Its A Wonderful Life
(Drama) ( 1946)
© 2000 by Raymond Weschler
An honest good-hearted guy who has always wanted to travel all over the world,
but who is not able to ever leave his small town of Bedford Falls in New York
State, because of things that happen beyond his control.
Georges sweet and innocent girlfriend who eventually becomes
his wife and the mother of their four children.
.Samual S. Hinds
Georges dad, a good and decent man who is not a very good businessman.
He is the manager of the Bedford Falls Building and Loan, a business which
loans money to working people so they can buy houses.
A very mean, disliked and powerful banker who controls much
of the economy of Bedford Falls. He sees the Building and Loan
as competition to his own businesses, and wants to eliminate it.
Georges brother, who goes off to college while Harry stays in
town to help run the Building and Loan.
Georges Uncle and Peters brother, who is a kind but nervous
man who also works at the Building and Loan.
Georges sweet and loving mother.
Georges "guardian angel," who looks over and protects him when he faces his greatest life
crisis. Clarence is an angel who has not yet helped enough people to "earn his wings."
The owner of the town drugstore where Harry worked as a young teenager.
A sexy young woman who had very much liked Harry ever since she was a young child.
A friend of George and Harry who becomes a successful businessman.
The Baily family maid.
Ernie the taxi driver
Bert the policeman
Nick the bartender
Mr. Martini the Italian immigrant
This film is considered one of the true classics of American cinema. It is the story
of George Baily, a wonderfully honest and decent young man who has always wanted
to leave his small town of New Bedford, New York, in order to travel the world.
Unfortunately, George is never able to go, for it seems that whenever he is about to,
a new crisis or development keeps him in town. The film follows George from his childhood
and teenage years in the 1920s, through the great economic depression of the 1930s,
and on through the years of World War 2. This movie was made in 1946, just after the war.
The main problem for George is that as a young man, he ends up being responsible for
running the family business, the New Bedford Building and Loan. For many working people
in town, this company is the only hope that they will be able to buy a house, since
the banks and many of the other local businesses are run or controlled by the evil
Mr. Potter. Potter is not interested in lending money to poor people, since he prefers
that they be stuck renting the horrible apartments that he also owns.
Although George never gets out of town, he does marry a wonderful wife and has a beautiful
home with four healthy kids. One day though, crisis strikes when Uncle Billy loses
$8,000 dollars of the companys money, and George suddenly faces "bankruptcy, and scandal
and prison." The situation gets so bad that George actually considers committing suicide,
but then he meets Clarence, his wonderful "guardian angel." With great difficulty, Clarence
is able to slowly convince George that his life is still worth living, and that in fact,
the most valuable things in life have little to do with money.
Some Words and Expressions that You May not Know
Clarence the angel learns about George Baileys childhood,
and how he saved everyone from his brother to his boss.
Give him a break, God.
"To give a person a break" is to help them, usually by giving
them an opportunity to help themselves get out of trouble.
I love him, dear Lord.
Another word for God.
Yes, tonights his crucial night.
A good word for extremely important.
You know, hes got an IQ of a rabbit.
"IQ" stands for "intelligence quotient," which is a measure of how smart
a person is (It is based on a widely used but controversial test).
But hes got the faith of a child. Joseph, send for Clarence.
Another word for belief or trust, often used in a religious context.
A man on earth needs our help. :: Splendid, is he sick?
An old-fashioned word for excellent, often used when hearing good news.
Look, Ill help you out. Now concentrate.
"To concentrate" is to think about something with great seriousness.
This is amazing.
An alternative to unbelievable, often used when
something causes great wonder or surprise.
The sound made by a donkey, and a dated expression which shows that
the speaker is joking. Never used now, but common in this film.
Here comes the scare baby, my kid brother, Harry.
"A scare baby" is a childs way of describing a person who is afraid to
do something. In this context, a "kid" brother is a younger one.
Come on, Harry, go faster!
The greatest and most versatile phrasal verb in English, often taking
on the meaning of the words that follow. In this case, "go faster!"
He caught a bad cold which infected his left ear.
"To infect" is to put a virus or disease into a part of the body.
It was weeks before he could go back to his
after school job at old-man Gowers drugstore.
Note that many older children worked (and still work) at part
time jobs after school is over. Also note that Mr. Gower was in
fact an old man, but you wouldnt refer to him as that today.
Thats Harry F. Potter, the richest and meanest man in the county.
A person who is "mean" is cruel or unkind. A "county" is a political
division of a state, which is usually much bigger than a city.
Wish I had a million dollars! Hot dog!
"Hot dog" is an expression that is much loved in this film, but no
longer used today. It means something like "Lets hope for the best."
Two cents worth of shoelaces.
The strings that hold shoes on your feet.
Made up your mind yet? :: Ill take chocolate.
"To make up ones mind" is to decide between two or more choices.
Say brainless, dont you know where coconuts come from?
"Brainless" is a cute little insult, but probably never used today.
Only us explorers can get it; Ive been nominated
for membership in the National Geographic Society.
To be "nominated" for something is to be officially accepted or appointed.
The National Geographic Society is still a well known organization devoted
to the exploration of countries and cultures throughout the world.
Is this the ear you cant hear on? George, Ill love you to the day I die.
Today, you would ask if this is the ear you cant hear out of, not on.
Im going exploring some day, and Ill have
a couple of harems and maybe 3 or 4 wives.
A "harem" is a house in which women live, often in order to serve the sexual desires
of a rich or powerful man. This is a funny thing for a 12 year old boy to be saying!
Youre not paid to be a canary.
A type of bird known for talking and whistling.
[Written]-----Your son Robert died of influenza. Stop.
"Influenza" is a dangerous form of the flu. Note that in wire
communications, the word stop was often used to end a sentence.
Take those capsules over to Mrs. Blaine.
A "capsule" is a small pill-sized container for medicine.
They have diphtheria, havent they?
Another deadly disease which makes it difficult to breathe.
Baily Brothers Building and Loan Association.
This is the Baily family business, that loans working people money so that
they can buy and build houses. Although much romanticized in the film as an
alternative to the uncaring and powerful banks, it looks a little like a modern
Savings and Loan, which today are very similar to banks.
Captain Cook, where are you heading?
