only about a minute or so before the end of the film. He may've thanked them after the credits rolled.
In the "I want to live again" scene, the snow doesn't begin to fall until George prays to God for his life back. That doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for those who believe.
What's so bad about Pottersville anyway? Even more businesses seem to be booming. But, wait... In Pottersville, all the businesses in Bedford Falls went out of, well, business and were replaced with escapist entertainment — gambling, bars, and strip clubs — where people waste money and thus get deeper and deeper into the trouble that sends them there for escape in the first place. (Look at the size of that pawn shop.) The nature of the businesses in Pottersville is a sign that the residents have given up and are simply trying to numb the pain of existing rather than trying to thrive and live. Even worse, if enough money is squandered at these places, people land themselves in the poor houses of Potter's slum neighborhoods, perpetuating the terrible living conditions for the citizens living in this town, which ultimately seems only good for tourism rather than finding a home there.
When George finally snaps, take a look at the thing he destroys. It's a model of a suspension bridge, possibly built by George or one of his children (or with one of his children) as a hobby. Remember that George wanted to be an engineer or an architect when he was young, and that was just one of the many dreams he had to give up. But presumably he kept his love of engineering enough to build models in his spare time. And now that his life is starting to unravel, the first thing he sees is that model, that one pathetic reminder of his lost dreams of youth. No wonder that that model winds up taking the full brunt of his rage.
I didn't realize this until seeing the trope for Book Ends, but when Clarence comes to Earth to save George from suicide, what's the first thing he does? Knowing George's life history, he immediately jumps into freezing water.
Another Book Ends is the scene where George runs down the street through pouring rain to open the Building & Loan, and then at the end he's running (albeit on the opposite side of the street) through snow. Merrrrie Christmas, you wonderful old Building & Loan!
This troper realized that Mary doesn't tell George her actual wish and it comes true. George does tell Mary his wish and it doesn't come true.
When George is lending money to get the town through the bank closure, after one person insists on his full balance, most people start taking $20. But one old woman says that she only needs $17.50. When all is said and done, the Building and Loan only has $2 left. If that old woman had asked for $20 with the rest of them, the B&L would have gone under.
What's really brilliant is that Ellen Corby's "Could I have $17.50?" was spontaneous — as was Stewart's reaction — and Capra threw it in.
Sort of Fridge Anti-Horror: alternate-Nick's flippant joke about "giving out wings". Judging by the end of the film, he really was handing out wings to angels.
George wishes for ‘a million bucks’ a few times, and once to travel the world and build great things. By the end of the film, the whole town comes together to get him out of trouble and collects piles of money, enough to afford to pursue his dreams.
Alternatively, while he couldn't travel the world, he already built a great deal of things throughout his adult life, both literally and metaphorically. His efforts to keep Bedford Falls and the Bank out of Potter's hands has built a small empire where the people are still as self-made as they were the day George's father died. Not to mention he built those homes for people so they wouldn't have to pay rent in Potter's slums anymore. He's the one who gave advice to an old (successful) acquaintance to start his business in Bedford Falls so the people would have more jobs.
In-universe example: George is horrified by how much worse things would be for everyone he knows without him.
George helps a bunch of squatters skimp by on cheap housing instead of letting the supposed "villain" win. We even get a glimpse of what this would mean: a bustling nightlife strip that would undoubtedly boost the small town's economy.
...wow. I mean wow. You seem to have missed that the "bustling nightlife strip" was a street full of nightclubs and... shall we say, houses of ill repute? That this is all controlled with an iron fist by the "supposed" villain who has a stranglehold over the entire town as he owns everything in it? How about that the police are basically turned into a gang under the control of the "supposed" villain? Wow, a boost to the economy sounds worth it.
Not to mention that the town in that timeline didn't seem much wealthier than it did originally.
Not to mention the size of that pawnshop means people are going into an unbelievable amount of hock.
