IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFEScreenplay byFrances GoodrichAlbert HackettJo SwerlingandFrank CapraBased on the short story"The Greatest Gift"byPhilip Van Doren Stern. Copyright 1946RKO Radio Pictures, IncShooting Script, 1946
FADE IN:1NIGHT SEQUENCESeries of shots of various streets and buildings in the townof Bedford Falls, somewhere in New York State. The streetsare deserted, and snow is falling. It is Christmas Eve. Overthe above scenes we hear voices praying:GOWER'S VOICEI owe everything to George Bailey.Help him, dear Father.MARTINI'S VOICEJoseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friendMr. Bailey.MRS. BAILEY'S VOICEHelp my son George tonight.BERT'S VOICEHe never thinks about himself, God;that's why he's in trouble.ERNIE'S VOICEGeorge is a good guy. Give him abreak, God.MARY'S VOICEI love him, dear Lord. Watch overhim tonight.JANIE'S VOICEPlease, God. Something's the matterwith Daddy.ZUZU'S VOICEPlease bring Daddy back.CAMERA PULLS UP from the Bailey home and travels up throughthe sky until it is above the falling snow and moving slowlytoward a firmament full of stars. As the camera stops wehear the following heavenly voices talking, and as each voiceis heard, one of the stars twinkles brightly:FRANKLIN'S VOICEHello, Joseph, trouble?JOSEPH'S VOICELooks like we'll have to send someonedown – a lot of people are askingfor help fora man named George Bailey.(CONTINUED)
2.1CONTINUED:FRANKLIN'S VOICEGeorge Bailey. Yes, tonight's hiscrucial night. You're right, we'llhave to send someone down immediately.Whose turn is it?JOSEPH'S VOICEThat's why I came to see you, sir.It's that clock-maker's turn again.FRANKLIN'S VOICEOh – Clarence. Hasn't got his wingsyet, has he? We've passed him upright along.JOSEPH'S VOICEBecause, you know, sir, he's got theI.Q. of a rabbit.FRANKLIN'S VOICEYes, but he's got the faith of achild – simple. Joseph, send forClarence. A small star flies in fromleft of screen and stops. It twinklesas Clarence speaks:CLARENCE'S VOICEYou sent for me, sir?FRANKLIN'S VOICEYes, Clarence. A man down on earthneeds our help.CLARENCE'S VOICESplendid! Is he sick?FRANKLIN'S VOICENo, worse. He's discouraged. Atexactly ten-forty-five PM tonight,Earth time, that man will be thinkingseriously of throwing away God'sgreatest gift.CLARENCE'S VOICEOh, dear, dear! His life! Then I'veonly got an hour to dress. What arethey wearing now?FRANKLIN'S VOICEYou will spend that hour gettingacquainted with George Bailey.(CONTINUED)
3.1CONTINUED: (2)CLARENCE'S VOICESir. If I should accomplish thismission – I mean – might I perhapswin my wings?I've been waiting for over two hundredyears now, sir – and people arebeginning to talk.FRANKLIN'S VOICEWhat's that book you've got there?CLARENCE'S VOICEThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer.FRANKLIN'S VOICEClarence, you do a good job withGeorge Bailey, and you'll get yourwings.CLARENCE'S VOICEOh, thank you, sir. Thank you.JOSEPH'S VOICEPoor George. Sit down.CLARENCE'S VOICESit down? What are.JOSEPH'S VOICEIf you're going to help a man, youwant to know something about him,don't you?CLARENCE'S VOICEWell, naturally. Of course.JOSEPH'SWell, keep your eyestown? The stars fadescreen, and a light,blur is seen.VOICEopen. See theout from theindistinguishableCLARENCE'S VOICEWhere? I don't see a thing.JOSEPH'S VOICEOh, I forgot. You haven't got yourwings yet. Now look, I'll help youout. Concentrate. Begin to seesomething?The blur on the screen slowly begins to take form. We see agroup of young boys on top of a snow covered hill.(CONTINUED)