"To head" someplace is simply to go in that direction
(Captain Cook was a famous 18th century British explorer).
I got to see pop.
"Pop" is a common slang word for dad. Note that in rapid speech,
the "have" is dropped from "have got to" (meaning "must").
A bank examiner is an official of the government that makes sure that the banks records
are in order, and that they dont lend out more money than they can do so safely.
Just 30 short days, Mr. Potter. Ill dig up that $5000 somehow.
"To dig up" money is to find it by looking for it in any possible place.
Have you put any pressure on these people of yours to pay their mortgages?
An important word in business, and for all people trying to buy a house! A "mortgage"
is the loan one gets from a bank in order to buy the house, with the understanding
that the bank can take it back if the buyer can not make his mortgage payments.
A lot of these people are out of work! :: Then foreclose!
When a bank "forecloses" on a house, it forces the owner to leave if he
can no longer make their loan payments. A powerful and hated verb!
Are you running a business or a charity ward?
An organization to help poor people feed and shelter themselves.
What makes you so hard-skulled?
An old expression for a person who is stubborn or mean.
I suppose I should give it to miserable failures
like you and that idiot brother of yours.
In this context, "miserable" means pathetic, or somebody who is pitiful,
though it usually means somebody who is very unhappy. An "idiot"
is a common insult meaning stupid, and is both a noun and adjective.
Wheres Mrs. Blaines box of capsules? What kind of tricks are you playing?
In this context, "tricks" refers to actions that
involve lies, cheating or types of manipulation.
Why didnt you deliver them right away?
The most common way of saying immediately.
Youre hurting my sore ear.
If a body part is "sore," it hurts because it has been injured or overworked.
I wont tell a soul or hope to die, I wont!
A "soul" is the spiritual or non-physical part of a person, though here it
just means a single individual. This is Georges way of promising Mr. Gower that
he wont tell anyone that he (Gower) accidentally gave his patients poison.
George grows into a young man and prepares to see the world.
An overnight bag, genuine English cowhide
fitted up with brushes, combs
"Genuine English cowhide" is what we would probably call today real
(English) leather. If a bag is "fitted up" with brushes, it includes them.
George Baily? You mean the kid who had his ear slapped by the druggist?
"To slap" someone is to hit them with an open hand (not a fist).
I see, a flying carpet.
A magical form of transportation, popular in Arabic culture and American TV cartoons!
I dont suppose youd like this old second hand job.
"Second hand" is another way of saying used, or pre-owned.
Now youre talking! Gee whiz, I could use that as a raft in case the boat sunk.
The first sentence is still a used way of showing approval or agreement.
"Gee Whiz" is a way of showing surprise, concern or other emotion.
A "raft" is a tiny boat, often made of rubber.
Thats my trick ear; It sounded like you said "no charge."
In this case, Georges "trick ear" is the one in which he cant hear.
"No charge," two truly glorious words, is a common way of saying free.
A little present from old man Gower; He picked it out himself.
"To pick out" a gift is to select it from many possibilities.
A cattle boat?! OK, I like cows.
"Cattle" is a way to refer to a group of cows.
George, dont take any plug nickels.
A dated expression warning people not to be cheated or tricked, especially
when travelling. A "plug nickel" is a fake nickel (5 cents).
Im a rich tourist today. How about driving me home in style?
To do something "in style" is to do it with elegance or grace.
Hop in, your highness.
"Hop in" is another way to tell someone to get in a car or vehicle. "Your highness"
is the ridiculous way that people are supposed to address kings and queens.
Hello, Violet. Thats some dress you got on there.
Note that the use of "some" before a noun can imply that the noun
is very attractive or worthy of notice ("Thats quite a pretty dress").
Well, if they were all girls, there wouldnt be any
Oh, never mind.
A common way of saying youve just decided that you dont
want to continue talking about what you were just saying.
Arent you going to finish dressing for your
graduation party? :: I dont care, its Georges tux.
In this case, the "graduation party" refers to a party to celebrate
the completion of High School. A "tux" is a way of referring to tuxedos,
the very formal and expensive jackets men often wear to weddings.
If you lay a hand on me, Ill hit you with this broom.
"To lay a hand on" someone is simply to touch them.
A "broom" is an everyday tool used for sweeping floors.
My last meal in the old Baily boarding house.
A "boarding house" is a community house where people pay rent for a room and basic meals.
You look tired. :: Oh, I just had another tussle with Potter.
A "tussle" is a fight, or in this case, a heated argument.
I thought that when I put him on the Board of Directors, hed ease up a bit.
The "Board of Directors" are the people who meet every few months to help guide
a companys general direction and policies. "To ease up" is to relax or reduce pressure.
"A bit" is a common way of saying a little.
Whats eating that old money grubbing buzzard, anyway?
In this context, if something is "eating" a person, it is bothering them.
A person who is "money grubbing" is constantly thinking of ways to make as much
money as possible. A "buzzard" is a big bird that eats the dead bodies of other animals
(and an old-fashioned insult!).
No gin tonight son, not one drop.
A type of very strong liquor.
I acted like that when I graduated from high school? :: Pretty much.
A good alternative to "more or less."
We have that all figured out. Harry will take
my job, work for four years, and then hell go.
"To figure out" a problem is to think about it, and then solve it.
You were born older, George.
This is Georges dads way of saying that George is
more emotionally mature than his brother Harry.
I want to build things, design buildings, plan modern cities.
These are the kind of things that an architect would want to do,
though George never says that he actually wants to be an architect.
Youre still after that first million before
youre 30? :: Id settle for half that in cash.
"To settle for" something is to accept it, even though you would prefer
something better. In this context, "in cash" means money in the bank,
as opposed to assets like stocks and real estate (houses).
I couldnt face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office.
To be "cooped up" is to be stuck in a small and uncomfortable place,
just likes chickens in a chicken coop. "Shabby" is an excellent adjective
that means poor and old, or in need of replacement.
Its this business of nickels and dimes and spending all
your life figuring out how to save three cents on pipe.
Put here to remind you of US coins: Penny, nickel, dime, quarter.
Were doing something important; Were satisfying a fundamental urge.
A "fundamental urge" is another way of saying a basic desire or goal.
Its deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace.
