December 21, 2015 — At a crucial point in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey and Clarence Oddbody (the angel) review how life would have been without Jimmy Stewart’s character.
- Had George not saved his brother, Harry Bailey would not have saved the transport ship in World War
- And Uncle Billy? Seems without employment at the Bailey Savings and Loan he would reside in the Bedford Falls State Hospital.
- Sweet Ma Bailey would become a surly boardinghouse owner.
- Poor pharmacist Mr. Gower would accidentally poison someone.
- And the slutty Violet Bix. Can’t even talk about what happens to her in mixed company.
This isn’t all. There’s something worse. Something much worse. Oh, the humanity.
George Bailey shakes the angel and says “Where’s Mary? I’ve got to see Mary.”
Clarence Oddbody says, “You won’t like it, George.”
At this point in our yearly watching, my family turns apoplectic and hysterical.
The angel tells George, “She closing up the library” and the camera switches to a scene of poor spinster Mary Hatch.
Frail, delicate Mary Hatch, afraid of her own shadow, donned in tiny wire-framed glasses, sensible shoes, severe hairdo. Indeed, she’s closing up the library.
Insert my family here, going bonkers. My husband is a research librarian at a local university. It has not been a fate worse than death, as the film implies. Implies, no, insists!
Consider how “It’s a Wonderful Life” might have turned out differently if Mary became a librarian and married George.
Seriously. It’s not so bad. Unlimited access to books and magazines and newspapers. Wire-framed glasses are cool. Didn’t John Lennon just rock them? And the sensible shoes. Not a bad idea. I spent my twenties running up and down marble hallways in Florida hospitals. I’m paying the price now, literally, with pricy Clark’s and Walking Cradle shoes (oh, and so worth it.) I cannot explain or defend the severe hairdo, but that’s personal preference. Who am I to say, the owner of a perennial wedge three decades after Dorothy Hamill popularized it?
Those are the basics about her appearance. Let’s get down to more important things, feminist things. Yes, it was the 1930s but if Mary had a regular paycheck from the library, the Baileys financial situation might be more stable. Most libraries in that era were endowed by the Carnegie Foundation. City government paid salaries.
Ma Bailey could babysit the kids while Mary is at work. George could go to the library and get book on home repair and fix up that blasted old house. With two incomes, maybe they wouldn’t have had to start married life in that leaky, rat trap.
Had George not felt so pressured, he might have taken the old suitcase out of the attic and taken Mary to Europe. Perhaps travel with their rich friends. Hee haw.
Has a movie been made about what George and the family’s life would be like without Mary? Beautiful Donna Reed could have earned a university degree and become a faculty librarian at Bedford Falls State. Then the kids would get free tuition.
Of course, that’s not Mr. Capra’s reality in this film. George rushes to Mary’s side, and she is horrified and assumes his bad intentions. George runs back across the bridge and realizes he did indeed “have a wonderful life.” Most women did not get college degrees in those days.
It’s a great film, a classic story, and I love it just like everyone else does.
For a moment, however, imagine if the story were told in reverse. I’m going to go make a flaming rum punch and contemplate this development.