4.1CONTINUED: (3)CLARENCE'S VOICEWhy, yes. This is amazing.JOSEPH'S VOICEIf you ever get your wings, you'llsee all by yourself.CLARENCE'S VOICEOh, wonderful!2EXT. FROZEN RIVER AND HILL – DAY –CLOSE SHOTGroup of boys. They are preparing to slide down the hill onlarge shovels. One of them makes the slide and shoots outonto the ice of a frozen river at the bottom of the hill.BOY(as he slides)Yippee!!CLARENCE'S VOICEHey, who's that?JOSEPH'S VOICEThat's your problem, George Bailey.CLARENCE'S VOICEA boy?JOSEPH'S VOICEThat's him when he was twelve, backin Something happens here you'llhave to remember later on.Series of shots as four or five boys make the slide down thehill and out onto the ice. As each boy comes down the othersapplaud.CLOSE SHOTGeorge Bailey at bottom of slide.GEORGE(through megaphone)And here comes the scare-baby, mykid brother, Harry Bailey.CLOSE SHOT – HARRYOn top of hill, preparing to make his slide.(CONTINUED)
5.2CONTINUED:HARRYI'm not scared.BOYS(ad lib)Come on, Harry! Attaboy, Harry!MEDIUM SHOTHarry makes his slide very fast. He passes the marks made bythe other boys, and his shovel takes him onto the thin iceat the bend of the river. The ice breaks, and Harry disappearsinto the water.CLOSE SHOT – GEORGEGEORGEI'm coming, Harry.MEDIUM SHOTGeorge jumps into the water and grabs Harry. As he starts topull him out he yells:GEORGEMake a chain, gang! A chain!WIDER ANGLEThe other boys lie flat on the ice, forming a human chain.When George reaches the edge with Harry in his arms, theypull them both to safety.JOSEPH'S VOICEGeorge saved his brother's life thatday. But he caught a bad cold whichinfected his left ear. Cost him hishearing in that ear. It was weeksbefore he could return to his afterschool job at old man Gower'sdrugstore.DISSOLVE:3EXT. MAIN STREET – BEDFORD FALLS – SPRING AFTERNOONMEDIUM SHOTFive or six boys are coming toward camera, arm in arm,whistling. Their attention is drawn to an elaborate horsedrawncarriage proceeding down the other side of the street.(CONTINUED)
6.3CONTINUED:MEDIUM PAN SHOTThe carriage driving by. We catch a glimpse of an elderlyman riding in it.CLOSE SHOTThe boys watching the carriage.GEORGEMr. Potter!CLARENCE'S VOICEWho's that – a king?JOSEPH'S VOICEThat's Henry F. Potter, the richestand meanest man in the county.The boys continue until they reach Gower's drugstore. Thedrugstore is old-fashioned and dignified, with jars of coloredwater in the windows and little else. As the kids stop:GEORGESo long!BOYS(ad lib)Got to work, slave. Hee-haw. Heehaw.4INTERIOR DRUGSTORE – DAYMEDIUM SHOTGeorge comes in and crosses to an old-fashioned cigar lighteron the counter. He shuts his eyes and makes a wish:GEORGEWish I had a million dollars.He clicks the lighter and the flame springs up.GEORGEHot dog!WIDER ANGLEGeorge crosses over to the soda fountain, at which Mary Hatch,a small girl, is seated, watching him. George goes on to gethis apron from behind the fountain.(CONTINUED)
7.4CONTINUED:GEORGE(calling toward backroom)It's me, Mr. Gower. George Bailey.CLOSE SHOTMr. Gower, the druggist, peering from a window in back room.We see him take a drink from a bottle.GOWERYou're late.MEDIUM SHOTGeorge behind soda fountain. He is putting on his apron.GEORGEYes, sir.WIDER ANGLEViolet Bick enters the drugstore and sits on one of the stoolsat the fountain. She is the same height as Mary and the sameage, but she is infinitely older in her approach to people.VIOLET(with warm friendliness)Hello, George.(then, flatly, as shesees Mary)'Lo, Mary.MARY(primly)Hello, Violet.George regards the two of them with manly disgust. They aretwo kids to him, and a nuisance. He starts over for the candycounter.GEORGETwo cents worth of shoelaces?VIOLETShe was here first.MARYI'm still thinking.(CONTINUED)