Peters way of saying that every person wants to own their own house.
Ive been hoarding pennies like a miser here.
"To hoard" something is to collect it, in fear that it may soon be hard
to get. A "miser" is a very cheap person who saves every penny.
I just feel like if I didnt get away, Id burst.
"To burst" is to explode or break open, in this case, emotionally.
This town is no place for any man, unless hes willing to crawl to Potter.
"To crawl" is to move on hands and knees, like a baby. This is Peters
way of saying that its hard to be independent from Potters power.
Its about time one of you lunkheads said it.
An old-fashioned, silly and never used insult word for a stupid person.
The Bailey brothers celebrate at Harrys High School
graduation party, and George meets Marry for the first time.
Im going to put him through college.
"To put a person through college" is to pay their expenses
so they can study and eventually graduate, rather then work.
Well freshman, it looks like youre going to make it after all.
The "freshman" year of college is the first year,
followed by sophomore, junior and senior years.
I got to make some dough, first.
An old-fashioned but occasionally still used slang word for money.
We need great ends like you, not broken down old guys like this one.
This is Sams way of saying the school needs great athletes.
An "end" is a player in football, and if someone is "broken down,"
they are too physically weak or out of shape to play sports.
Putting a pool under the floor was a great idea; Saved us a building.
In this case, a way of saying "we didnt have to build another building."
Hello Violet; What am I bid?
The words used in an auction, when the auctioneer wants
to know what people are willing to pay for a product.
Come on, be a sport. Just dance with her one time,
and youll give her the thrill of her life.
If you tell someone to "be a sport," youre telling them to be nice and
cooperate. A "thrill" is a sudden feeling of great excitement or pleasure.
Some guy trapped me, and if not for that, the race wouldve been a cinch.
A curious and still used word for an easy victory or accomplishment.
Hey, this is my dance! :: Oh, why dont you stop annoying people?!
"To annoy" someone is to bother or irritate them.
The Big Charleston Contest.
The Charleston was a very popular type of dancing in the 1920s.
Those not tapped by the judges will remain on the floor.
"To tap" someone is to touch them gently.
Did you know that the button behind you causes this floor to open up,
and did you further know that George Baily is dancing right over that crack?
In this context, further is another way of saying "in addition."
I told Harry I though Id be bored to death; You should
have seen the commotion in that locker room.
"Commotion" is great and noisy excitement or confusion. The "locker room"
is where players go to shower after a high school football game.
I guess Im not quite the football type.
Note this grammatical construction, which refers to the type
of person who plays football, or whatever the noun happens to be.
Too young or too old? :: Just right, your age fits you.
If something "fits" a person, it is just right for them (Note that
this can apply to a persons clothes, age or almost anything else).
You make a wish and break some glass.
You gotta be a pretty good shot, nowadays.
A person who can shoot a gun accurately, or in this case,
throw rocks accurately and hit what theyre aiming at.
Im shaking the dust of this crummy little town
off of my feet, and Im going to see the world!
"Crummy" is a sad adjective meaning poor, dirty, or even miserable.
Then Im going home, back to college to see
what they know, and then Im going to build things.
This is one of the funnier lines about the value of higher education.
Ill build airfields and skyscrapers that are 100 stories high.
The word for very tall office buildings.
What did you wish? Do you want the moon? Just say
the word, and Ill throw a lasso around it and pull it down.
A "lasso" is a rope tied in a large circle at the end that
can be used for pulling cows (or in theory, the moon).
Then you could swallow it and it would all dissolve, and
the moonbeams would shoot out your fingers and toes.
This is Georges way of being poetic. "To dissolve" is to melt into liquid,
or break up completely. A "moonbeam" is a ray of moonlight.
Why dont you kiss her instead of talking her to death?
"To talk a person to death" is to talk so much that they get bored.
Youth is wasted on the wrong people.
A classic line, and probably one that many old people agree with!
Oh, I give up. Where are you?
"To give up" is a key phrasal verb meaning to surrender or stop trying.
A German word that means "bless you," used by some in English after a person sneezes.
Ill call the police. :: Theyre way downtown, and theyd be on my side, too.
"To be on someones side" is to support them against someone else.
Ill make a deal with you, Mary.
"To make a deal" is a common way of saying to come to an agreement.
Georges trip to Europe is cancelled as a crisis strikes the family,
and he soon learns that its up to him to save the Building and Loan.
George, come on home, your fathers had a stroke.
A "stroke" is sudden and severe illness in the brain which
can prevent the person from controlling his muscles.
Thats all well need you for. I know youre anxious to make a train.
"Anxious" is a important word meaning nervous or worried.
I want the Board to know that George gave up his trip to
Europe to help straighten things out these past few months.
The "Board" is a short way for referring to a companys Board of Directors.
In this case, "to straighten out" a situation is to fix it.
The real purpose of this meeting is to appoint
a successor to our dear friend, Peter Baily.
A "successor" is a person who replaces another who has left or died.
I make a motion to dissolve this institution and
give its assets and liabilities to the receiver.
This is Potters way of officially proposing that the Building and Loan be permanently
closed down. A "motion" is an official proposal. "Assets" are the things of value
(stocks, cash, land, etc) that a company owns, while "liabilities" are the debts that
they owe. A "receiver" is a legal term for a person chosen by a judge to distribute the
property of a businesss that is going to be closed down.
Im sure the whole board wants to express its
deep sorrow at the passing of Peter Baily.
"Sorrow" is an interesting word meaning great emotional pain.
"To pass away" is to die, and thus a persons passing is their death.
Thats fine coming from you, considering you probably drove him to his grave.
"To drive a person to their grave" is to make them
so crazy or miserable that the person actually dies.
He was a man of high ideals
without common sense can ruin this town.
"High ideals" are high morals or values, often in which the concerns
of poor and powerless people are thought to be important.
Take this loan to Ernie Bishop, the fellow who
sits around all day on his brain, in his taxi
Note that you can start a sentence with "Take" as a way to mean "For example, look at
I handled that, and I can personally vouch for his character.
"To vouch for a persons character" is to claim that you know the
person well, and can promise they are honest and have good morals.
If you shoot pool with some employee here,
you can come and borrow money here.
