12.19.2008

Paying the Piper

Sometimes movies pose unanswered rhetorical questions that are really offensive.

Exhibit A: In The Sound of Music, perfect-pitched nuns ask sweetly "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" Judging by the movie's resolution, the answer is "Marry Her Off."

But Wendell Jamieson of The New York Times goes one further. He's found a plothole in the Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life:


What about that banking issue? When he returns to the “real” Bedford Falls, George is saved by his friends, who open their wallets to cover an $8,000 shortfall at his savings and loan brought about when the evil Mr. Potter snatched a deposit mislaid by George’s idiot uncle, Billy (Thomas Mitchell).

But isn’t George still liable for the missing funds, even if he has made restitution? I mean, if someone robs a bank, and then gives the money back, that person still robbed the bank, right?

I checked my theory with Frank J. Clark, the district attorney for Erie County upstate, where, as far as I can tell, the fictional Bedford Falls is set. He thought it over, and then agreed: George would still face prosecution and possible prison time.

“In terms of the theft, sure, you take the money and put it back, you still committed the larceny,” he said. “By giving the money back, you have mitigated in large measure what the sentence might be, but you are still technically guilty of the offense.”

He took this a bit further: “If you steal over $3,000, it’s a D felony; 2 ½ to 7 years is the maximum term for that. The least you can get is probation."

Now we know.

3 comments:

Harrod said...

I wonder whether the long-lost alternate ending changes the legal situation:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/4267/saturday-night-live-its-a-wonderful-life-lost-ending

Satorical said...

Awesome. I had never seen that.

socgrrrl said...

But, but...if you watch the end of the movie the bespectacled man rips up the warrant for George's arrest. So, no prison time for George...
Don't ruin my movie with your truthiness. ;)

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