It’s a Wonderful (Subprime) Life

I’ve always been crazy about the classic 1946 Jimmy Stewart film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I’m sure the vast majority of you know this flick…it’s on frequently at this time of year. In a nutshell, it’s the story of how an angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated George Bailey (Stewart) by showing what life would had been like if he never existed. I used to just cry at the end, but we watched it last week with our girls for the first time and both Lesley and I found ourselves crying within the first half hour! Every time I see it I seem to find that some new insight is revealed too. Honestly, I hadn’t seen it in quite a few years before the other night and it was a bit of a revelation watching the scene on the link above!

You see George has these big plans for his life that he has to keep sacrificing for the good of others. When his Dad dies unexpectedly he takes over Dad’s “Building and Loan” to make sure that it survives. Feeling that he’s served well in an interim capacity, he bids the board of directors farewell, at which time the evil, greedy banker Mr. Potter announces that he’d like to disolve the Building and Loan. It’s important to understand this, Mr. Potter is one of the meanest villians in movie history and George is one of the most virtuous protagonists so it’s quite the revelation to watch George argue, in this scene, in favor of stated income, subprime loans! Mr. Potter complains in this scene that the Building and Loan is underwriting home loans for individuals who his bank can’t and won’t qualify. He argues in favor of these marginal borrowers having more savings and downpayment! It causes George to blow up and call Potter a “warped, frustrated old man”. It really made me laugh! Is Mr. Potter the new ideal? The clip above is a full 10 minutes long but the piece I’m referring to is only the first 4 minutes. Amazing!


  1. Hilarious! That’s really amazing

  2. Just saw this movie the other night myself- was very moved by it AND surprised by the financial concepts that relate so much to today!
    Wish we had community like George Bailey found that he had! Merry Christmas Jim!!

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