'It’s a Wonderful Life' Was Almost Way Darker

Ah, It's a Wonderful Life, the treasured cinematic classic about George Bailey, a small-town nobody who is shown what the world would be like if he were never born; mostly it consists of his wife Mary (gasp) working at a library and wearing (double gasp) glasses. Also, the town is now brimming with hip jazz bars, which is ... a bad thing?

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In the end, George decides not to kill himself, and, in one of the most famous movie endings of all-time, Mary basically just organizes the old-timey equivalent of a GoFundMe.

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But the movie didn't simply plop out of Frank Capra's brain as a fully-formed bedrock of pop-culture, like with every other movie in existence, developing It's a Wonderful Life was a long, arduous process. As weird as it may seem now, this iconic story was almost way different ...

Before even Capra was involved with the project, there were several rejected script drafts, one of which was penned by acclaimed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Based on the short story "The Greatest Gift," Trumbo's idea, oddly, made the whole thing about politics. The George Bailey character is a disillusioned congressman who tries to jump off a bridge after an election loss. His guardian angel shows him not what the world would be like if he were never born, but what it would be like if he didn't go into politics. 

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The alternate version of Bedford Falls we see is a "foul, polluted, over-industrialized modern city." There's no evil old Mr. Potter either; it's purely because George pursued a career in business instead of public service, essentially making him the villain of his own story. Man, if the FBI thought the version of It's a Wonderful Life we got was secretly communist propaganda, they would have flipped their goddamn fedoras over this one. 

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And according to rumors, Capra's take wasn't immune from some weirdly dark ideas, either. In the movie we know, Mr. Potter receives no comeuppance for being a giant piece of shit. In fact, he comes out of the whole thing $8000 richer! But some claim that the original script included a scene where Clarence the angel inadvertently kills Potter at the end, spooking him into having a heart attack! And who knows what real-world sound tolls every time an angel murders an elderly dickhead.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter! And check out the podcast Rewatchability.

Top Image: Liberty Films

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