Headscratchers / It's a Wonderful Life

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    "You've never been born! ...oops." 
  • Okay, if Clarence is supposed to be such a bungler, how did he manage to make it so George had never been born without causing George himself to, you know, cease to exist? I'd think it would have wound up with "Okay, George, you got your wish. You've never been born. Now... George? George? Where'd you go, George?"
    • I always thought that such a feat is beyond the means of one demoted angel. Clarence probably sent off a quick telepathic communique to the higher-ups and they did it for him.
      • He did. A huge wind came up and banged the door open. Clarence leaned out and yelled "You don't have to make all that fuss about it!" before shutting the door.
    • "You've been given a great gift, George — a chance to see what the world would be like without you."
    • I think it's pretty well implied that in the alternate timeline George still "exists" in the same sense that Clarence exists, as a "nobody", a disembodied spirit given a body ex nihilo by supernatural means.
    • So George and Clarence are Nobodies? Freaking sweet.
      • We need fanart of George and Clarence in Organization XIII robes, stat!

    Alt Life Weather and Eyesight 
  • How is it that George's absence not only affected the weather (in one reality, it's snowing when it's not in the other), but Mary's eyesight? She's wearing glasses in the Pottersville reality, but doesn't in the Bedford Falls world.
    • Maybe without George, Mary spent all the time she'd have otherwise spent chasing after kids working at the library and reading, and her eyes have weakened. The weather, um, maybe Zuzu has magical weather powers or...um, okay, you've got me there.
    • The snow is soft, white and pure, symbolic of peaceful Bedford Falls, while the sleet is cold, piercing, and dark, symbolic of the gloom of Pottersville.
    • She doesn't wear glasses because she doesn't read enough to notice she needs them. Second one, butterfly effect.
    • Perhaps the change in weather is just a peculiar side effect of the supernatural force creating the alternate reality. This theory is supported by the fact that a large gust of wind occurs at the moment George's wish is granted.
    • The housing developments in Pottersville are less convivially designed than Bedford Falls. They emphasize commercial interests over preserving community life; a lot more commercial thoroughfares funneling traffic to the commercial districts, a lot less walkable space, a lot fewer family businesses as opposed to nasty roadhouse establishments (like Nick's vs. Martini's) that pull in wanderers and truckers. In general, a lot higher volume of automobile through-traffic, a lot more congestion... and therefore a lot more air pollution, which over decades of time would affect the local climate. I am the master of Fanwank Fu.
    • The snowing is an Empathic Environment; what the symbolism of the snow is, I'm not sure. As for Mary's glasses, she was leaving the library. Did we ever see her reading a book during the timeline with George alive? Maybe she uses reading glasses in that one, too.
      • Maybe it's a twisted form of Snow Means Death? (Snow Means You Don't Exist?)
      • Except that the snow was in the Bedford Falls reality, not in Pottersville.
      • Mary no longer cares to look her very best, so why would she ever take the glasses off? She's permanently depressed, having never gotten what she wanted out of life.
      • Mary, in addition to doing much more reading than in the main timeline, has to live in poorly-lit, substandard housing provided by Potter. This led to the earlier deterioration of her eyesight.
    • It's all explained in chaos theory.
    • Mary might need reading glasses in both worlds, but in this one she uses them so much that she forgot to take them off after closing the library.

    Omniscient Negligence 
  • Why didn't Clarence tell George that Potter stole the $8,000.00? Not that it would have made any difference; George couldn't exactly go to the police and accuse Potter of theft with the evidence "An angel told me," and Potter probably owns the Bedford Falls law enforcement, anyway. But it might have helped George realize everything wasn't his fault.
    • As you said, it wouldn't have made any difference. It was the uncle that misplaced the money, not George. Telling George that Potter had the money could only cause George to confront the banker with something he couldn't prove. Clarence probably already knew that if he could keep George from killing himself, that the necessary money would come from his friends.
    • Also, angels might not be omniscient. They are servants of God, not God himself.
      • True, but the entire movie, which includes that event, is shown to Clarence by Joseph.
      • Joseph is of a higher rank than Clarence, so of course he has greater powers.
      • As it doesn't start snowing again until George prays to God, I think we can draw some reasonable conclusions here.
    • George's main problem wasn't the loss of the money, it was despair and a feeling that his life was meaningless. The theft of the money simply brought this psychological crisis to the fore. But once he realized how meaningful his life was, he regained his optimism and put his financial worries into a different perspective. He even says to the man with the arrest warrant "Isn't that great? I'm going to jail". He says it without a hint of irony.

