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December 24, 2011

Social Security had hidden role in 'It's a Wonderful Life'

Daily Star

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It's Christmas Eve, and I'm sure many of you out there will take part in yearly traditions with your family and friends.

At the Weaver household, we will share a delicious dinner prepared by my father, eat too many cookies baked by my mother, and settle down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." We have watched this popular holiday movie every Christmas Eve of my life and yet I'm excited to see it each year.

This year, I happened to remember an interesting story my father, Kermit Weaver, told Daily Star readers in December 1998 about this classic film. I thought, what better day to share it with everyone again? So here it is-

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It is no doubt one of the most popular of all Christmas movies, and without question my favorite.

But how many of you knew that one of the scenes in the movie (which was later cut out) featured a Social Security district manager?

The scene came toward the end of the movie. Uncle Billy had just lost the $8,000 bank deposit, and after searching frantically for the money, George (Jimmy Stewart) had gone home, where he broke some furniture, and yelled at his wife Mary (Donna Reed) and the kids.

But here's the scene you never saw.

While ranting and raving George looks on the table and notices a pay stub from the good old Savings and Loan. On it, he sees a deduction for FICA and recognizes it immediately as the new Social Security tax he's been paying. "I know where I have some money," he mutters.

He runs down to the Bedford Falls Social Security office and is lucky to catch the manager just closing for the night. "I need my contributions," he tells him, "I need the money now."

"Now George," the manger says, "you really don't have all that much money in the fund right now. After all, we've only been taking out one percent of your salary for eight years, and it only comes to about $240. Besides, you can't get the contributions back anyway. They are meant for your retirement or to protect your family in the event of your death." (That was before there was a disability program.)

And being the dedicated public servant that he was, he even computed what Mary and the kids would receive if George died. But that's when he made his mistake. Not knowing how distraught George was he added with a chuckle that famous line, "You're worth more to them dead than you are alive, George."

This, of course, sent George (still clutching Zuzu's petal) on his trip to the bridge and his meeting with Clarence, his guardian angel.

The scene never made it into the final version of the movie, but many of the ideas from it were used. And, as I'm sure you recall, that the scoundrel Potter was eventually given that famous line which was originally written for the Social Security district manager.

Who knew both Dr. Seuss (see last month's column) and Frank Capra were so aware of different Social Security issues?

It shows us that Social Security affects the lives of so many people. Please remember, while home enjoying your holiday, there is no need to leave the house to handle business with us. Simply visit to apply for benefits, get an estimate of future benefits, sign up for direct deposit, or request a replacement Medicare card.

Happy holidays.

tracey L. weaver is district manager of the Oneonta office of the Social Security Administration. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at