In this case, "pool" is the table game known as billiards, in which
players use sticks to push marble balls into side pockets of the table.
What does this get us? A discontented lazy
rabble instead of a thrifty working class.
The words of a true capitalist ass! "Discontented" is an old word for unhappy,
and a "rabble" is a rarely used word for a loud or angry group or mob.
A "thrifty" person is one who spends money carefully.
All because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Baily
stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas.
A "starry-eyed dreamer" is an idealistic person who thinks the world
can be a better place. "To stir up" a person is to excite or agitate them.
He did help a few people get out of your slums....and get a decent home.
A "slum" is a poor neighborhood with dirty and unrepaired houses.
People were human being to him, but to you,
a warped, frustrated old man, theyre cattle.
A person who is "warped" has perverted or sick values, such as an
obsession with making money, no matter how much others suffer.
In my book, he died a richer man than youll ever be.
An interesting expression that means "In my opinion
Youre talking about something you cant
get your fingers on, and thats galling to you.
If something is "galling," it is extremely frustrating or annoying.
This town needs this measly institution, if only to have some
place where people can go without crawling to Potter.
"Measly" is a good little word meaning small or unimportant.
Sentimental hogwash! I want my motion acted on!
Something that is "sentimental" appeals to the emotions like sympathy.
"Hogwash" is an old word for lies and nonsense, but is rarely used today
because most people would say bullshit instead.
Were being voted out of business after 25 years. Easy come, easy go.
An expression which says that with life in general, things that seem
to appear and even stay for a long time can also easily disappear.
George, they voted Potter down! They want to keep it going!
"To vote down" a person or motion is to vote against it.
Theyve got one condition; Theyve appointed George as executive secretary.
In this case, a "condition" can be a requirement. An "executive secretary"
is a top officer of a business or company.
Lets get this straight! Im going to school.
"This needs to be perfectly clear
Uncle Billy, hes your man! :: Theyll vote with Potter, otherwise.
"Otherwise" is a good word meaning "if the opposite happens."
He gave his school money to his brother and sent him to college.
Harry became a football star and made 2nd team all American.
An athlete who is "all American" is usually one of the best players
in the sport (in this case, in college football).
"Wanted: Man with Engineering Experience
"Wanted" is the way classified advertisements looking for
workers used to start, though this is much rarer today.
Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.
"Anchors" are the large metal pieces that keep ships from floating away in a harbor.
"Whistles" are devices that make a high sound when passing through them, and train
whistles let people know that a train is coming a minute or so before it actually arrives.
Harry returns from college as a married man,
and soon George and Mary also decide to marry.
I wired you that I had a surprise; Meet the wife! :: What do you know! A wife!
"To wire" a person by telegram was much more common 50 years ago.
In this context, "what do you know" is one to say "what a surprise!"
Whats a pretty girl like you marrying this two headed brother of mine?
Note the similarity with the standard line that a guy will ask a
girl in a bar: "Whats a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
Its purely mercenary; My father offered him a job.
If something is "mercenary," it is done to get money or other reward.
Youve been holding the bag for 4 years; I wont let you down.
"To let somebody down" is to disappoint them. Very common.
My father wants Harry to start in the research
business; Hes a genius at research.
Today, people research or study special fields (such as the oil business),
but they dont generally say that they are in the research business.
How do you like her? :: Shes swell!
A fun but very old-fashioned word for great, wonderful, etc.
Shell keep Harry on his toes. :: Shell keep him out of Bedford Falls, anyway.
"To keep someone on their toes" is to keep them busy or alert to possible problems.
Sams crazy about Mary.
When a boy is "crazy about" a girl, he likes or loves her very much.
She lights up like a firefly whenever youre around.
Georges moms way of telling him that Mary likes him a lot.
All is fair in love and war.
A famous expression which means that any seduction or other action
designed to get a person to like you is considered acceptable.
Yes, I can see right through you to your
back collar button; Trying to get rid of me?
In this context, "to see through" somebody is to see what they really feel,
and not just what they may be saying. "To get rid of" someone is to make them go
away, in this case because Georges mom wants George to go out and find a good wife.
I think Ill go out and find a girl and do a little passionate necking.
"Passionate" is a powerful adjective that means filled with strong emotion. "To neck"
is a very old-fashioned way of referring to kissing, petting and perhaps other sexual
activities, though now it is more likely to be called making out or fooling around.
I think I got a date, but stick around fellas, just in case.
"To stick around" means to stay where you are, and "fellas" is
an old word for guys (and a variation of the British word, fellow).
Hey, what gives?
A very dated way of saying "Whats happening?"
Are you game, Violet? Lets make a night of it!
Lets go out in the fields, and take off our shoes
If someone is "game" to do something, this means theyre willing to do it.
"To make a night of" something is to pass the whole night doing it.
Everyone will be talking and theyll be a terrific scandal.
A less popular but still useful alternative to fantastic or great.
What are you doing? Picketing?
"To picket" is to walk back and forth while carrying a sign, either
to protest something or show you are part of a worker strike.
I guess I was homesick. :: For Bedford Falls?!
The feeling of wanting to be back at home when youre away from it.
Would you rather leave? :: No, I dont want to be rude.
A good alternative to impolite or ill-mannered.
Of course I like her; Shes a peach!
A very dated way of saying shes great. Today, boys
would be more likely to say that shes a catch.
Its great to hear your voice again; Thats awfully sweet of you.
A surprisingly common adverb which means very.
Hey, a fine pal you are! What are you trying to do, steal my girl?
A "pal" is an old but still used word for friend or buddy.
Remember, you told me about making plastics out of soybeans?
Note the use of both plastics and soybeans, two products
that are still seen as huge business opportunities.
Well, dad snapped up the idea and he is going
to build a factory out of Rochester.
"To snap up" an idea is to quickly take it in order to use it before
others do (Rochester is a big city in Northern New York State).
You remember that old tool and machinery works?
Tell your father that he could get that for a song.
A "tool and machinery works" is a type of factory that made industrial tools.
To get something "for a song" is to buy it very cheap.
Mary, youre in on this too.
To be "in on" something is to be involved in it.
I want you to put every cent you got into our stock, do you hear?
Another line from this film that sounds like what millions of
people sound like today (especially in Silicon Valley).
