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Clarence Odbody

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Clarence Odbody
Henry Travers portrayed guardian angel Clarence Odbody in Frank Capra's 1946 film It's A Wonderful Life
In-universe information
Full nameClarence Odbody, AS2
Guardian Angel

Clarence Odbody, also spelled Clarence Oddbody, (born May 1653) is a guardian angel character in Frank Capra's 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life, where he was portrayed by Henry Travers, and in the 1990 sequel, Clarence, where he was played by Robert Carradine.

Odbody is loosely based on "a stranger" in Philip Van Doren Stern's 1943 short story The Greatest Gift.

In 1977's It Happened One Christmas, a remake of the 1946 film, a gender-reversed Clarence appeared as Clara Oddbody, played by Cloris Leachman. The 1986 musical A Wonderful Life features Odbody, who was played by David Hyde Pierce in its 2005 rendition.

In the 1946 film Odbody is the implied subject when, in the well-known quote, Zuzu Bailey (played by Karolyn Grimes) says "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."



In It's a Wonderful Life


On Christmas Eve, 1945, George Bailey, a banker in the town of Bedford Falls facing financial ruin and disgrace, is contemplating committing suicide by jumping off a bridge into an icy river because the payout on his $15,000 life insurance policy would solve the problems confronting his business and family. Shortly before this, many in the community of Bedford Falls sense George's dismay and offer prayers. Two celestial beings hear all these prayers as well as observe George's intent to kill himself, and decide to send an angel to save him. For this task, the only available angel is Clarence Odbody, an AS2 (Angel Second Class), who after 200 years has yet to win his wings. To prepare for this assignment, Clarence is shown several scenes from George's life that show some of his selfless acts. Sent to Earth, Clarence finds George standing on a bridge about to leap into the river. Before George can jump off, Clarence jumps in the water, which prompts George to dive in to rescue him. Both are rescued by the bridge keeper, who allows them to dry off in his shack.

As Clarence dries off, he reveals he is an angel (causing the tollkeeper to flee in fear), but George is still unconvinced and believes all would be better if he were never born. Clarence sees to this (presumably appealing to his superiors, as he shouts to the sky "You didn't have to make so much noise"!), and this somehow transforms the snowiness into a windy night. George discovers that his war-hero brother, Harry, had drowned in a frozen lake as a child, as George was not there to save him, and as a result, the soldiers Harry saved from two kamikaze planes died too. He sees that his old boss Emil Gower, the town druggist, served twenty years in prison for manslaughter since George was not around to prevent him from accidentally poisoning a child's prescription, and is a derelict hobo shunned by everyone. George finds his wife Mary Hatch unmarried and childless. He sees that the town has been renamed "Pottersville" in honor of the wealthy but heartless Henry F. Potter, who appears to have taken over the town, turning it into a sleazy and dangerous place filled with whiskey joints, crime, pawnshops, violence, seedy entertainment establishments, and unhappy people with meaningless, amoral lives.

As George comes to realize the disaster that would befall all those he loves if he had not lived, he desperately desires to return to his life, even though it means he would be going to jail. George is then restored to his previous life, a life which he now enthusiastically embraces. He returns to his home, where all his family and friends are gathering to give George whatever is needed to make up for what Mr. Potter stole, culminating in an advance of $25,000 from his wealthy industrialist friend Sam Wainwright.[1] Clarence gives George his copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A bell on the family Christmas Tree rings, signifying that Clarence has finally won his wings.[1]

In Clarence


In the 1990 film Clarence, in December 1989, Clarence again comes to Earth to assist a human, Rachel Logan, who is in need of his care. Asked to help her by a fellow angel, Logan's deceased husband, he assists her to again appreciate life and her children, and saves her from suicide by bringing her to heaven for a brief visit with her husband. During his time on Earth he also shows that he has the power to take on the looks of a human, in this case, Rachel's son Brent, whom he portrays so the boy does not get expelled from high school.[2]


  • "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"[3]
  • "You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"[3]
  • In the 1946 film Clarence tells Nick the bartender that his age is "two hundred and ninety three, uhh, next May".[3] In Clarence, he reveals that he was born in Boston.
  • After George Bailey's life is restored to him in the 1946 film, he runs through Bedford Falls and passes the Bijou movie theater. The theater marquee shows that the film that was playing on Christmas Eve in 1945 was The Bells of St. Mary's, in which Henry Travers co-starred as Horace P. Bogardus.[3]

2011 novel


The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody is a 2011 novel written by John Pierson which imagines the future lives of various It's a Wonderful Life characters if George had not survived his jump into the river.[4]

See also



  1. ^ a b "AFI's Top 10", American Film Institute
  2. ^ Jay Sharbutt (1990-12-11). "Angel Clarence comes to TV". Press-Courier.
  3. ^ a b c d Dirks, Tim. It's A Wonderful Life (1946), American Movie Classics
  4. ^ The Last Temptation of Clarence Odbody amazon.com, Retrieved: May 6, 2012.