    Suicide Prevention Intention 
  • Clarence is sent to Earth to stop George from jumping off the bridge and accidentally winds up in the river, which causes George to jump off the bridge into the river to save him. This raises questions.
    • There's a difference between throwing yourself into water to kill yourself and throwing yourself into water save someone. If George had tried to commit suicide, he wouldn't have struggled, but let the water pull him down. When trying to save Clarence, George would have used all his strength to pull the angel to safety. There was also a good chance that George would be reluctant to try again if he was worried about Clarence or that the cold water would disillusion George of further attempts at a watery grave.
    • Also, when George sees people in trouble, he stops thinking and starts helping. Clarence knows this and figures the easiest, fastest thing he can do is jump in and start yelling HELP! That's why he says "I didn't fall in! I jumped in to save George!"

    The cemetery 
  • Okay, so he goes to Harry's grave, which is located where the housing development was when he actually was alive. But his brother would have died when George was 12, which means that George somehow kept a cemetery from being built when he was only a child, or that they built that housing development over a cemetery. Or that there were changes that George was not responsible for, which defeats the purpose.
    • It's mentioned earlier on the film that the housing development was next to a cemetery; it wouldn't be a stretch to think that the crime rate is high in Pottersville and that it eventually expanded.
      • Yes, but even so, Harry's grave was where housing should be, so it follows that even with him alive, the graves of other people who died around then should still be in the same spot long before George could have any big effect on the town, and yet somehow in Bedford Falls the cemetary didn't expand there when George was twelve.
      • The cemetery could have been relocated to facilitate development. Maybe it was full; maybe the church it was associated with expanded and needed new facilities. Paying for the reinternment of all those graves is exactly the sort of thing George Bailey would have involved himself with, especially if it helps provide decent homes for people.

    Unmarried Mary 
  • So this movie is apparently promoting the idea that George and Mary are somehow soulmates, and thus Mary would never be interested in anybody else if there was no George. I call foul. She's a bombshell, and I see no reason why she would not have gotten married.
    • Hold on, you're saying that because she's a bombshell she has to get married. Maybe because he was never born, she never fell in love with anyone and was only interested in books. I mean, you can't just say "She's attractive, so she has to find a guy!" Lots of guys may have been interested in her, but she may have never been interested in them.
    • It's also possible that since Pottersville was such a terrible place to live, any of the good guys we saw earlier who she potentially might have chosen had George not been there simply left as fast as they could. There's also the fact that we see a ton of prostitutes and the strip clubs and general amorality and the like, so it could have been that the guys who went after Mary in that timeline were only after one thing. Mary certainly has more respect for herself than that, and it could explain why she seemed so timid in general and terrified when some strange guy she never saw before runs over and starts trying to hold her.
    • Sam was hiring "masseuses" while he was courting Mary. Between that and the point above, it could easily convince her never to trust any man ever again.
      • But why stay in Bedford Falls at all then? George even pointed out in the real timeline that she didn't have to come back. She went off to college around the time that the Building and Loans would have shut down in the alternate timeline, and if Bedford Falls was such a terrible place after that then why did she come back and stay back?
      • It is her hometown, after all, and maybe things hadn't gotten that bad when she graduated. There's the impression that she's waiting for something, ie George, she hasn't seen yet.
      • If she even went to college in that reality. In the 1920s, a high school graduate could easily have been hired by a library, especially in a town like Pottersville.

    If no George, no Harry? 

    Christmas movie? 
  • Why is this generally considered to be a Christmas movie if a relatively small portion of the movie takes place at Christmas, and has little to do with Christmas itself? You could've put it at Thanksgiving or Independence Day and it probably would've made little difference.
    • Because it's really heartwarming, and Christmas is the holiday most associated with warmth and good feeling.
    • It only became a "Christmas movie" when it was aired in December every year for decades. Look at the original trailer — it was marketed as a Romantic Comedy with no mention made of the now most famous parts.
    • Because the important bits happen at Christmas.
      • And it emphasises the importance of family, friends, and home.
      • And George Bailey is essentially a Christ figure. Clarence showing George just how big an impact he makes on the world is Capra figuratively showing the audience how important an impact Jesus made on the world.
    • Because look at the title cards. You'd never guess from them that it wasn't a Christmas movie.