This is the biggest thing since radio,
and Im letting you in on the ground floor.
"The ground floor" is an important term in investing, referring
to the possibility of buying stock in a company when it is still
cheap and unknown. A good way to get rich.
Tell him Im giving you the chance of a lifetime.
A common expression for a truly great or unique opportunity.
Annie, were just two old maids now. :: Speak for yourself, Miss B.
If someone says something about you while using the pronoun
"we, "and you disagree with what is said, these are the words to use!
Bert the cop sent this over.
A "cop" is a very common slang word for a policeman.
Count on it, Mary! I feel like a bootleggers wife.
"To count on something" is to be able to depend on it happening.
A "bootlegger" was a person who produced and sold beer and
other alcoholic drinks when it was illegal to do so, in the 1920s.
Harry and Mary must cancel their honeymoon,
as a banking crisis hits Bedford Falls.
Ive never really seen one, but that has all the earmarks of being a run.
An "earmark" is any identifying feature or characteristic. Here, a "run" is short
for a bank run, which is the situation where people panic and demand their money
from their bank before there is no money left.
This is a pickle, George.
A funny word to use for a very difficult situation or problem.
All I know is that the bank called our loan.
When a bank "calls a loan," it demands to get
paid back immediately what it has lent out.
George, there is a rumor around town that youve closed your doors.
A "rumor" is gossip or talk on the street, which is often untrue.
Police! What for?! :; Well, mobs get pretty ugly sometimes.
A "mob" is a loud and often angry or violent group
of people, who are often determined to destroy property.
Im going all out to help you in this crisis.
"To go all out" for someone is to do all you can to help them.
I have just guaranteed the banks sufficient
:: He just took over the banks!
"Sufficient funds" simply means enough money. "To take
over" a bank or other business is to buy or take control of it.
Tell them to bring their shares over here
and I will pay them 50 cents on the dollar.
"Shares" are another word for a stock or bond, and if you are
willing to accept only "50 cents on the dollar," it is probably
because you are worried youll never get the true value back.
You never miss a trick, do you, Potter?
Georges way of telling Potter that he is tired of Potter
always taking advantage of peoples fear and desperation.
Youre thinking of this place all wrong, as if I had the money back
in a safe. Your money is in Joes house, and the Kennedy house
A reference to "safe-deposit boxes," where customers keep their own valuable items,
literally within the bank. This is Georges way of telling people that the money of
the Build and Loan is safe, but not immediately available.
What are you going to do? Foreclose on them?
"To foreclose" is to take legal possession of a house
if the owners can not make their loan payments.
I got 242 dollars! 242 dollars isnt going to break anybody.
Here, "to break" someone is to cause them to lose all their money.
If Potter gets a hold of the Building and Loan, theyll
never be another decent house built in this town.
"Decent" is a useful adjective meaning good, respectable, etc.
Hes after us
because were cutting in on his business. Thats why!
In the Capitalist market, "to cut in on" another companys business
is to take business away from them by competing strongly.
He wants to keep you living in his slums
and paying the kind of rent he decides.
Georges passionate explanation for why it is important that the
Building and Loan survive, in order to offer an alternative to Potter.
Have you forgotten what he charged you for that broken down shack?
Anything that is "broken down" is in very bad condition. In this case,
a "shack" is most likely a tiny and dirty one room apartment.
Hes picking up some bargain!
A "bargain" is a very good buy or value.
We can get through this all right.
"To get through" a crisis is to survive it.
Heres $2,000! This will tide us over until the bank reopens.
"To tide over" a person until a later time is to help them survive.
$20! Now youre talking! Thanks, Ed.
A great and still used expression which means
"Now you are saying things that I like!"
I can get along with $20 all right.
In this case, "to get along" means to survive OK.
A silly and dated word that a person will scream when time runs out.
Were gonna make it! Theyll never close us up today!
If banks could stay open without running out of money,
then the government would not close them down.
We still have 2 bucks left!
A very common slang word for dollars.
Were a couple of financial wizards! Those Rockefellers!
"Wizards" are very smart people. The Rockefellers
were Americas richest family up until the 1960s.
George and Mary grow their family as the war comes home
while Potter thinks of a way to finally beat the Baileys.
Holy mackerel, Im married! Wheres Mary?
A very old-fashioned way of expressing great surprise or excitement.
Liver pills? Who wants to see liver pills on their honeymoon?
"Liver pills" were popular medicines in the 1930s. A"honeymoon" is the
vacation that a newly married couple take after their wedding.
Hes the groom, idiot! This is their honeymoon.
The "groom" is the man who is getting married in a wedding
(while the bride is the woman hes marrying).
Bread, that this house may never know hunger.
A poetic way of celebrating the building of a new house.
And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.
"Prosperity" is an important word in economics meaning good
fortune and material success. "To reign" is to rule over, like a king.
Mr. Potter, its no skin off my nose, because Im just your rent
collector, but you just cant laugh off this Bailey Park anymore.
"Its no skin off my nose" is an old expression that means "It doesnt
hurt me personally." And to "laugh off" something is to not take it
seriously, which Potter was doing with the new homes at Bailey Park.
Look at it today! Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw,
90% of them owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you.
A "sucker" is a widely used word for a fool or stupid person.
The local yokels are making with those David and Goliath wisecracks.
A "yokel" is a naïve or uneducated person, probably from the country,
but this word is never used anymore. "David and Goliath" are the two
famous characters in the Bible that symbolize how a much weaker
person can defeat a much stronger one. A "wisecrack" is a joking reply.
The Baileys were chumps; Every one of those homes is
worth twice as much as it cost the Building and Loan to build it.
Another word for a fool, although this is much less common.
The Baily family has been a boil on my neck long enough.
A "boil" is an infected bubble under the skin, but this expression,
meaning a problem, or more colloquially, a pain in the ass, isnt used.
Still got the nose to the old grindstone?
A "grindstone" is a rock which is used to sharpen knifes. This is
a way of asking somebody if theyre still working very hard.
I offered to let George in on the ground floor in plastics
and he turned me down cold! :: Dont rub it in!
"To turn an offer down cold" is to completely reject it. "Dont rub it in" is
a good expression that is used when a person is feeling bad, perhaps because of
a stupid decision they made, and they dont want you to make them feel even worse.