Part of the point of this movie is that money isn't everything, you know. Some things are more important — like integrity and charity (old-fashioned sense).
George provides cheap (but quality) housing by sacrificing his own profits; Potter provides overpriced slums, but he was poor families' only option until George and the Building and Loan created a better alternative. In the Potterville Universe, Potter's monopoly was complete — he owned all the businesses and the housing, so the lion's share of the wealth from the so-called "bustling" gin joints and strip clubs would have gone to Potter while the towns' actual citizens would continue to be bled dry and live in horrible conditions.
Also, the movie takes place just after WWII ended. The post-war boom in manufacturing and housing is going to do more for the local economy than Potter's mini-Vegas.
They're not squatters. They "work and pay and live and die" in the town. They're working-class or working-poor (they have jobs or are self-employed, but their income falls below the poverty level), big difference.
In the alternate reality, Martini is nowhere to be found, without explanation. Was he the child that was accidentally poisoned by the druggist?
In a Deleted Scene, he was revealed to have died in a house fire in one of Potter's tenements.
The alternate Bedford Falls is shown to be a place that is much less safe and friendly than it is in George's reality. In George's world, Mary is an outgoing, happy woman. Even when George hid her bathrobe, her first reaction was outrage, not fear. Now consider how her Pottersville self acted — she walked hunched and clearly trying to avoid attention, and nearly had a nervous breakdown when George tried to talk to her. Sure, a strange man running over and insisting you were his wife is going to freak most people out, but her overall demeanor is far more timid and fearful in general. What could have happened in this alternate timeline to make her like that?
Given what a dirty, seedy den of iniquity the alternate-universe town is, and what's become of Mary's childhood friend Violet — last seen outside a bar and surrounded by angry or indifferent men, being manhandled into a squad car — Pottersville may be a very dangerous place to be a single working woman. (Perhaps the only thing that saves the situation from being a total nightmare is the strangers willing to help her fend George off — and even they seem more ticked-off at George for making a fuss than altruistically concerned for Mary's safety.)
Potter's line "No securities, no stocks, no bonds, nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy...You're worth more dead than alive!" becomes extra chilling when you realize that Potter probably wanted George to kill himself to make sure he was out of the way. About the only thing he didn't do was leave a loaded pistol in plain sight on his desk.
Consider that most of the people George knew (of the right age) fought in World War II, and keep in mind that Potter was the head of the draft board for the town. Exactly how likely is it that Potter would send George's brother and friends off to war just to spite him, probably annoyed that he couldn't send George himself just to get him out of the way?
For that matter, having Mr. Potter in charge of the Draft Board at all is kind of horrifying. He declares everyone in the particular clip to be 1-A- fit to be drafted. He sends every young man he could get his hands on to World War II.
I always saw the film portraying Potter as taking the draft board seriously, one of the few things he at least partially put aside his evil, twisted, selfish ways for, and his declaring George 4-F to be a Take That!. As a patriotic, selfless young man (in a Capra film), George would have wanted to serve his country. Potter declared him 4-F to demoralize him.
With the ideas of a Multiverse, this means that the world of Pottersville still exists, presumably to get worse and worse with the march of time.
Why is George allowing Uncle Billy to handle the money at all?
There's a difference between being forgetful and being irresponsible. Also, you come up with a way to tell an old man that he's not fit for the duties he's been performing faithfully and flawlessly all his life without a really solid reason.
Also keep in mind that Billy was apparently one of the founding owners of the business. Trying to tell a guy he's too incompetent to run the business he helped start, especially a family member, would probably be a little difficult. Although still, you could hope that George talked to Billy afterward about retirement.
That may be for the better, since Pottersville Mrs. Bailey mentions that after the Building and Loan went out of business, Uncle Billy was put in a mental hospital. Whether that's because he's too loopy to be out on his own or because he just didn't know what else to do with himself is probably up for debate.