    Could've Called Sam 
  • Why exactly didn't George invest in Sam Wainwright's business when Sam was letting him in on the ground floor? And even though he didn't, you'd think a rich businessman like Sam could've helped him against Mr. Potter much earlier (he could've had a seat on the B&L board or gotten a friendly to have one). He gave George $25,000 dollars at the end, so he was obviously willing to help out.
    • Potter suggests that when George comes begging him for help; George says he tried but couldn't get in touch with him since he was in London.
      • I meant why didn't Sam get involved way, way before Uncle Billy lost the money?
      • George doesn't like to take charity from anyone and he thinks Sam helping him out would be that, never mind that if he were in Sam's shoes he'd offer help to whoever needed it.
      • George is a banker who's had to navigate through the 1929 stock market crash by backing his institution literally with money out of his pocket, and he's seen the Great Depression wipe out fortunes. He's understandably more than a little reluctant to bet other people's money on a scheme that may not fly.
      • But George rejects the offer before the crash and he had $2000 cash he was planning to blow on a luxurious vacation. At least some of that money would have been better spent being invested. Itís just weird that he refuses to invest any and then acts bitter and jealous when Sam is successful even though Sam practically begs him to be a part of his business. Not only helping himself, he would have also been helping the community by helping Sam, as Samís reopening an old factory at Georgeís suggestion brings a lot of jobs back to the town.
      • Maybe he put it all back into the B&L in between that scene and the wedding when he does it over again.
      • I've got it. Most of the $2,000 isn't George's money. It's Mary's. It's probably an inheritance from her late father, plus earnings from whatever employment she's had (the library?) since her graduation. In the telephone scene, Sam asks if Mary has any money saved and she says "A little." Now, granted $2,000 in 1933 was over $36,000 now, but that's her money plus whatever George has managed to save back.
      • Sam made the offer sometime in the mid 1920s. Plastics were a very new concept, and some early plastics, especially vegetable based ones, were chemically unstable after a few years and would either warp or crumble. George likely felt it was too risky to invest even his own money in something that was still mostly unproven and unknown.

    Unmarried Mary 2: Boogaloo 
  • Without George, why didn't Mary marry Sam Wainwright?
    • She never loved Sam.
    • It's never said what happens to Sam. Maybe he was shot by a business rival or got the heck out of Potterville ASAP.
    • Why would she marry someone who was hiring hookers while courting her? Sam didn't love Mary, and she knew it.

    Mr. Martini's Martinis 
  • One line in this movie bugs me: everything is all settled, George has the money, everyone is partying at the Bailey house, and Mary calls out, "Hey, Mr. Martini, how bout some wine?" Does she think he just carries his bar around with him on his back?
    • He probably brought some with him and she knew it. She was the one who called everyone together to help George out. Either Martini told her "I'll bring some wine to cheer him up" or she told him "How about you bring some wine to cheer George up?"
    • It's practically a party. And if anyone brought wine to the party, wouldn't it be Mr. Martini?
    • Also, she and George gave Mr. Martini a bottle of wine after he moved into his house that the Building and Loan built. It's an In-Joke.
    • Wine should be poured by people who know how.

    What about the rest of us? 
  • Isn't it a little disturbing, the message? I know it's "Everyone depends on you! Everyone loves you!!" and stuff, but the reason they depended on him is because the city practically lived on his continuing to draw breath (im the alternate future, the town's practically a slum!) What about the rest of us measly folks? Is it okay if we off ourselves because the fate of an entire town of people does not depend on us? Seriously. Think about it for a minute. (NOTE: I am NOT advocating suicide!!!)
    • The message is actually that every person is more important than they think, that our lives touch others in ways we never realize. Or as Clarence says, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" Sorry, I have something in my eye...
    • But then, what one wonders what the town would be like if Potter had never been born...
      • There's two ways to look at it. One is that the moral only applies to people who at least try to make the world a better place. Someone like Potter, who actively spreads misery and delights in hurting people — well yeah, the world would be better off without them, but that's strictly by their choice. The other is the idea that, as imperfect as the world seems, everything really does happen for a reason. In that case, even Mr. Potter serves some role in the grand scheme of things, and there are people that even his existence has helped. If his life were erased, things would be worse without him (though probably not nearly so much as they were without George, since George was making an effort to help people).
      • Mr. Potter was the one who kept the town afloat during the Great Depression (for his own selfish reasons, sure, but he did). Without him, they would have been in a far worse place financially, and while money isn't everything, he probably saved lives by ensuring that there was some money. He definitely incidentally made lives better for some. George couldn't have saved the town on his own.
      • They have made a story about a jerk who's shown the world would be better without him. It's called A Christmas Carol.

