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.
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
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”.