The most underrated performance in the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the role played by Lionel Barrymore — the nasty Henry F. Potter.
There are many stories about this now legendary movie but one of the more obscure is that folks back then were really upset that Potter is never shown facing consequences for his evil deeds and nasty nature in It’s a Wonderful Life. He just gets away with it.
What should have happened to Potter?
The Christmas purist in me would have taken a Dickens approach and stabbed him in the heart with a stake of holly. Alas, this was a family picture and that would have changed everything.
But it is an assault on Christian charity to want to see this guy get it?
After all, unlike Scrooge he never comes around and he remains evil to the end. The message seems to be that money makes one immune. All the angst seemed to belong to George Bailey who was, of course, the anti-Potter. This movie remains in need of some serious closure.
Some have suggested that Potter should have been caught in the crossfire of Bert’s gun, when he fires after George creates a bit of a scene in Pottersville. But that was during the out-of-body experience and Potter still would have been there when George snaps out of it.
Others say that perhaps a good-hearted witness in the bank steps forward after the sheriff tears up the arrest warrant for George and the whole mess ends up at Potters office to watch him hauled off on Christmas Eve. That’s perhaps too Cousin Eddie-ish for my taste and would have made an awkward ending to the movie.
Others think that maybe karma does it’s thing and Potter chokes on a piece of meat or something while thinking he’s conquered the Baileys. That’s not really all that satisfying, is it?
Maybe this is why Capra never showed Potter getting it — there was just no way to show it without taking the shine off the jingle bell that has made It’s a Wonderful Life so beloved to us.
What would have been the best way to give Potter some consequence?