It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Poster

Lionel Barrymore: Mr. Potter



  • Mr. Potter : George, I am an old man, and most people hate me. But I don't like them either so that makes it all even.

  • Mr. Potter : [to George Bailey]  Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me "a warped, frustrated, old man"! What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stocks, no bonds, nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy.

    [Potter chuckles] 

    Mr. Potter : You're worth more dead than alive! Why don't you go to the riffraff you love so much and ask them to let you have $8,000? You know why? Because they'd run you out of town on a rail. But I'll tell you what I'm going to do for you, George. Since the state examiner is still here, as a stockholder of the Building and Loan, I'm going to swear out a warrant for your arrest. Misappropriation of funds, manipulation, malfeasance...

    [sees George runs off] 

    Mr. Potter : All right, George, go ahead! You can't hide in a little town like this!

  • Mr. Potter : George, I am an old man and most people hate me. But I don't like them either, so that makes it all even. You know just as well as I do that I run practically everything in this town but the Bailey Building and Loan. You know, also, that for a number of years I've been trying to get control of it. Or kill it. But I haven't been able to do it. You have been stopping me. In fact, you have beaten me, George, and as anyone in this county can tell you, that takes some doing. Now take during the Depression, for instance. You and I were the only ones that kept our heads. You saved the Building and Loan, I saved all the rest.

    George Bailey : Yes, well, most people say you stole all the rest.

    Mr. Potter : The envious ones say that, George. The suckers. Now, I have stated my side very frankly. Now let's look at your side. A young man, age 27... 28... , married, making, say, $40 a week.

    George Bailey : Forty-five!

    Mr. Potter : Forty-five. $45 a week. Out of which, after supporting your mother and paying your bills, you're able to keep, say, ten, if you skimp. A child or two comes along and you won't even be able to save the ten. Now, if this young man of 28 was a common, ordinary yokel, I'd say he was doing fine. But George Bailey is not a common, ordinary yokel. He is an intelligent, smart, ambitious, young man who hates his job, who hates the Building and Loan almost as much as I do. A young man who's been dying to get out of this small town and on his own ever since he was born. A young man... the smartest one in the crowd, mind you... A young man who has to sit by and watch his friends go places because he's trapped. Yes, sir, trapped into this small town and frittering his life away, playing nursemaid to a lot of garlic eaters. Do I paint the correct picture or do I exaggerate?

  • George Bailey : Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!

    Mr. Potter : And Happy New Year to you, in jail! Why don't you go on home? They're waiting for you!

  • George Bailey : I'm in trouble, Mr. Potter. I need help. Through some sort of an accident, my company's short in their accounts. The bank examiner got there today. I've got to raise eight thousand dollars immediately.

    Mr. Potter : Oh, that's what the reporters wanted to talk to you about.

    George Bailey : The reporters?

    Mr. Potter : Yes. They called me up from your Building and Loan about an hour ago. Oh, there's a man over there from the D.A.'s office, too. He's looking for you too.

    George Bailey : Please help me, Mr. Potter. Help me, won't you, please? Can't you see what it means to my family? I'll pay any sort of a bonus on the loan, any interest, if you still want the Building and Loan...

    Mr. Potter : George, could it possibly be there's a slight discrepancy in the books?

    George Bailey : No, sir, there's nothing wrong with the books. I've just misplaced eight thousand dollars. I can't find it anywhere.

    Mr. Potter : You misplaced eight thousand dollars?

    George Bailey : Yes, sir.

    [Mr. Potter looks at his bodyguard; they both know that George is lying and covering for Uncle Billy] 

    Mr. Potter : Have you notified the police?

    George Bailey : No, sir. I didn't want the publicity. Harry's homecoming tomorrow...

    [Mr. Potter chuckles] 

    Mr. Potter : They're going to believe that one. What've you been doing, George? Playing the market with the company's money?

    George Bailey : No sir. No sir, I haven't.

    Mr. Potter : Is it a woman, then? You know, it's all over town that you've been giving money to Violet Bick.

    George Bailey : What?

    Mr. Potter : Not that it makes any difference to me, but why did you come to me? Why don't you go to Sam Wainwright and ask him for the money?

    George Bailey : I can't get a hold of him. He's in Europe.

    Mr. Potter : Well, what about all your other friends?

    George Bailey : They don't have that kind of money, Mr. Potter. You know that. You're the only one in town that can help me.