I always imagined that Uncle Billy simply couldn't handle that his business went belly up, had a nervous breakdown, and was hauled off to the funny farm in a straitjacket.
Also, Billy was seen to drink now and then. He got sloshed at Harry's party and had a nip from a flask in the "run on the bank" sequence — seeming to use it as self-medication for anxiety. My guess is that he wasn't an alcoholic, but might have become one, or at least hit the bottle more heavily after the B&L failed, a routine reason to have someone committed back then.
The bar for commitment to a mental institution was a lot lower in the 1940's. For all we know (and it it's perfectly within character), Potter may have arranged for Uncle Billy to be committed so he could take over the Building and Loan. Having sometimes perfectly fine people committed was a common underhanded way for someone to get his hands on a business or estate. As it was, this was an era when homosexuals and people with learning disabilities could be confined to a mental institution in most jurisdictions. All it takes is one crooked judge... and psychiatry being what it was back then, it would be next to impossible to convince the doctors to let you back out. Hell, it's still like that in some places (mental institutions can make you crazy). Even if they did let him out, the damage would already be done.
Why does Mary need glasses in the Pottersville segment? Did George's existence somehow improve her eyesight?
She's working at the library now. Everyone knows that dames can't handle that much readin'. They'll go blind.
It's because George was the only man she ever loved. In this universe, because George never existed and she is living in a Crapsack World, the men in that world would have been just as bad for her. A person of George's quality wouldn't exist. So she rather take her chances of being an old maid than to be a depressed wife.
She's living in one of the crappy little shacks Potter provides to working-class people and thus doesn't have adequate lighting at night, causing her to strain her eyes.
Glasses might have been one of the few things Mary was vain about, considering them unattractive. In the lousy alternate world, she didn't care about her appearance, having given up. So she needed glasses to read, which is important for a librarian.
Conversely, in the alternate world, she may have worn glasses whether she needed them or not because having a "smart person" job was the keystone of what self-respect she could cling to.
Why did Gower even have that bottle of poison powder in his work area to begin with?
I may be wrong, but it's possible that either the substance was only poisonous in combination with other things in the capsules, something that was supposed to be topical but was toxic if ingested, something that particular patient would have a bad reaction to, or a usually harmless in small amounts drug being administered at an absurdly high overdose because Gower mixed up the drugs in his grief. (All we know is George says it's poison and Gower is horrified when he tastes it — that doesn't mean it's always poison, only in the context of capsules meant for a sick kid. I don't believe we got a good look at the bottle he mixed it in, but it has been a while since I've seen it.) It's also possible Gower was so drunk he grabbed rat or roach poison — which would have a legitimate reason for being in an establishment that also sold food items, but obviously hopefully not in close proximity to the medicine/food.
Watch the scene more closely, and the bottle is clearly marked "POISON" on one side. It's most likely the latter case; insect or rat poison that Gower keeps, both for use in his own business to keep vermin out, and to sell to the townspeople who may ALSO need poison to rid their homes of vermin.
This is covered in Headscratchers, but the poison is cyanide, usually kept for use in tests. Its only medical use is as tiny doses to lower high blood pressure.
Speaking of Gower, during the sequence about Gower and the pills, Mary is sitting at the counter and witnesses the entire thing. George swears he'll never tell about the mistake; Mary doesn't reveal that she saw it all, but she keeps silence also.
Obviously the heavenly host is under no obligation to explain its nomenclature system, but "AS2" doesn't really make sense as an abbreviation for "Angel, Second Class." "A2C" would work better.
Someone once worked out that the S stood for Seraphim, and while that's not a seraph's job, it was Christmas and heaven was probably an absolute zoo.
The angelic designations in the film may be based on the U.S. government Civil Service ones, known as GS (General Schedule — of course it really stands for Government Slave). The GS numbers refer to pay grades. AS, then, would be Angelic Service or Angelic Schedule. With this system, Clarence will become an Angel Third Class when promoted.