8.4CONTINUED: (2)GEORGE(to Violet)Shoelaces?VIOLETPlease, Georgie.George goes over to the candy counter.VIOLET(to Mary)I like him.MARYYou like every boy.VIOLET(happily)What's wrong with that?GEORGEHere you are.George gives Violet a paper sack containing licoriceshoelaces. Violet gives him the money.VIOLET(the vamp)Help me down?GEORGE(disgusted)Help you down!Violet jumps down off her stool and exits. Mary, watching,sticks out her tongue as she passes.CLOSE SHOT – GEORGE AND MARY AT FOUNTAINGEORGEMade up your mind yet?MARYI'll take chocolate.George puts some chocolate ice cream in a dish.GEORGEWith coconuts?MARYI don't like coconuts.(CONTINUED)
9.4CONTINUED: (3)GEORGEYou don't like coconuts! Say,brainless, don't you know wherecoconuts come from? Lookit here –from Tahiti – Fiji Islands, the CoralSea!He pulls a magazine from his pocket and shows it to her.MARYA new magazine! I never saw it before.GEORGEOf course you never. Only us explorerscan get it. I've been nominated formembership in the National GeographicSociety.He leans down to finish scooping out the ice cream, his deafear toward her.She leans over, speaking softly.CLOSE SHOTMary, whispering.MARYIs this the ear you can't hear on?George Bailey, I'll love you tillthe day I die.She draws back quickly and looks down, terrified at what shehas said.CLOSE SHOT – GEORGE AND MARYGEORGEI'm going out exploring some day,you watch. And I'm going to have acouple of harems, and maybe three orfour wives. Wait and see.He turns back to the cash register, whistling.ANOTHER ANGLETaking in entrance to prescription room at end of fountain.Gower comes to the entrance. He is bleary-eyed, unshaven,chewing an old unlit cigar. His manner is gruff and mean. Itis evident he has been drinking.(CONTINUED)
10.4CONTINUED: (4)GOWERGeorge! George!GEORGEYes, sir.GOWERYou're not paid to be a canary.GEORGENo, sir.He turns back to the cash register when he notices an opentelegram on the shelf. He is about to toss it aside when hestarts to read it.INSERT: THE TELEGRAMIt reads: "We regret to inform you that your son, Robert,died very suddenly this morning of influenza stop. Everythingpossible was done for his comfort stop. We await instructionsfrom you.EDWARD MELLINGTONPres. HAMMERTON COLLEGE."BACK TO SHOTGeorge puts the telegram down. A goodness of heart expressesitself in a desire to do something for Gower.He gives the ice cream to Mary without comment and sidlesback toward Gower.5INT. PRESCRIPTION ROOM OF DRUGSTORE – DAYCLOSE SHOTGower, drunk, is intent on putting some capsules into a box.GEORGEMr. Gower, do you want something.Anything?GOWERNo.GEORGEAnything I can do back here?GOWERNo.(CONTINUED)
11.5CONTINUED:George looks curiously at Gower, realizing that he is quitedrunk. Gower fumbles and drops some of the capsules to thefloor.CLOSE SHOTCapsules spilling on floor at their feet.BACK TO SHOTGeorge and Gower.GEORGEI'll get them, sir.He picks up the capsules and puts them in the box. Gowerwaves George aside, takes his old wet cigar, shoves it inhis mouth and sits in an old Morris chair in the background.George turns a bottle around from which Gower has taken thepowder for the capsules. Its label reads "POISON." Georgestands still, horrified.GOWERTake these capsules over to Mrs.Blaine's. She's waiting for them.George picks up the capsule box, not knowing what to do orsay. His eyes go, harassed, to the bottle labeled poison.George's fingers fumble.GEORGEYes, sir. They have the diphtheriathere, haven't they, sir?GOWERUmmmm.Gower stares moodily ahead, sucking his cigar. George turnsto him, the box in his hand.GEORGEIs it a charge, sir?GOWERYes – charge.GEORGEMr. Gower, I think.GOWERAw, get going!(CONTINUED)