    [Potter chuckles] 

    Mr. Potter : I've suddenly become quite important. All right... if I gave you a loan, what kind of security would I have in return, George? Have you got any stocks? Bonds? Real estate you can use for collateral of any kind?

    George Bailey : Well, I have some life insurance. A $15,000 policy.

    Mr. Potter : Yes. How much equity is in it?

    George Bailey : Five hundred dollars.

    Mr. Potter : Five hundred dollars? And you ask me to lend you eight thousand?

  • Mr. Potter : [on the telephone]  George, there is a rumor around town that you closed your doors. Is that true?


    Mr. Potter : Oh, well, I'm very glad to hear that. George, are you all right? Do you need any police?

    George Bailey : [into the phone]  Police? What for?

    Mr. Potter : [into the phone while the nervous bank president looks on]  Well, mobs get pretty ugly sometimes, you know. George, I'm going all out to help in this crisis. I've just guaranteed the bank sufficient funds to meet their needs. They'll close up for a week and then reopen.

    George Bailey : [to Uncle Billy]  He just took over the bank.

    Mr. Potter : [into the phone]  I may lose a fortune, but I'm willing to guarantee your people, too. Just tell them to bring their shares over here and I will pay 50 cents on the dollar.

    George Bailey : [into the phone]  Aw, you never miss a trick, do you, Potter? Well, you're going to miss this one!

    Mr. Potter : [into the phone]  If you close your doors before six p.m., you will never re-open!

    [there is a loud click as George hangs up] 

  • Real Estate Salesman : Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there. There's the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety per cent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your Potter's Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath wisecracks!

    Mr. Potter : Oh, they are, are they? Even thought they know the Baileys haven't made a dime out of it.

    Real Estate Salesman : You know very well why. The Baileys were all chumps. Every one of these homes is worth twice what it cost the Building and Loan to build. If I were you, Mr. Potter...

    Mr. Potter : Well, you are not me.

    Real Estate Salesman : As I say, it's no skin off my nose. But one of these days this bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.

  • Mr. Potter : Have you put any real pressure on these people of yours to pay those mortgages?

    Pa Bailey : Times are bad, Mr. Potter. A lot of these people are out of work.

    Mr. Potter : Well, then, foreclose.

    Pa Bailey : I can't do that. These families have children.

    Mr. Potter : They're not my children.

    Pa Bailey : But they're somebody's children, Mr. Potter.

    Mr. Potter : Are you running a business or a charity ward? Not with my money!

    Pa Bailey : Mr. Potter, what makes you such a hard-skulled character? You have no family, no children. You can't begin to spend all the money you've got.

    Mr. Potter : Oh, I suppose I should give it to miserable failures like you and that idiot brother of yours to spend for me!

    Little George : He's not a failure! You can't say that about my father!

    Pa Bailey : George. George. Quiet, George. Run along. Run along.

    Little George : You're not! You're the biggest man in town!

    [Pushes Mr. Potter] 

    Little George : Bigger than him, bigger than everybody!

    [walks out] 

    Mr. Potter : [groans]  Gives you an idea of the Baileys.

  • Mr. Potter : Peter Bailey was not a businessman. That's what killed him. Oh, I don't mean any disrespect to him, God rest his soul. He was a man of high ideals. So called. But ideals without common sense can ruin this town. Now, you take this loan here to Ernie Bishop. You know, that fellow that sits around all day on his brains in his taxi, you know. I happen to know the bank turned down this loan, but he comes *here* and we're building him a house worth five thousand dollars. Why?

    George Bailey : Well, I handled that, Mr. Potter. You have all the papers there. His salary, insurance. I can personally vouch for his character.

    Mr. Potter : A friend of yours?

    George Bailey : Yes, sir.

    Mr. Potter : Uh-huh. You see, if you shoot pool with some employee here, you can come and borrow money. What does that get us? A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas!

  • Mr. Potter : He

    [Peter Bailey] 

    Mr. Potter : was a man of high ideals, so called. Ideals without common sense can ruin this town.

  • Mr. Potter : Ernie Bishop, you know the fella who sits around all day on his brains in his taxi?

  • Mr. Potter : The Bailey family's been a boil on my neck long enough.

  • George Bailey : You're not talking to someone else? You know me, remember me, George Bailey?

    Mr. Potter : George Bailey. George Bailey, whose ship has just come in. Provided he has enough brains to climb aboard.

  • Mr. Potter : [Harry's won the Congressional Medal of Honour]  How does slacker George feel about that?

    Uncle Billy : Very jealous, very jealous. He only lost three buttons off his vest.

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