I am an old man and most people hate me,
but I dont like them, so that makes it all even.
"To make it even" means to balance things in general, or perhaps to get revenge for
what someone has done to you. This is Potters generally sick view of life.
You know that I run practically everything in
this town, except the Baily Building and Loan.
Note that "to run" can mean to own or control.
You have beaten me
and that takes some doing.
"That requires a lot of effort."
During the Depression, you and I were the only ones who kept our heads.
"The Depression" is the great economic crisis of the 1930s. "To keep
ones head" is to stay calm and not panic, especially during a crisis.
Most people say you stole all the rest. :: The envious ones, the suckers.
A person who is "envious" of someone else wants what they have.
I have stated my side very frankly.
"To state" something is to say or declare it. To do it "frankly" is to do it
with complete honestly (Frankly is often used to start a new sentence).
You make 45, and after paying your bills, youre able to save 10, if you skimp.
"To skimp" is to save as much money as possible. Note the
number of dollars that people were making back in 1940!
George Baily is
.an intelligent, smart and ambitious young man.
"Ambitious" is a useful adjective to describe a person who tries
hard to achieve many things, including making lots of money.
Hes a young man who has to watch his friends go places
because hes trapped into
fritting his life away playing nursemaid to a lot of garlic eaters.
This is Potters way of trying to make George feel horrible about his life.
"To frit your life away" is to waste it, though this is rarely used.
A "nursemaid" is an old word for a babysitter or nanny, and
I suppose for Potter, common "yokels" ate a lot of garlic!
Do I paint a correct picture, or do I exaggerate?
"To exaggerate" is an important verb meaning to make something seem
more extreme (worse, bigger, poorer, etc) than it is in reality.
I want you to manage my properties. Ill start you out at $20,000 a year.
Note the numbers! This is ten times more than George was making!
George Baily, whose ship has come in,
provided he has enough brains to climb aboard.
If a persons "ship has come in," this means that they have been given
a great opportunity. Note that you can "climb aboard" a ship or bus.
Oh confound it, man! Are you afraid of success?!
An old-fashioned way of showing emotion such as anger,
like screaming "damn it" today. Interesting, but no longer used.
The answer is no, dog gone it!
A very old-fashioned and more conservative way of saying damn it!
You sit around here and you spin your webs and you
think the world revolves around you and your money.
"To spin a web" is what a spider does, but it also can mean to make secretive
and perhaps immoral plans. "To revolve" is to circle around, like the planets
revolve around the sun.
In the vast configuration of things, Id say your nothing
but a scurvy little spider. And that goes for you, too!
A truly classic line! "The vast configuration of things" is a way of saying
"the universe as a whole," and the adjective "scurvy" means cruel or worthless,
though this is very rarely used today (However, the noun scurvy is a well known
disease caused by lack of vitamin C).
Why in the world did you marry a guy like me? :: To keep from being an old maid?
Note that "in the world" added immediately after a wh question
adds emotion such as surprise. Women who dont marry by a certain
age are afraid that they may become unattractive "old maids."
Mary, youre on the nest?! George Baily lassos stork!
Two ridiculously old-fashioned expressions. When a woman was "on the nest," she was
pregnant. "To lasso" a bird is to capture it with a rope, and a "stork" is in fact a
bird that children still think brings babies to a house.
She had a boy, then a girl, and day after day, she spent
the days remaking the old Granville house into a home.
Note that a house is an actual building, while a home is more than just
a physical structure since it also connotes the family that lives there.
Potter was bearing down hard
Another way of saying to put on a lot of pressure.
Sam Wainwright made a fortune in plastic hoods for planes.
The front covering of a car or plane that often protects the engine.
Potter became head of the draft board
The "draft board" is the governmental body that decides who has to
serve in the military. "1A" is a rating that was given to those people
who had no medical or emotional problems, and thus had to serve.
Gower and Uncle Billy sold war bonds.
A type of loan that citizens made to the government, in order to help pay for the war.
Harry Baily topped them all; A navy flier, he shot down 15 planes, two
of them as they were about to crash into a transport full of soldiers.
"To top them all" is to do something more impressive than all the others.
The navy is that part of the military that fights on the sea.
George? 4-F on account of his ear.
"4-F" was the rating given to people who had some physical problem which prevented them
from serving in the military (Of course, many people wanted to be 4-F, especially during
the Vietnam War!)."On account of" is another way of saying because of.
George fought the battle of Bedford Falls; Air raid
warden, paper drives, scrap drives, rubble drives.
The "air raid warden" was responsible for testing the towns alarm systems to make
sure they would work if there were an attack from the air (In reality, this was never
a real possibility, at least on East Coast of the US). "Paper drives" and all the
others were community efforts to collects various products (such as paper) for the war
effort. "Scrap" is used parts or pieces, often made of metal. "Rubble" is the debris
or destruction left after a building is destroyed
On VE day, he wept and prayed, and on VJ day, he wept and prayed again.
VE and VJ day were the days at the end of the war that celebrated victory
in Europe, and then later, victory in Japan. "To weep" is to cry.
Look at the headline! :: I know, and its marvelous.
"Marvelous" is an alternative to wonderful or fantastic.
Harry reversed the charges!
In this context, "to reverse the charges" is to make a long distance
phone call and have the person who answers pay for it.
Harry, you old son of a gun, congratulations!
A still used way to show affection or happiness for someone.
You should see what theyre cooking up in town for you.
"To cook up" something means to plan.
My brother just got the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The highest honor a US citizen can receive, often given for courage.
Between you and me, Mr. Carter, were broke.
"Between you and me" is a way of telling a person that you dont really
want others to know what youre about to say. If someone is "broke,"
they have no more money. Common, and sad.
Step right in here and well fix you up.
This is Georges way of saying "well take care of you."
Uncle Billy has a tragic encounter with Potter,
and George soon fears that his life is destroyed.
You just cant keep those Bailys down, can you Mr. Potter?
"To keep somebody down" is to prevent them from succeeding or doing well.
How does slacker George feel about that?
A "slacker" is a still widely used slang word for a lazy person.
Arent you going to make a deposit? Its usually
customary to bring the money with you.
