Study Guide

It's a Wonderful Life Minor Characters

Minor Characters

Angel Joseph and Senior Angel Franklin

These guys are working some serious overtime. Joseph and the Senior Angel—who is called Franklin in the screenplay, though this name is never actually spoken in the movie—are the two angels who hear George's despair and dispatch Clarence to save him in his moment of crisis. They appear in the form of glowing galaxies in the depths of space.

Joseph narrates George's story via voice-over, instructing Clarence on how he should proceed in helping him. They also continue to provide support to Clarence after he ventures down to Earth.

Fun factual coincidence: the actor playing the Senior Angel is Moroni Olsen, whose Mormon parents named him after the angel Moroni.

Annie

Annie is an African-American housekeeper who works for the Baileys. She doesn't play a huge role in the movie but gets a few good lines and a comic moment where Harry pretends he's in love with her, much to her irritation.

Ruth Dakin Bailey

Ruth is Harry's wife. Harry surprises the family by bringing her with him when he returns from college. Her father also gives Harry a job, preventing him from taking over the Building and Loan and leaving George stuck in Bedford Falls running the business.

Bert

Ernie and Bert? (Pure coincidence, according to Jim Henson.) At one point, we learn that Bert was wounded fighting in North Africa during World War II and won the Silver Star.

Later, when George goes through his world-without-George experience, Bert tries to arrest him for being a crazy troublemaker, even knocking him down and trying to shoot him. (George ends up punching him in return.) In real life, Bert prays for George to escape his desperate state. He makes sure he's OK after crashing into a tree with his car, and he totally supports him, showing up at the end of the movie at the Christmas celebration.

Ernie Bishop

Ernie is a local cab driver with a heart of gold. A good friend of George's, he drives George around at different points in the movie—like after he and Mary have been married and when George sees what the world would be like if he'd never been born. Also, thanks to a loan from George's Building and Loan, Ernie is able to afford a house.

Ernie helps surprise George on his wedding night, pretending to be a butler as George enters his new old house. He and Bert stand in the rain and serenade the newlyweds. Aw.

In the alternate timeline, in which George has never been born, things are different. Ernie lives in "a shack in Potter's Field," and his wife abandoned him years earlier. He seems distinctly unhappy in this vision of a possible reality. As a beneficiary of the Building and Loan's affordable homes, Ernie represents the everyman that George and his father devote their lives to.

Violet Bick

Sultry and seductive, Violet Bick is a young woman who George helps out financially. She used to have a childhood crush on him.

Apparently, Violet has been involved in too many romantic entanglements in Bedford Falls and needs help starting a new life in New York. Mr. Potter tries to insinuate (falsely) that she and George are having an affair. Earlier in life, she kind of had a thing for George but was turned off when George suggested that they go for a hike on a date.

Violet appears with Mary in the drugstore scene when they're both children. In his vision of how the world would be if he'd never been born, George discovers that without his help, Violet is getting into trouble and being arrested, dragged into a car by the cops. The scene implies that she's a prostitute.

When the Building and Loan is threatened with bankruptcy, Violet returns money that George has lent her. She's kind of the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold type.

Mr. Carter

Mr. Carter is the bank examiner, checking on the Bailey Building and Loan's finances to make sure they're in order. He's in the middle of his audit when Uncle Billy loses $8,000.

Freddie

This is the dude who played Alfalfa in the original Little Rascals. He's a rascal in this movie, too, but his hair doesn't stick up, unfortunately. Freddie takes Mary to a high school dance, only to lose her to George. But, he gets his revenge by hitting the button that opens the floor, causing George and Mary to fall into the swimming pool hidden underneath.

Mr. Gower

Mr. Gower runs the drugstore where George works as a boy. Distraught over losing his son Robert to influenza, Gower accidentally puts poison in the prescription bottle for a sick child. George realizes the dangerous mistake and brings the bottle back to the drugstore. Gower boxes him in the ear for dereliction of duty, but he cries and hugs George when he realizes what actually happened.

Mr. Gower pays for George's luggage as a graduation gift; he's still grateful. In the version of Bedford Falls where George hasn't been born, Gower accidentally does poison the kid and has gone to prison for killing him. He becomes an alcoholic and is treated mercilessly by Nick the bartender.

Mrs. Hatch

Mary Hatch's mother appears in a few scenes, but we really don't see much of her. At one point, when George stops by their house, Mrs. Hatch yells down to Mary, asking her what's going on. We think she'd rather Mary stay with wealthy Sam Wainwright than ordinary old George.

Marty Hatch

Marty Hatch is Mary's brother and one of George's friends. He helps spark the initial romantic connection between Mary and George by asking George to keep Mary company at a high school dance.

Mr. and Mrs. Martini

Martini owns a bar in Bedford Falls. George Bailey gives Mr. and Mrs. Martini a loan to buy a house in town. They're very grateful to George and take pride in being able to buy their own home. In the alternate George-less version of the universe, Martini loses the business. Later on, Martini is one of the people who prays for George.

Nick

Talk about a split personality … though, admittedly, in two alternate universes. Nick is the bartender at Martini's place. In reality, he seems like a pretty nice guy, showing concern for George when he stops by during the lowest moment of his life. But, in the world-without-George timeline, he's a miserable jerk.

He's the one who runs Martini's bar, which is now called "Nick's" instead of "Martini's." He's rude and fairly nasty toward George and Clarence. He also squirts Mr. Gower in the face with seltzer since Gower accidentally poisoned a kid years ago in the George-free universe.

Mr. Partridge

Mr. Partridge is the high school principal who supervises the dance where George meets up with Mary and falls in the swimming pool.

Potter's Aide

Potter's aide pushes Potter around in his wheelchair and doesn't speak any lines in the whole movie. That was easy.

Reineman, Potter's Rent Collector

Reineman tells Potter that he has to keep an eye on George Bailey. He helps fill in the viewer on what's going on, telling Potter that George is beating him out; Bailey Park—a housing development—is becoming more successful than Potter's Field. He warns Potter that someday he, Reineman, might end up begging George Bailey for a job. That doesn't go over well with Potter.

Cousin Tilly and Cousin Eustace

Tilly and Eustace are two of George's cousins. They work at the Building and Loan with him, Tilly as a telephone operator and Eustace as a clerk. Their only function seems to be to show us that the B&L is a real family business.

Sam Wainwright

Sam is a New York City playboy, rolling in the benjamins. He's also one of George's closest friends from way back. He's kind of a goofball. His signature line: "Hee-haw!" Originally Mary Hatch's boyfriend, he ends up losing her to George—who basically steals her. But since all's fair in love and war, things are quickly patched up.

At one point, he tells George about his father's plans to build a plastics factory in Rochester, which was inspired by something George told him about making plastics out of soybeans. George suggests building the factory in Bedford Falls instead of Rochester, which Sam's dad ends up doing. (Another thing that wouldn't have happened if George had never been born.)

Sam goes off to college and makes a fortune in the plastics business. On one visit to Bedford Falls, George looks longingly at Sam's fancy car and the beautiful clothes he's able to buy for his wife. Sam is no Potter, though. At the end of the movie, he helps bail out the Building and Loan by sending George $25,000—way more than he even needed.

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