    Second Amendment 
  • This bothers many people who think the film through. At one point, George hits a cop in the Alternate Reality to escape arrest. As George flees, the cop promptly pulls a gun on him and opens fire... as George runs through a crowded street.
    • Arguably, this was semi-justified by the fact that it takes place in the alternate reality Crapsack World, where (apparently) police think little of firing their weapons in crowded places.
    • Alternatively, the policeman could have been firing over everybody's heads in an attempt to scare George.
    • Definitely not — as he fires, you can see the letters in a lit sign go dark as the bullets shatter them.
    • He did call something like, "Everybody, stand back!" before shooting, so there was at least an attempt to warn people.
    • He also may not be as upstanding or disciplined a cop in this world.

    Fire Uncle Billy! 
  • Also, who in their right mind let Uncle Billy, the town Cloud Cuckoolander, handle eight thousand dollars?
    • Apparently he'd been taking care of this job faithfully and without problems for many years.
    • Uncle Billy seems more of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer, probably perfectly competent with banking and accounting but out to lunch otherwise. Unfortunately, age caught up with him and nobody noticed because he was always a little loopy.
    • Also, remember that it was as much Potter's doing as Billy's. Any decent person would have returned the money to Billy upon realizing the mistake (and indeed Potter nearly did, but changed his mind).

    Happy Ending? 
  • Why is the ending of this film seen as being "happy?" George is still in the same position he was before Clarence "saved" him (same town, $8000 is missing, Potter gets away clean and an investigation and possible arrest are looming, etc.) In fact, Clarence is the only one in the movie that gets a "happy ending." How does that work???
    • Wow. How much attention were you paying to the ending??? Everyone helped raise $8000 and the sheriff tore the arrest warrant up before our eyes! George still got a happy ending.
    • Also, the point of the movie isn't about that. It's about George learning to appreciate and love what he has. He does have a good life. It isn't the one he dreamed about, but he has a healthy happy family with a beautiful wife he loves, with a good business (since the money is repaid), and lots of people who love him. And now he can see it. That's the important part.
      • Plus he's been convinced that he was nothing but a loser all his life — never made his dreams come true, sacrifices his own happiness so others can succeed, didn't take risks when he should have — and he's just now learning how much he means to everyone in town. We also have no guarantee that Potter pulls a Karma Houdini; he could still be caught.
      • Even if Potter never gets caught, he will never achieve the kind of wealth that George Bailey has.
      • As the Fridge page points out, in this world Heaven and Angels definitely exist. Potter's an old man, he'll die soon money or no money and be facing judgement which will almost certainly be Hell.

    Slow George 
  • What is with George being so slow on the uptake? He comes off as a real idiot.
    • I will admit that it takes him way too long to catch on, but let's put ourselves in George's shoes for a minute. Right when you were contemplating suicide, some other guy jumps in and out of the goodness of your heart, you save him. When you're both inside and warm, he somehow knows your name and claims to be your guardian angel. Then, after claiming to grant your offhand remark that the world would be better off without you, he takes you outside and suddenly the whole town is different and none of your friends recognize you. You'd be pretty damn freaked out (which George clearly is), but I doubt your first thought would be "this weirdo I've never met is right, this is a world where I've never been born".
    • The AU concept hadn't been explored much then. If you were stuck in another universe, you'd only know what was going on by your exposure to this kind of story. Plus, wasn't he drunk at the time anyway?
      • He was never born, he'd never gone to Martini's bar and gotten drunk. Plus, I imagine jumping into a river in New York in December may have some sort of sobering effect on the body.
    • Those who don't want to believe, won't believe. Remember, George wasn't a very philosophical man before.

    Where's Prohibition? 
  • You know, it's never mentioned that much of this movie takes place during the Prohibition, including: Harry's graduation where gin is available, Harry's return when Uncle Billy gets drunk as a skunk, George's wedding when Bert (the cop) gives the happy couple champagne as a present, and the run on the bank scene where Uncle Billy can be spotted drinking a quick one out of a flask. Bedford Falls wasn't as innocent and clean-cut as they made it out to be.
    • Prohibition was mostly concerned with the sale of alcohol. People have been making their own alcoholic beverages in their own homes and sharing them with friends and company since alcohol existed.
    • 'Bathtub gin' referred to liquor made in one's home, sometimes literally in the bathtub. Distributing it during a private party (where it is neither sold nor taxed) was one way to get around the ban. Unfortunately, it's very easy to get things wrong and end up poisoning people, so such parties still drew the attention of the authorities.
      • Right; the laws had exceptions (especially if you were one of the upper-crust, but that's another subject entirely).
    • The champagne could have been seized in a raid, but Bert couldn't bring himself to dispose of it and gave it to them. Who's going to expect nice boy George to break Prohibition laws?