In a banking context, "a deposit" is the act of placing money in your
bank account. If something is "customary," it is a long-term practice.
I should have my head examined; $8,000 has got to be somewhere.
The words of a person who is afraid that they are going crazy.
It takes a lot of character to leave your home town and start all over again.
In this context, "character" means both courage and determination.
Youre broke, arent you? What do you want to do, hawk your furs and hats?
"To hawk" possessions is to sell them cheaply in the streets. "Furs" are
the coat of soft hair that covers most animals, although in this case it
refers to the coats and other clothes that are made with fur.
The bank examiner wants the accounts payable.
An accounting term that refers to the records of what a bank owes and is owed.
I dont want any "maybes." We have got to find that money!
Note that any word can be made into a noun, including "maybe!"
Ive gone over the whole house, even in rooms locked since I lost Laura.
In this case, "to go over" a place is to search it very carefully.
Wheres that money, you silly stupid old fool!?
One of the most dramatic and cruelest sentences that George says in this movie!
It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison!
"Bankruptcy" is the legal term for when a person declares
they do not have enough money to pay all that they owe.
Isnt it wonderful about Harry? I bet I had 50 calls
today about the banquet and the parade.
"I bet" is a very common way of saying "Im sure that
" A "banquet"
is a formal dinner party, usually in honor of a person.
Mom said we can stay up to midnight and sing Christmas carols.
Holiday songs that people sing in church and on city streets.
Did you have a hectic day? :: Another big red letter day for the Baileys.
"Hectic" is a useful adjective meaning extremely busy or stressful.
If a business has a "red letter day," it makes a lot of money.
Is she running a temperature? :: Just a teensy one: 99.6 degrees.
"Teensy" is a childs word for small or tiny.
Its this old house; Well all have pneumonia!
A serious disease of the lungs that makes it difficult to breath.
Why do we have to live here and stay
around this measly, crummy old town?
"Measly" means small and unimportant, and
"crummy" is poor and dirty, or perhaps worn out.
Mrs. Welch, what kind of teacher are you, sending Zuzu home half naked?
One way of saying under dressed, or dressed too lightly for the weather.
Will you get out and let me handle this?
"To handle" a situation is a common way of saying to take care of it.
Janie, havent you learned that silly tune yet?
A "tune" is another word for a song or arrangement of musical notes.
George, why must you torture the children?
Note that "torture" can be both physical and emotional.
My company is short in their accounts and the bank examiner got there today.
If a business is "short in their accounts," they do not
have enough money to pay what they owe.
Theres a man from the D.A.s office looking for you too.
The D.A. is the District Attorney, or the local government prosecutor
who is the person who officially charges people with a crime.
Ill pay any bonus on the loan, any interest.
In this context, a "bonus" is probably an extra amount
of money beyond whatever the interest on the loan is.
Could it be theres a discrepancy in the books?
A "discrepancy" is a lack of agreement or official difference,
perhaps caused by a mistake in adding up the numbers.
No sir, Ive just misplaced $8,000.
"To misplace" is a gentle way of saying to lose.
What have you been doing George? Playing
the market with the companys money?
"To play the market" is to invest in the stock market.
Its all over town that youve been giving money to Violet Bick.
If news is "all over town," this means that everybody is talking about it.
Do you got any stocks, bonds, real estate? Collateral of any kind?
"Real estate" refers to houses, buildings and land. "Collateral" is any asset of value,
from stocks to cars, that can serve as security for a person or bank to loan money.
A $15,000 life insurance policy. :: How much is your equity in it?
"Equity" is the value of a house or other asset,
after all the debts that are owed on it is paid off.
Look at you, you used to be so cocky.
A strong adjective meaning too confident or sure of oneself.
What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable
little clerk, crawling here on his hands and knees begging for help.
A person who is "warped" is perverted or morally sick.
A "clerk" is an office worker, often who is not paid very well.
Youre worth more dead than alive! Why dont you go to the
riffraff you love so much and ask them for the money?
One of Potters favorite words: The common working people
of a community, who often do not have much education.
Theyd run you out of town on a rail!
Potters way of saying they would chase George
on to a train and force him to leave New Bedford.
Im going to swear out a warrant for your arrest
"To swear out" is an old-fashioned way off saying to issue, or perhaps officially
write up. A "warrant for a persons arrest" is an official document, usually ordered
by a judge, that gives the police the right to arrest someone because they are suspected
of having committed a crime.
.for misappropriation of funds, manipulation and malfeasance.
"Misappropriation of funds" is the misuse or even theft of an organizations money
(In this case, the Building and Loan). "Malfeasance" is a legal word that refers to
the violation of official obligations, often related to business and money.
Dear father in heaven
.Im at the end of my rope.
The first part of the sentence is how a Christian would begin a prayer.
If you are "at the end of your rope," you are generally trapped in
a very bad situation with no good alternatives to escape from it.
You had to bawl her out! :: Oh well, thats what I get for praying.
"To bawl out" a person is to scream at them loudly.
Clarence comes down to save George from himself.
I didnt have time to get some stylish underwear.
A good adjective meaning fashionable or perhaps currently popular.
I passed away in it.
"To pass away" is a widely used way of saying to die.
You didnt go through with it, did you?
To go through" with something is to actually do it, as opposed to just
thinking about it (The "it" in question is usually dangerous or scary).
I knew if I were drowning, youd try to save me.
"To drown" is a dramatic verb which means to die in
the water from being unable to breathe.
No George, Im the answer to your prayers.
If something is "the answer to your prayers," it is exactly what
you had been wanting or wishing for. A common expression.
What are you, a mind-reader?
A person who can tell what another person
is thinking, even if they are not saying anything.
AS2- Angel Second Class.
Clarences official rank in heaven, which sounds just like the military.
Im your guardian angel.
An angel that is supposed to look after and protect you.
What happened to your wings? :: I havent got them
yet, and thats why I am an Angel Second Class.
Most people think of angels with wings, but in fact, religious stories suggests
that angels do not get them immediately, but must earn them by doing good works.
Money comes in pretty handy down here.
If something "comes in pretty handy," this means that it will be very useful or practical.
Look little fellow, go off and haunt somebody else.
