(You know, Harry Bailey is the kind of guy movies usually get made about. Near-death experience in childhood, glamorous college career, whirlwind romance and surprise marriage - and that's not even counting what happens later.)
Anyway, George is counting on Harry to take over the Building and Loan so he can finally go off to school and to see the world, but Harry's new father-in-law has offered him some awesome job somewhere far away from Bedford Falls. But Harry loves his family, and he'll stay if only George tells him that now it's his turn.
All this is on George's mind as he studiously avoids Harry's homecoming party. Everyone is inside laughing and having a good time, and George is sitting alone, thinking about what's best for Harry and for the town. (Lord, that's so George.)So his mom comes out and reminds him that Hottie Donna Reed is back in town, which would be good for him and the town, because then the town wouldn't have to watch them moon over each other and never do anything about it.
So George goes, "All right, Mother, old Building and Loan pal - I think I'll go find a girl and do a little passionate necking." That's not my modernist paraphrase of the situation - that is a direct quote from Jimmy Stewart. It is also now my second-favorite line in a Christmas movie ever.*
But George doesn't go call on Mary. Instead, he heads for swingin' downtown Bedford Falls, where he knows he'll run into Violet Bick.
George wishes he wanted Violet. She seems exciting - the type of girl you could take around the world with you. (Or you could just leave her in Bedford Falls, and she'd find someone else the next night.) So he gives it a try, telling her about all the impossibly romantic adventures they could go on just in that one night. But he and Violet speak different languages, and he loses her at "take off our shoes and walk through the grass." Violet does many things, but she doesn't do bare feet.
I love this next part.
So George wanders aimlessly, and it's so weird how he just happens to wind up pacing in front of Mary's house. Mary fluffs her hair, puts "Buffalo Gals" on the phonograph, and invites George in. He sits on the sofa and looks miserable and answers questions in the rudest way possible, because he doesn't want to feel the way he does, and he certainly doesn't want Mary sitting there, looking the way she does, trying to get him to remember how they harmonized to "Buffalo Gals." And then the best thing ever happens.
MRS. HATCH. Mary? Who's down there with you?
MARY. It's George Bailey, Mother.
MRS. HATCH. George Bailey? What's he want?
GEORGE. Me? Nothing - I just came in to get warm.
MARY. He's making violent love to me, Mother.
HAHAHAHAHA - and THAT is my favorite line in a Christmas movie ever.
Just then, Sam Wainwright calls, because apparently he's been seeing Mary? I dunno - I never understood this part, because clearly Sam + Mary are all wrong. But it gives her an opportunity to get George's hackles up ("yes, Sam, old moss-back George") - and then Sam says he wants to talk to both of them at once.
So they put their heads together so they can both hear the phone, and their lips are almost touching so they can both speak into the receiver, and honestly I don't have any idea what Sam is saying (something about a soybean factory?) because they are so clearly attracted to each other that the tension is unbearable. It's like back in that high school gymnasium when they're devouring each other with their eyes; Mary is almost crying by the end: "I, I-I'm here, Sam," she manages.
Sam is still talking, in fact, when George drops the phone, grabs Mary by the shoulders - and starts shaking her. He grits that he's leaving, d'you hear, and he doesn't want to ever get married, not to anyone! But he's all out of bluster. "Oh, Mary, Mary, Mary ..."
And they fall into each other's arms. Looks like George will have a traveling partner on that trip around the world.
* The line that used to hold the silver medal is from Holiday Inn:
"How'd he get that far in five minutes?"
"The lady must have been willing."
(on to Part 5)