  • Fridge moment: the sheriff cannot just tear up the arrest warrant. George will be arrested, booked, arraigned and probably released without needing to pay bail on his own recognizance (meaning he promises to appear in court and signs a form to that effect).note  He must still appear in a court hearing. There he can explain the whole thing (I love where he says "I misplaced eight thousand dollars" in front of Potter) and show that the money has been replaced. Then we'll see what the judge has to say, depending on whether he is or is not owned by PotCo.
    • As in Mayberry, maybe the Sheriff is the judge.
      • Plus, George has the money to cover the books now.
      • George deposits $8000 into the Building and Loan account, the bank examiner says, "There's no evidence of any missing money," and Potter is powerless to do anything about it because he can't dispute the investigation without admitting he stole the money.

    Our Hero, Drunk Driver 
  • George, the hero, is a drunk driver, and nobody seems to care.
    • Given that this happened when he was about to commit suicide to save his family from debt (or else face a sentence in prison for a crime he didn't commit), I imagine people are willing to cut him a tiny bit of slack.
    • Values Dissonance. Believe it or not, once upon a time, drunk driving wasn't considered that big of a deal: although it was still illegal, it had far less consequences and didn't cause you to be socially ostracized. Which is somewhat justifiable, since back then they didn't yet have the data on just how many people drunk driving kills; sure, it wasn't something you should be doing, but it took a while to realize just how dangerous it was.
      • Also, cars were slower back then, so drunk driving really wasn't as dangerous. Then again, cars also didn't have as many safety features either back then.

    Pottersville is Awesome! 
  • Would Pottersville really be that bad a place? All those nightspots are sure to boost tourism and economy, and they don't seem to be drawing in too much crime, from what we see.
    • Blame the Hays Code, which meant that Capra couldn't show the drugs and prostitution that would undoubtedly accompany the dodgy nightclubs.
      • That doesn't necessarily mean terror and violence. It's a small town where everyone knows each other, making it more likely that the cops would let drug usage and prostitution slide, if not partake in a bit of the two themselves. The streets don't exactly look ravaged by gangland warfare either.
      • Are you quite sure it's still a small town?
    • What happens in Pottersville stays in Pottersville.
      • They even have a sexy librarian.
    • The impression of Pottersville I get is that Potter and a few of his cronies are raking in the cash, and everybody else is just hanging on.
    • I think that was the point. It's a slum for the regular folks that are just trying to hold on, while the rich ones are living the good life. It's a world where a selfish, cold-hearted man came to power and changed everything to suit his needs instead of the people's needs. It doesn't have to be a city where gang wars are common (see: Saints Row) to make it a horrible city for decent folks to live in.
    • Considering that Violet is being dragged away by some rather "insistent" cops while she screams about having the goods on a lot of important people, I think there's at least a little corruption going on here. Also, the point made above that the money from casinos doesn't really trickle down.
      • I get the implication that Violet is a prostitute in the Alternate Reality, and that Potter is one of her customers.
      • More likely one of his cronies; Potter himself seems too devoted to money.
    • The cue to what's really going on in Pottersville is that gigantic pawnshop. Think about it.

    Tom Sawyer 
  • What's the significance of Tom Sawyer? At the beginning, Clarence mentions he's been reading it, and at the end he leaves George his copy with the words "Remember no man is a failure who has friends" inside, but why Tom Sawyer specifically?
    • There may not be anything significant about the book itself other than the fact that Clarence is pretty much never seen without it. Maybe Frank Capra just said "Clarence should be holding a book. Tom Sawyer is a pretty good book, so why not that?" Also, the way Clarence holds it, he tends to look almost like a priest holding a bible in some scenes, so it may have been intended to be one, but then they figured that an angel reading a bible would be a bit redundant in a way.
    • It's a first edition. Clarence got it when it first came out, back in 1876. It's a way to let the audience know this isn't just some nutjob.
      • Is that really telling? The movie was shot in 1946 and the actor playing Clarence was old enough to have actually been given a first edition.
    • There is a part in the book where Tom Sawyer is falsely presumed dead by his family. Tom then sneaks back to his house and secretly views his family's reaction to his own death. Clarence then takes this part of the book to come up with a similar idea to allow George Bailey to see the world had he never been born.
    • I think it's funny when Clarence off-handedly mentions Mark Twain's new book, because if there really is a Heaven and Twain is in it, the first book he would write would be called Why I, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Am Really, Really Sorry For All Those Nasty Things I Wrote About God.