A "fellow" is a British word for a man or guy. "To haunt" someone
is to scare them by visiting them in the form of a ghost.
I suppose I would have been better off if I had never been born.
A good use of the past conditional tense, and a key line for George.
You dont have to make all that fuss about it.
"To make a fuss" about something is to make
a lot of noise or commotion because of it.
You havent a care in the world; No worries, no obligations.
Clarences way of telling George he no longer has any problems.
What I need is a couple of good, stiff drinks.
Hard liquor, such as vodka or bourbon.
Well stroll up to my car.
To "stroll up" to something is to walk slowly toward it.
I ran into it and it cut a big gash in the side of the tree.
A dramatic word for a deep cut, whether in people or trees.
Porterville? Either Im off my nut or he is.
An old-fashioned way to say crazy or insane,
I was thinking of a flaming rum punch.
A party drink that does not have much strong liquor.
Mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves.
Another drink that is not the "hard liquor" served in the bar (Though its worth noting
that in this context, "heavy on" means a lot of, and "light on" means a little of.
Both cinnamon and cloves are types of spices).
We dont need any characters around to give the joint atmosphere.
In this case, a "character" means an odd or strange person. A "joint" is a
slang word for a place such as a bar or club. Here, "atmosphere" means a fun
or interesting environment.
Every time you hear a bell ring it means some angel just got his wings.
One of the rules of heaven, as explained by Clarence.
That does it! Out you two pixies go!
The first sentence is a common way of expressing extreme anger or frustration.
A "pixy" is a mythical and tiny human, like a fairy.
Where do you come off calling me Nick?
A grammatically subtle expression. When someone asks you "Where do you come off"
doing something, they are asking you how you have the nerve or arrogance to do it.
Didnt I tell you to never come panhandling around here?
"To panhandle" is to beg for money or food on city streets.
That rumhead spent 20 years in jail for poisoning a kid;
If you know him, you must be a jailbird yourself.
Two very dated terms: A "rumhead" was probably a slang word for an alcoholic,
and a "jailbird" was a convict or someone who had spent time in either prison or jail.
What are you, a hypnotist?
A person who can place another person into a sleep-like or
subconscious state, in order to control their mind or bodies.
You have no papers, drivers license,
insurance policy, 4-F card, Zuzus petals.
The various documents of modern life that help give a person an identity
(except Zuzus petals, which are simply the leaves of a flower).
Home, what home? :: Now shut up, cut it out!
A wonderful and common expression which simply means "stop it!," often used
when you want a person to stop lying, manipulating or doing something silly.
Youre crazy, I think youre screwy.
An old-fashioned but charming word which means crazy.
Ernie, take me home, Ive gone off my nut.
Another dated expression meaning to go crazy (Although it is still
common to say that a person is nuts, meaning that they are crazy).
Where do you live? :: Dont you start pulling that stuff!
"To pull" something in this context means to lie or manipulate.
In this case, George cant believe that Ernie doesnt know who he is.
Ernie, straighten me out here. Ive got some bad liquor here, or something.
"To straighten out" someone is to help them think clearly.
Listen buddy, I live in a shack in Potter field
and my wife ran away and took the kid.
A shack" is a tiny one room house, probably in poor condition
and with no plumbing or other modern conveniences.
Ok, just step on it. Get me home.
A still used way of saying drive faster ("It" is the gas pedal of the car).
We better keep an eye on this guy. Hes bats.
"To keep an eye" on someone is to watch over them, in this case
to make sure they dont do any harm to someone else. "Bats" is
another never used word to describe a crazy person.
Both of you stood out on the porch and sung to us, dont you remember?
An outside addition to a house, with a floor and roof, but no walls.
If youre looking for a room, theres no vacancy.
In a hotel, a "vacancy" is an empty room thats available to rent.
Please help me until I get over it.
"To get over" something is to recover from it, or to feel better after being hurt by it.
Uncle Billy? Hes been in the insane asylum ever since he lost his business.
An "insane asylum" is a hospital or boarding house for
people who are believed to be medically insane or crazy.
Youve got me in some kind of spell. Ill get out of it.
A "spell" is a type of hypnotic state or strange psychological
condition that is caused by a magical power.
Harry wasnt there to save them because you werent there to save Harry.
Clarences explanation of how a single life could
effect so many others, both directly and indirectly.
See George, you really had a wonderful life; Dont you
see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?
Note that you can throw away the trash, or an entire life.
Get a straight jacket!
A jacket which holds the arms down, to prevent people from becoming violent.
George returns home as a very changed and
grateful man, and Clarence finally gets his wings
Do you know me? :: Know you, youre kidding.
"To kid" (or kid around) is to joke, or not be serious. Very common.
I saw that car piled into that tree down there.
To "pile into" something is to hit it directly, often at high speed.
I bet its a warrant for my arrest! Isnt it wonderful? Im going to jail!
A funny group of sentences, showing how much a persons perspective on life can change.
Look at this wonderful old drafty house!
If a house is "drafty," it is designed in such a way
that cold winds and breezes often blow through it.
Mary told some people you were in trouble,
and they scattered all over town collecting money.
Here, "to scatter" is the act of many people going in different directions.
I busted the jukebox, too.
"To bust" something is to break it. A "jukebox" is that great machine
filled with records that people can listen to if they put in a quarter.
Ive been saving this money for a divorce if I ever get a husband.
----Just a funny thing to say!
Its from London
. "My office instructed to advance you up
to $25,000. Stop. Hee-haw and Merry Christmas, Sam Wainwright."
"To advance" a person money is to immediately loan them it.
[Writing]: ----->No man is a failure who has friends.
One of the most famous lines in the history of the movies.
That a boy, Clarence!
A sweet way of congratulating someone who has just accomplished a good thing.
Note that "That a boy"----- > "Thatta boy" in rapid speech.
Its A Wonderful Life
Some Potential Questions for ESL Class Discussion
1. Does this movie have a basic message? What is it?
2. What are some of the economic and business issues addressed in this movie that are still around today?
3. Were you surprised when George became so
angry after Uncle Billy lost the $8,000?
4. Do you think the world of business still has
people that are like both George and Potter?
5. If you had been in Georges position, would you
have considered working for Potter?
6. Has this movie dated well? What did you like or dislike about it?