Bedford Falls — A Screenplay
Closing scenes of film:
George wandering like a lost soul among the tombstones, Clarence trotting at his heels. Again George stops to stare with frightened eyes at: CLOSE SHOT — a tombstone. Upon it is engraved a name, Harry Bailey. Feverishly George scrapes away the snow covering the rest of the inscription, and we read: IN MEMORY OF OUR BELOVED SON — HARRY BAILEY — 1911-1919.
CLOSE SHOT — George and Clarence.
CLARENCE: Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.
George jumps up.
GEORGE: That’s a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport.
CLARENCE (sadly): Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them. You were never born, so you weren’t there to save Harry. You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?
CLOSE SHOT — George and Clarence.
GEORGE: Clarence . . .
CLARENCE: Yes, George?
GEORGE: Where’s Mary?
CLARENCE: Oh, well, I can’t . . .
GEORGE: I don’t know how you know these things, but tell me — where is she?
George grabs Clarence by the coat collar and shakes him.
CLARENCE: I . . .
GEORGE: If you know where she is, tell me where my wife is.
CLARENCE: I don’t think . . .
GEORGE (becoming violent): Please, Clarence, tell me where she is.
CLARENCE: You’re not going to like it, George.
GEORGE (shouting): Where is she?
CLARENCE (sadly): 302 Maple Street, George.
GEORGE: Maple Street? That’s not . . .
George thrusts Clarence away. At first George moves slowly, then: WIDE SHOT — he breaks into a wild run.
CLOSE SHOT — Clarence rubs his neck.
CLARENCE (to himself): There must be some easier way to get my wings.
WIPE TO: A SHABBY LITTLE HOUSE ON A STREET OF SIMILAR RESIDENCES. ONE STRAND OF SAGGING CHRISTMAS LIGHTS HANGS OVER THE FRONT OF THE PORCH. ABOVE THE DOOR ARE THE NUMBERS 302.
CLOSE SHOT — George looks with bewilderment at the numbers.
GEORGE (to himself, in disbelief): This isn’t our home.
MEDIUM SHOT — George goes up three steps and knocks at the door. Mary opens the door. She is worn-looking, hair unkempt. There is hardness and suspicion in her gaze. She wears a sweater over her dress.
George stares at her in amazement.
She draws back, surprised.
MARY: What do you want, mister? We gave at the church, so . . .
GEORGE (cont’d): Mary!
A look of fright comes to Mary’s face. She begins to close the door. George blocks her.
GEORGE (cont’d): Mary! Mary!
He grabs her arm. She struggles to free herself.
GEORGE (cont’d): Mary, it’s George! Don’t you know me? What’s happened to us?
MARY (struggling): I don’t know you! Let me go! Ralph! Ralph!
GEORGE: Mary, please! Oh, don’t do this to me. Please, Mary, help me. Where’s our kids? I need you, Mary! Help me, Mary!
A large man appears behind Mary. He is wearing an undershirt and carries a newspaper.
RALPH: What’s going on here? Hey, get your hands off my wife.
George releases Mary’s arm.
GEORGE: Wife? Mary, it’s George. Your husband. You’re my wife.
Mary backs away, grabs Ralph’s arm.
RALPH: Are you drunk, buddy?
MARY: He’s a nut case, Ralph. He talks like he knows me, and I’ve never seen him in my life. He talks about “our kids.” Like I had kids with him.
Three children appear, looking out from behind Mary and Ralph.
Ralph steps forward, the newspaper still in his left hand.
RALPH: Kids? With you? Say, buddy, you got some nerve, talking to my wife like that.
His right fist shoots out and lands directly on George’s nose. MEDIUM SHOT — George staggers down the porch steps and lands on his back on the snow-covered sidewalk. His nose is bleeding profusely.
RALPH: You come back around here, there’s more of that for you. And after I get done, I’ll call the cops. Tell them to bring a straightjacket.
Ralph slams the door.
CLOSE SHOT — George slowly gets up. His stares dully at the closed door. Then he turns and trudges away.
WIPE TO: THE BRIDGE. Night and wind. George comes into view. Without hesitating he begins to climb over the railing.
MEDIUM SHOT — Clarence standing on the bridge, some distance away.
CLARENCE (sighing): Should I stop him, Joseph?
JOSEPH’S VOICE: It’s no use, Clarence. Not now.
FULL SHOT — George disappears over the railing and into the river. No splash is heard, but the wind begins to howl.
CLOSE SHOT — Clarence looks upward.
CLARENCE: I guess this means I don’t get my wings.
JOSEPH’S VOICE: No, you don’t, Clarence. Didn’t I tell you that you had to understand George Bailey? Which means you should have known he was a big enough fool to believe that if he hadn’t been born his wife would have become a . . . a spinster librarian or something. A healthy, pretty girl like that.
CLARENCE: But what was I to have done?
JOSEPH’S VOICE: You could have told him that Mary died of the flu at age six. Anything. But not the truth.
CLARENCE: Lie? But isn’t lying a sin?
JOSEPH’S VOICE: Franklin said you were simple, Clarence, and you are indeed. We lie to humans all the time.
A tear rolls down Clarence’s face.
CLARENCE: I guess I’m done here in Bedford Falls.
CAMERA PULLS AWAY SLOWLY from Clarence until he disappears in the darkness and swirling snow. CAMERA TRAVELS back to the bridge, to the railing where George jumped. CAMERA LOOKS over the railing into the dark, swirling water of the river.