Clarence Odbody

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Clarence Odbody
Guardian angel clarence.jpg
Henry Travers portrayed guardian angel Clarence Odbody in Frank Capra's 1946 film It's A Wonderful Life
In-universe information
Full nameClarence Odbody, AS1
Guardian Angel

Clarence Odbody (born May 1653) is a fictional guardian angel 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", a character in Philip Van Doren Stern's 1943 booklet 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.


On Christmas Eve, 1945, George Bailey, an honest businessman 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 he mistakenly believes the payout on his life insurance policy would solve the problems confronting his business and family. Two celestial beings observe this, and decide to send an angel to save George. Unfortunately, the only angel available 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 the 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.

Clarence introduces himself as they are drying out in the tollhouse keeper's shack. George expresses a wish that he had never been born, and Clarence grants his wish in order to show George what the world would be like if he had never existed. 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. He finds his wife Mary unmarried and childless, and then sees that the town and its businesses have turned to a raucous lifestyle. As George comes to realize the positive effects that he has had on others' lives, he regrets his hasty wish, and Clarence restores him to his previous life.[1]

As George now appreciates his life, despite its difficulties, Clarence wins his wings.[1]

As shown 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 his 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 doesn't 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[edit]

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]


  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, Retrieved: May 6, 2012.