    "I wish I had a million dollars" 
  • What's that thing with the flame in the drug store George keeps wishing on?
    • I think it's a thing for lighting cigars (presumably for one just bought in the store). No idea what the 'wishing' part is about though.
      • It doesn't always light. The kids noticed this and immediately started using it for an 8 ball. If it lights, you get your wish.

    Just repay? 
  • Okay, so it's great that the townspeople paid for the Building and Loan to stay open. But what about the original money that went missing? Nobody ever proved George didn't steal it. I know Bert tore up the arrest warrant, but I don't see why. Wouldn't George still have to be investigated to see what happened to the eight thousand dollars?
    • Think of it this way. If George goes to trial, he's guaranteed a jury of his peers, which would be the townspeople. And the townspeople have demonstrated such faith in him that they're willing to believe he'd never steal the money, even when that's exactly what it looks like. In addition to fulfilling his debt and making what happened a victimless crime, they've also demonstrated that there's no way George'll ever get convicted. Tearing up the arrest warrant doesn't necessarily invalidate it. It just buys George some time for the money to get onto the books, at which point the case is so thoroughly blown apart (no jury that'll convict him and now no missing money) that the charges would have to be dropped.
    • The SNL parody may have a point: Uncle Billy may finally remember how he "gave" the money to Potter in the newspaper by mistake and admit how he'd screwed up. As this is in keeping with his past mistakes, it would further vindicate George, the loss of the $8000 being an honest mistake instead of a deliberate theft. As stated elsewhere, this could not be proven in a court of law, but even bringing it up would be enough to further George's cause over Potter's. The banker would lose whatever respect he had left in the town, though it's doubtful people would resort to Torches and Pitchforks.
    • Even the bank examiner chipped in. They're probably not going to press the issue too hard. Banker was a bit late getting his deposit in because of a family celebration and Christmas. The end.

    New York trip cancelled 
  • At the end, when happy ending is piled upon happy ending, Violet cheerfully exclaims "I'm not really going to New York!" Huh? Is going to New York a bad thing? An unattached girl like her, a bit too flashy for Bedford Falls, might actually like and thrive in New York.
    • Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. Sometimes you need to walk away from a place to know it was the best place for you.
    • What Violet actually says is "I'm not gonna go, George". George gave her the money she would need to leave, she ended up using it to help him out instead. Perhaps she still intends to go, just later when she's earned the money back. She's being humble; after all, George gave her enough money that would supposedly be enough to get her to New York and set up there which would be quite a lot and she thought it would be better suited helping George out.
    • It's extremely subtle, but some fans have apparently intuited that Vi was pregnant and that she was going to New York to have an abortion or give the kid up for adoption, and start a new life where no one knew her. Instead, she decided to come back and would probably just keep the baby.

    All the time in heaven 
  • At the beginning of the movie, Clarence is told that George Bailey will attempt suicide in one hour, and in the meantime he'll be shown visions of George's life so that he knows how to handle him. Except the section of the movie covering George's life story takes a lot longer than one hour.
    • Time moves differently for angels than for mortal humans.

    Wedding money 
  • Where did George and Mary get $2000 dollars for their honeymoon?
    • Honeymoon present, maybe? Or their savings?
    • I was always under the impression Sam Wainwright gave them that money as both a wedding present and a gesture of goodwill letting George know that he wasn't bitter he got the girl and wished them well.

    Bert the bootlegger 
  • When George and Mary are driving off to their honeymoon, Ernie passes them a bottle of champagne and says, "Here, Bert the cop sent this over. He says to float over to Happyland on the bubbles." Shortly thereafter, there's a run on the bank, which starts the Depression era part of the movie. The stock market crashed in 1929; prohibition was repealed in 1933. Was Bert the cop a bootlegger?
    • The local bar still seemed to be in pretty good business before that scene, so I'd chalk it up to the writers forgetting about Prohibition.
    • Runs on banks weren't limited to the day the stock market crashed. Ernie says he's heard of runs on banks, though he's never seen one before. There was a huge bank panic in Real Life March of 1933. (Also, Pete was born in '34 and we know they wouldn't have wasted much time starting a family.) The heavy rain in the wedding / bank run scene also points to March. But the telephone scene, where George confesses his love, takes place in mid-spring, more like May, immediately following Harry's graduation and marriage to Ruth. This must have been 1932. Most couples still take several months to arrange their weddings (their church may also have required them to post banns (announcements) several months ahead). I'm going to put this one down to Artistic License as far as the booze is concerned. People probably knew repeal was just around the corner (like marijuana legalization today) and were a bit more free with it.

