What’s the best holiday movie related to small business? No contest. While some might argue that one of the many film adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol might be the definitive small business movie set during the holidays, we disagree. We believe It’s a Wonderful Life is not only the best small business movie related to Christmas, it’s possibly the best small business movie related to any time of the year.

Viewer warning

If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, we’ve embedded it below (via Vimeo). But  here’s a warning: It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie many of those who run a small business try to avoid watching. Indeed, until the redemptive climax of the film, the movie can be like watching a Halloween horror film.

Without a doubt, the worst scene any small business manager will ever witness in any movie is the one in which the Ebenezer Scrooge villain of the film, Henry F. Potter (or, “Mr. Potter”), finally breaks the already beaten down George.

On the video below, scroll to 1:20:40 to watch the scene. But be prepared. It starts with this line:

“You were going to go out and conquer the world! You once called me a warped, frustrated, old man. What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk, crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help.”

Spoiler (as if you haven’t seen the movie dozens of times) alert: After that scene, things improve, we promise.

Transcript: Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was…Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter. And what’s wrong with that? Why…Here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You…you said…What’d you say just a minute ago?…They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait! Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken-down that they…Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about…they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!

The Rest of the Story

Earlier this year (2017), Netflix premiered Five Came Back, a documentary series about the experiences of four Oscar-winning U.S. film directors who left Hollywood to enter the military during World War II. It’s a Wonderful Life was the first film Frank Capra directed after the war. It was a failure at the box office. It was too dark at a time when people wanted to move on from the war, according to film. It was only after the movie started appearing on TV that it became appreciated as one of the best films ever made — another lesson for small business owners.

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