‘It’s a wonderful life’: A Good Banker – Bad Banker story!

I feel a heartfelt warmth and get overtly emotional every time watch the 1946 classic by Frank Capra – “It’s a wonderful life” – a story of a man, who sacrifices his life long dream to become a traveler and ends up being a Banker in his hometown, helping local people to build their own houses.


This movie, as we all know is an iconic Christmas movie of all time, But also in my view it is one of the greatest banking services movie there is, some basic banking concepts are explained beautifully in the movie, as ‘Bank Run’ and  ‘fractional reserve banking’ – the epic scene when he convinces his customers why banks like Potter’s are doing nothing but squeezing money from common people – he says –

“You’re thinking of this place all wrong. As if I had the money back in a safe. The money’s not here. Your money’s in Joe’s house…right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house, and Mrs. Macklin’s house, and a hundred others. Why, you’re lending them the money to build, and then, they’re going to pay it back to you as best they can.” and makes them understand that “Potter isn’t selling. Potter’s buying! And why? Because we’re panicky and he’s not. That’s why. He’s picking up some bargains.”

We must keep in mind that the movie released in a very crucial time in the American economic history, when the country was only recovering from the The great depression and the World War II; lack of fund and home ownership was a major issue in the American society back then and the movie presents us with two types of bankers, one Mr. Potter, the classic bad guy – corrupt, selfish, money making slumlord – who exploits the insecurity of the local people who are in need.

Mr. Potter.

On the other hand, we see a ‘god-sent’ banker who helps people to build houses, Bankers like him, in their own small ways makes other people’s life better everywhere, But, he is also a man, a human being, we see him feel jealousy when he sees his friends leave home town to big cities, We see him sad when he can’t provide for his family and see greed in him even for a moment, when offered money by Mr. Potter in his need and decides to take his life when he hit rock bottom – Maybe because of all these reasons, we relate to him instantly – making him is one of the greatest characters in cinema of all time

Mr. Bailey, during the Bank Run.

The face off!

In a situation where, big shot banker like, Potter, a heartless, cold, apathetic man, a slum lord, who refuses to grant home loans; thus forcing people to live in the slums and squeeze money out of their pockets and Bankers like George Bailey emerges and gives them hope, helps them ‘build’ their dreams; while sacrificing his own. He even slams the door on Potters face when he offers him a high paying job. He kept his head high, until on the eve of one Christmas, his uncle misplaces $8000 and the bank examiner arrives – he hits rock bottom – decides to take his life.

But, all he needed was a little help from his friends, a moment of truth, a moment of realization, an inscription on book to come around and realize how blessed his life is.

Remember no man is a failure who has friends.


End ‘personal’ note: I think almost all of us at some point of our lives faced failure, no matter how big or small they are, they are meant to break to the point where it becomes unbearable, it is a matter of time until you, yourself understand how blessed your life is. Some of us are even luckier to have ‘guardian angel’ like friends who will point that out to us and no matter how much you try and convince them that you are a mess, they will never stop to inspire you, and make you feel that “it’s a wonderful life”.


‘Modern Times’: Chaplin’s satirical masterpiece on the Great Depression

‘a story of industry, of individual enterprise, humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness’


The “Modern times’, one of the most outstanding masterpieces by Chaplin, was a lot more than just shameless, slapstick silent comedy. It reflected one of the most crucial times of world economy:

When Chaplin was creating Modern times the United States was in the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world. In October 1929, the market lost $30 billion in value causing steep declines in industrial output and rising levels of unemployment. By 1933, when the Great Depression reached its lowest point, nearly half of the country’s banks had failed; some $74,000,000,000, or five-sixths of the value of the stock market of September 1929 had disappeared.

before Chaplin began filming Modern times, he traveled around the world and talked with some of the most influential figures of world and that played a very important role in shaping the conception of the movie.

The movie begins with a huge clock ticking and a herd of sheep pouring out, just like the workers pouring out of the subway station and heading towards the factories under the tyranny of time. The symbolism here is utterly powerful, both the herd of sheep and the workers are shown almost together in a sense that both are considered subordinate to the larger system. Both are treated as voiceless-commodities priced according to the value they can produce.


The story slowly continues and reveals the inhuman treatment of the Boss (Spying on his workers even in the toilet). He even experiments with a feeding device that will save the lunch hour (because obviously, eating is such a waste of time!)

“Don’t stop for lunch, be ahead of your competitor” – the feeding machine inventor

tempos modernos

After hours of  monotonous work under strict surveillance – The little Tramp , “A factory worker” – suffers an obvious breakdown and was hauled off to a mental institution. The factory work had taken it’s toll on his mental condition.


Chaplin in one of his interviews once said:

“Unemployment is the vital question … Machinery should benefit mankind. It should not spell tragedy and throw it out of work.”

Chaplin explores poverty, economic inequality, political turmoil, strikes, unemployment … everything in his masterpiece. The tramp, after making it out of the mental institution, was captured by the police mistaken as  a communist leader, in a very funny sequence where he marches a flag as leader with the protesters. In jail where he comes across and beats up some narcotics smugglers and wins the trust of the prison officer.

On one hand as the story of a “factory worker” continues, on the other, the story of the Gamin, another victim of the great depression, unfolds. She’s introduced by stealing food for her unemployed father and her siblings. Her father was one of those many victims of the great economic slowdown of the 1930s, who lost their jobs and later was killed in a labor demonstration. A very common picture during that time. After his death the younger siblings were taken into custody by government but the Gamin ran away.


In the course of life they meet each other.

“The only two live spirits in a world of automatons. We are children with no sense of responsibility, whereas the rest of humanity is weighed down with duty. We are spiritually free”


Together they try and make the best of their deprived situation, they start living in a small shack near the industrial waterfront ”comfortably” with a few basic necessities. Their love and happiness reveals a stark contrast from the glamorous mechanical life of the industrial capitalist society.


But happiness doesn’t stay for long, after losing the new found employment, the Gamin started to lose hope and breaks down, we see them sitting in the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere, the bleak landscape symbolizes their empty life, with no money or job, they only have each other( and sometimes maybe that’s enough) and the highway shows the “dawn” of a new beginning at the end.

Modern Times (1936)

“Buck up – never say die! We’ll get along!”

The movie ends with one of the most beautiful scenes ever caught of camera, as the couple walks arm in arm with a smile on their face towards the unknown future with hopes in their heart.