    Mr Welch Away 
  • Why was Mr. Welch drinking at a bar, alone, on Christmas Eve? And not consoling his poor wife after being yelled at by George?
    • Welch says his wife cried for an hour. She probably went to bed exhausted, and her frustrated husband went out for a drink.

    Boo-Hoo, George 
  • Am I the only one who can't work up much sympathy for George's "plight"? During a time when there was "one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished" and thousands of young American men were being slaughtered in strange countries far from home or returning amputees or worse I'm supposed to go "George owns his own business, lives in a spacious house with a beautiful, adoring wife and four sweet, healthy children! The horror!" I'm sure many of the poor people he dealt with would have liked to travel as well. It isn't the tragedy of the 20th century that one middle class man who has everything else doesn't get to.
    • George's plight isn't that he doesn't get to go travelling, it's that he is about to serve a prison sentence for a crime he didn't even commit and will most likely lose his wife, children, and home as well as losing the Building and Loan to Potter, which is the one thing he has been fighting for the whole film. Also, he doesn't own his own business, it's a mutual trust owned partly by Mr. Potter and by those investing in it by taking out mortgages and making savings. He would gladly give it over to someone else were it not for the fear of Potter taking it over completely.
      • How was he going to lose Mary? The money was the straw that broke the camel's back, but George is shown to be a generally miserable person who hates his life the entire film. I know he gains some appreciation for it at the end, but it's not because Clarence caused him to count his blessings, rather that he showed George how his "sacrifices" were worth it and that his friends weren't the terrible people the cynical George seemed to think they were. The "no man is a failure who has friends" moral seems to say that even if you fail financially, you can still be considered a spiritual success, but it doesn't really fit the film because until George made the choice to be the fall guy for his alcoholic uncle, he was a success on every level. Though given that he's entirely to blame for his situation by choosing not to invest in Sam Wainwright's business and refusing to let his brother take over the Building & Loan even though he wanted to, I think George either actually enjoyed feeling like a put-upon martyr or was subconsciously too afraid of failing to seriously pursue his goals.
      • He was going to lose Mary because he was going to go to prison. And there are plenty of times when George is shown to be enjoying himself (the prom dance, his flirting with Mary afterwards, even his honeymoon when he has just given up all of his honeymoon savings), so the idea that he is just a generally miserable person is not valid. George doesn't invest in Sam Wainwright's business because he doesn't trust it to make a profit and he doesn't want to risk anything on a dodgy business venture. And he doesn't let his brother take over the Building and Loan because his brother at the time is married and has been offered a better job with his father-in-law's business. (His brother doesn't seem to protest too much about this decision.) Finally, George's life isn't as rosy as you are making out, it's implied that he isn't earning enough at the Building and Loan to keep his family in comfort (there is a comment about his children not being as well-dressed as other children at the school) and his house started out as a wreck at the beginning of the film and has still not been properly fixed by the end.
      • The point of the story is that George learns to appreciate the life that he has, because it turns out to be, ahem, "wonderful" after all. So yes, he does have a lot to appreciate, and learns to do so at the end.
    • George may "have it all" on paper, but his business is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy/insolvency, his home is old, problematic, and drafty, his townspeople's gratitude has been quiet albeit given, and he fears that losing his livelihood, plus the criminal charge of theft, means he fails his role as provider for his family. It's possible it's his fear of disappointing Mary that hurts him the most; only the vision of "Pottersville Mary" as sad, lonely, and bitter let him see the final truth.
      • He was loved by Mary much more than he loved her. He definitely cared about what she would think, but I guess he was more concerned about the town in general and tormented by now seemingly definite and final crushing of his dreams.

