Study Guide

It's a Wonderful Life Loyalty and Devotion

Loyalty and Devotion

PA BAILEY: You know, George, I feel that in a small way, we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It's deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we're helping him get those things in our shabby little office.

Pa Bailey isn't just loyal to the people of Bedford Falls. He recognizes that it would be wrong to abandon the townspeople to Mr. Potter's greed purely for selfish reasons. But, he's also helping George see the bigger picture; Pa is totally committed to meeting people's basic needs of wanting a place to call their own.

GEORGE: Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But, neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character because his whole life was ... Why, in the 25 years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But, hedid help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter. And what's wrong with that?

George understands why his father's commitment was important, but he doesn't yet fully appreciate the consequences. Not until Clarence shows him Pottersville does he really get it. There was a reason his father hung in there for so long.

GEORGE: Can't you understand what's happening here? Don't you see what's happening? Potter isn't selling. Potter's buying! And why? Because we're panicking, and he's not. That's why. He's picking up some bargains. Now, we can get through this thing all right. We've got to stick together, though. We've got to have faith in each other.

This might be George's finest hour. He helps the townspeople understand that Potter is trying to exploit the financial crisis and take away their homes. George appeals to their loyalty because he knows he can. He's been there for them, and now he can ask the same of them. In the process, the bank survives and so do the townspeople.

GEORGE: No … no ... no … no, now, wait a minute here! I don't have to talk to anybody! I know right now, and the answer is no! NO! Doggone it! You sit around here, and you spin your little webs, and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter! In the ... in the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider. You …

Potter almost gets George to sell out, but when George shakes his hand, it feels totally wrong. Potter knows that George's loyalty makes him a tough nut to crack, so he tries to buy him out. It almost works.

GEORGE: Hello, Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! Hey! Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!

POTTER: Happy New Year to you—in jail. Go on home—they're waiting for you!

After his angel-inspired vision of a world without him, George's enthusiasm for and loyalty toward Bedford Falls are completely renewed. He even sends a little goodwill Potter's way. Now that he's confident in his own value, he doesn't have to be afraid of Potter anymore.

ERNIE: Just a minute. Quiet, everybody. Quiet—quiet. Now, this is from London. Mr. Gower cables you need cash. Stop. My office instructed to advance you up to $25,000. Stop. Hee-haw and Merry Christmas. Sam Wainwright.

It would have been easy for Frank Capra to make wealthy Sam Wainwright into another callous, materialistic jerk. But, Sam is a lifelong friend, and his loyalty to George inspires his generosity. And, this is despite the fact that George stole his girl years before. That's hardcore. And btw, $25,000 in 1945 dollars would be over $325,000 today.

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