12.5CONTINUED: (2)GEORGEYes, sir.6INT. DRUGSTORE – DAYMEDIUM SHOTGeorge comes out into main room. As he puts on his cap hesees a Sweet Caporals ad which says:INSERT"ASK DAD HE KNOWS" – SWEET CAPORALBACK TO SHOTWith an inspiration, George dashes out the door and down thestreet. Mary follows him with her eyes.7EXT. STREET – DAYMEDIUM SHOTGeorge runs down the street until he comes opposite a twostory building with a sign on it reading: "Bailey Buildingand Loan Association." He stops. Potter's carriage is waitingat the entrance. Suddenly he runs up the stairs.8INT. OUTER OFFICE BLDG. AND LOAN – DAYFULL SHOTThe offices are ancient and a bit on the rickety side. Thereis a counter with a grill, something like a bank. Before adoor marked: "PETER BAILEY, PRIVATE", George's Uncle Billystands, obviously trying to hear what is going on inside. Heis a very good-humored man of about fifty, in shirt-sleeves.With him at the door, also listening, are Cousin Tilly Bailey,a waspish-looking woman, who is the telephone operator, andCousin Eustace Bailey, the clerk. The office vibrates withan aura of crisis as George enters and proceeds directlytoward his father's office.CLOSE SHOTUncle Billy listening at the door. As George is about toenter his father's office, uncle Billy grabs him by the arm.UNCLE BILLYAvast, there, Captain Cook! Whereyou headin'?(CONTINUED)
13.8CONTINUED:GEORGEGot to see Pop, Uncle Billy.UNCLE BILLYSome other time, George.GEORGEIt's important.UNCLE BILLYThere's a squall in there that'sshapin' up into a storm.During the foregoing, Cousin Tilly has answered the telephone,and now she calls out:COUSIN TILLYUncle Billy. telephone.UNCLE BILLYWho is it?COUSIN TILLYBank examiner.INSERTCLOSEUP – UNCLE BILLY'S LEFT HANDThere are pieces of string tied around two of the fingers,obviously to remind him of things he has to do.BACK TO SHOTUncle Billy looking at his hand.UNCLE BILLYBank examiner! I should have calledhim yesterday.Switch it inside. He enters a door marked:"WILLIAM BAILEY, PRIVATE".George stands irresolute a moment, aware of crisis in theaffairs of the Bailey Building and Loan Association, butaware more keenly of his personal crisis. He opens the doorof his father's office and enters.
14.9INT. BAILEY'S PRIVATE OFFICE – DAYMEDIUM SHOTGeorge's father is seated behind his desk, nervously drawingswirls on a pad. He looks tired and worried. He is a gentleman in his forties, an idealist, stubborn only for otherpeople's rights. Nearby, in a throne-like wheelchair, behindwhich stands the goon who furnishes the motive power, sitsHenry F. Potter, his squarish derby hat on his head. Thefollowing dialogue is fast and heated, as though the argumenthad been in process for some time.BAILEYI'm not crying, Mr. Potter.POTTERWell, you're begging, and that's awhole lot worse.BAILEYAll I'm asking is thirty days more.GEORGE(interrupting)Pop!BAILEYJust a minute, son.(to Potter)Just thirty short days. I'll dig upthat five thousand somehow.POTTER
Violet Bick enters the drugstore and sits on one of the stools at the fountain. She is the same height as Mary and the same age, but she is infinitely older in her approach to people. VIOLET (with warm friendliness) Hello, George. (then, flatly, as she sees Mary) 'Lo, Mary. MARY (primly) Hello, Violet. George regards the two of them with manly .