    Another Angel... 
  • Would someone claiming to be a supernatural creature be that unusual to someone who works in a bar?
    • It'd still be annoying even if it's semi-common. Plus, Clarence was claiming to be an angel from the very minute he entered the bar, so he could be seen to not be drunk yet.
    • Maybe Clarence had kept other patrons from driving home drunk? Even in Pottersville, there'd be a few men muttering about "the kind friend" who helped them get home safely on blacked-out nights.

    Life insurance 
  • Does George not know that life insurance doesn't pay for suicides?
    • Maybe Potter was counting on that as well, a vengeance beyond the grave?
    • In any case, George was almost too broken to care.
    • Probably why he was going to throw himself into the river rather than hang himself. In as bad a storm as there was, it's possible that an investigator would chalk drowning up to an accident.
      • There were too many witnesses to his extremely unsettled mental and emotional condition (and these include his wife and kids, whom he spoke when he was still sober and who all seem to be decent enough not to lie about the matter just for the sake of money). Of course, it's entirely possible that it didn't cross George's mind in his state of mind.
      • Most of the witnesses to George's state of mind would be sympathetic to his situation, save Potter, and given their community would likely find it unthinkable that George committed suicide. Furthermore, those witnesses also saw him drunk, and the last person to see him saw him stumbling away from the scene of a drunken car accident. It'd be believable to cast it as an accident.

    Bloody Mary 
  • Does Mary kill George's father? I mean, she makes her wish and instantly news comes that George's dad is dead, forcing George to stay in Bedford Falls and allowing Mary to get everything she wants.
    • Mary just wished for George and her to get married. She didn't know it would come about in the form of George getting tragedy after tragedy that forces him to never be able to leave Bedford Falls every time he tries. So if she killed George's father, it was through an accidental Jackass Genie sort of way.
    • She also said that if she shared her wish, it wouldn't come true. George shared his and look what happened!

    Label Your Meds 
  • How is it that a presumably intelligent person like Gower even had that bottle of a poisonous powder in his work area where it could wind up in medicines he prepared? Even if there's a valid reason for it to even be on the premises, wouldn't he (when sober) be a bit more careful about avoiding accidentally mixing up white powders?
    • He would be more careful when sober, but he was drunk then, so...
      • You'd think he'd still store the poison more securely and well away from similar-looking items he could confuse it with if overly tired (or if a substitute pharmacist comes in).
    • Do some medicines, such as pain relievers, call for a speck of such poisons; or would Gower have been in the habit of using them as final "remedies" to put down dogs, cats (or *cough* elderly relatives *cough*) in final dire pain?
      • It was cyanide. Tiny amounts are sometimes used in emergencies to bring down blood pressure: otherwise it's used in testing, not given as a medicine. (The kid with diphtheria would have been getting sulfa drugs, at that time.) Gower's container was clearly labeled. This is probably to show just how far gone he was; also, it's possible he was planning to do away with himself, got it out for that reason, then the order for the prescription came in.

    One guy affecting the world? 
  • We saw what changes would have happened to Bedford Falls (or should I say, Pottersville) had George not been born. But what about bigger changes on a state or even national level? Imagine something that small having bigger effects on a grander scale?
    • There was a national level change: George saved his brother's life, his brother saved a ton of soldiers who went on to help win World War II. And remember, George hasn't left his town in his whole life, so he's limited in the amount of change he could have caused. Outside the nation matters less, because Clarence needed to show George how much he helped the lives of people he cared about.
      • Plus the fact that each person in the town had family, friends, etc., some living in other cities or states, whose lives were affected by their existence, and who in turn affected other people, and most if not all would have different outcomes (not always for the worse) in the Pottersville reality than Bedford Falls.

    It's all about you 
  • George sees what he (subconsciously) thinks would happen if he wasn't alive to effect the present. Yes, one person can have a wide-spread affect on an area/people, and yes George did a lot a of good by taking on things he didn't need too; but to have his entire town turn into a den of hive of scum and villainy not to mention catastrophic war efforts because of him... that plays just a bit too his own ego, especially considering how much he gave up to stay in Bedford Falls. More likely, Clarence gave George his "wish" which was to see if he wasn't such a martyr to himself, how the town would turn out. Which would explain why the lame future for Mary was just "librarian" instead of "stripper/or worse", because for George the worst future he could think of was Mary not getting married and working a job past her prime. It also explains why one small town would be so dependent on one individual; yeah, Potter is an ass, but the movie says that absolutely no one would step up to him at any point as he attempts his takeover of the town, except' for George, which is why Clarence shows this to him, to make him at least think'' he needs to live and that his life was worth saving in exchange for saving Bedford.