(Sorry about the long delay in posting - holidays, you know. I should have started this series back in September when Target started stocking its Christmas stuff.)
It's so weird how the mind works, isn't it? One minute George Bailey's thinking about jumping into the freezing river to drown himself; the next he's jumping in to save someone else from drowning.
(You can say this about Clarence Oddbody: he might have the IQ of a rabbit, but he understands how George Bailey ticks. Of course he'd put off ending his miserable existence if it meant saving somebody else. Suicide is selfish, which is the opposite of George; it's a testament to the grind of decades spent doing just what he hates most that he even got around to contemplating it on this, the most desperate day of his life.)
So George fishes Clarence out of the drink, and they find shelter in ... I always think it's a lighthouse, but I'm pretty sure it's actually the bridge's tollhouse. Now begins the Wacky Hijinks of Clarence going around telling anyone who'll listen (which is basically nobody) that he's a 200-year-old angel who fell from Heaven, and it's no wonder he hasn't got his wings yet, because he comes off so dotty that George "The Martyr from Bedford" Bailey is clearly considering tossing him back in the river just so he'll shut up.
Anyway, George wishes he'd never been born, Clarence goes, "Done," and the snow stops, because 40 years ago baby George Bailey suddenly didn't sneeze, and the effects are still being felt.
Here comes the part of the movie that everyone knows: Pottersville. Certain people out there seem to believe that it "rocks," but I think Pottersville is a little like Las Vegas - sure, it looks like fun to visit, but you don't really think about the people who have to live there. We'll get to that, but first I want to point out how sad I am that we never really get to see much of Clarence's wacky colonial threads beyond his Ebenezer Scrooge underwear; it looks like he might have snagged some contemporary threads at the tollhouse.
George and Clarence's first stop in the new George-less world: that tree where he crashed his car. Huh, that's so weird - the car seems to have been towed, and the gash in the tree is healed, and the guy who owns the tree seems to think he lives in "Pottersville." Oh, well - nothing a drink at Martini's won't fix.
Martini is nowhere to be found at the bar, which is rowdier than we remember, but barkeep Nick (surlier than we remember) sets up George with a drink and then turns to Clarence. Clarence asks for any variety of ridiculous beverages and gets none of them, and Nick is starting to get a funny feeling about this pair, and then Clarence talks about being an angel and that is just IT for Nick. I'm pretty sure he thinks they're gay, actually - this is also right after George asks Clarence if he has A) anywhere to sleep, and B) any money. (For years, I thought he tossed them out because he heard George call Clarence "angel," but that's actually from something else.)
Just then, old man Gower walks in, a drunken beggar. George is like, dude hasn't looked this bad since that day he almost killed that boy, and Nick is like, whaddya mean, almost? "That rumhead spent 20 years in jail for poisoning a kid. If you know him, you must be a jailbird yourself!" And with that, Nick tosses the jailbird and his flaming-rum-punch-ordering angel friend out.
So now we know what Pottersville is like if you're poor, an immmigrant (something about the way the movie emphasizes Martini's Italian-ness makes me think it's a big factor in his not getting the loan for the bar), gay or a nonconformist in general ("We don't need any characters around to give the joint atmosphere!").
Up next: what Potterville is like for women.
(on to Part 9)