Who is Clarence?

Clarence Odbody, the angel from the 1946 film It's A Wonderful Life, played by Henry Travers.

Clarence Odbody, the angel from the 1946 film It’s A Wonderful Life, played by Henry Travers.

(this article is reprinted in whole from Wikipedia.org under its Free Documentation License)

Clarence Odbody (born May 1654) is a fictional character and the secondary protagonist in Frank Capra‘s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. He is portrayed by Henry Travers.

Odbody is the guardian angel of George Bailey in the film. In the beginning of the story, Clarence is an Angel Second Class and is called by Joseph (supposedly St. Joseph ) to perform a mission. He is told that George is troubled and on the verge of committing suicide. Joseph then shows a review of George’s life and the joy it has brought to him and others. Clarence remarks that he cannot see the vision clearly. Joseph then remembers that he is an Angel Second Class and that he hasn’t earned his wings yet, and improves the clarity of the vision. Joseph says that if Clarence can save George and help him see the good he has done for others, he may just earn his wings, after more than 200 years of trying. Clarence then comes to Earth just in time to save George, who is about to jump off a bridge into the icy river below it. Clarence jumps in first and George does the same as he swims over to Clarence, who is yelling at the top of his lungs. The bridge operator hears the commotion, and Clarence and George later dry their wet clothes in the bridge operator’s shack.

Clarence the angel introducing himself to George Bailey (James Stewart)

Clarence the angel introducing himself to George Bailey (James Stewart)

The bridge operator looks at the two curiously as they warm them themselves after the ordeal, but mostly stares in bewilderment at Clarence, who says of his old, 18th century-style nightgown that his wife gave it to him on his last birthday, and he died in his sleep wearing it. As Clarence dries his Tom Sawyer book, he talks about how suicide is against the law where he comes from, and how he is an AS2, or Angel Second Class. At that point, the bridge operator falls out of his chair and quickly walks out of the shack in disbelief. Clarence talks to Bailey about his situation and how it is absurd for him to kill himself over $8,000 that his Uncle Billy had misplaced. George asks Clarence how he knows about things like that, and Clarence reminds George that he is a guardian angel. George replies that he keeps forgetting that. Clarence then tells George that killing himself wouldn’t solve any problems. George concedes that notion, but goes on to say it would have been better if he hadn’t been born, and he wishes it were so. Clarence, disagreeing at first, thinks it would be very effective to show George what it would be like if he had never existed. Clarence walks up to George and says his wish has been granted, and with that, it stops snowing and becomes windy outside. George soon finds out that he can hear with his left ear (as saving his brother’s life cost him his hearing in that ear) and that all his clothes are dry as if they were never soaked in the first place. George then goes out into the windy night to fetch his car.

After finding that his car is not where he left it, he walks with Clarence to what was supposed to be Martini’s Bar, but is instead called Nick’s, as George never helped Mr. Martini become a homeowner or business owner. When George asks how old Clarence is, he replies that he will be 293 years old next May, and eventually gets kicked out of Nick’s Bar for saying strange things, along with George, who tries to speak to his old boss Mr. Gower, only to be told that he was jailed for manslaughter and that if George knows him, he must also be a convict. George then continues going about in this surreal world, and meets people he knew but who have miserable lives as George was never part of theirs, and Clarence remarks how people seem to influence other people’s lives in unique ways. A terrified and frustrated George eventually returns to the same spot on the bridge where he was about to kill himself, and pleads with Clarence that he return to his world, even if scandal and imprisonment await him. Clarence soon returns George to his proper universe, and when the people of Bedford Falls help him with the problem of the misplaced $8,000, as if by magic, the Tom Sawyer book appears and has the message from Clarence: “No man is a failure who has friends.” At that point a bell rings on George’s family Christmas tree, indicating that Clarence has finally gotten his wings.