Mr. Potter

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Henry F. Potter
It's a Wonderful Life (1946) character
Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter.jpg
Henry F. Potter (played by Lionel Barrymore)

Henry F. Potter (commonly referred to as "Mr. Potter" or just "Potter") is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the 1946 Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life. He occupies slot #6 on the American Film Institute's list of the 50 Greatest Villains in American film history (in its 2003 list entitled AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains). Mr. Potter was portrayed by veteran actor Lionel Barrymore.


Both Dan Duryea and Charles Bickford were considered for the role of "Potter".[1] In 1931 Lionel Barrymore won an Academy Award for Best Actor in "A Free Soul" but is probably best known for his role as Henry Potter. A wheelchair-user due to a hip injury and severe arthritis, Barrymore played Potter as confined to a wheelchair due to polio. His wheelchair is pushed in all scenes by a wordless assistant (played by Frank Hagney). His performance is listed in the sixth slot on the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 Greatest Villains in the history of American cinema.[2] Richard Corliss of "Time" magazine described Barrymore's portrayal as, "... Scrooge, the Grinch and Simon Legree in one craggy, crabby package".[3]

In a 2007 article in The Guardian, Graham Fuller quotes an FBI internal memo from 1947 that states the film "represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a 'scrooge-type' [sic] so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. a common trick used by communists."[4]

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening drew inspiration from Mr. Potter, as well as his high school teacher Mr. Bailey,[5] for the character Mr. Burns.[6]

Barrymore's Mr. Potter inspired the voice of mad scientist Simon Bar Sinister in the Underdog cartoon series.[7]


  1. ^ "It's a Wonderful Life", American Film Institute
  2. ^ Santoski, Teresa. "Actor Lionel Barrymore, who played Mr. Potter in 'It’s A Wonderful Life,' dies today in 1954", The week in Preview, The Nashua Telegraph
  3. ^ Corliss, Richard. "Top 25 Greatest Villains ", Time, April 25, 2007
  4. ^ Fuller, Graham. "Happy Birthday, George Bailey", The Guardian, December 24, 2007
  5. ^ Billy Paterson (2006-08-20). "Exclusive: I Was Monty's Double". The Sunday Mail. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  6. ^ Joe Rhodes (October 21, 2000). "Flash! 24 Simpsons Stars Reveal Themselves". TV Guide. 
  7. ^ "'Underdog' animator had no fear". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 

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