Mary Bailey – model wife

I probably don’t have to go over the excellence that is Frank Capra’s film, It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a movie some people love, others dislike and others still just can’t stand. Personally I love the movie and I don’t get why some people hate it. It’s certainly not syrupy sweet, though the end wraps up nicely. Perhaps it hits a little to close to home for some people.

The rule in my house is: We don’t watch Christmas movies until December 1st and we don’t watch Christmas movies after December 31st. That being said, the wife and I sat down to enjoy It’s a Wonderful Life last night, as this year this were all askew and we didn’t get to watch it before Christmas. As usual I couldn’t help but notice the excellent acting by Jimmy Stewart who plays a man (George Bailey) irritated with his situation but who loves those around him too much to just leave it behind – too many people are relying on him and he does much good for many, though he only wants to leave the town of Bedford Falls behind.

One person whom I typically admire but haven’t really paid much attention to, however, is Donna Reed’s character of Mary Bailey. Though she plays a large part in the story she certainly isn’t the focus and I think sometimes she gets forgotten. As I watched the movie last night (which, btw, has been fraught with many issues in it’s history, from losing its copyright to actually being a flop when it was released) I couldn’t help but notice what an incredible woman and wife Mary Bailey is.


Here we have a woman who falls for a man, hard. I don’t know what George Bailey does in his youth, but early in the movie we see that young Mary proclaims her love for her man almost right in his face, whispering in his bad ear that “…I will love you till the day I die.”. We never see what causes this dedication. Perhaps she was present when George saves his younger brother from drowning and this has cemented him in her mind as the man she wants to marry. Like I said, nothing is really said about WHY she loves him so, we just know that she does.


Later in the movie we find out that Mary has left Bedford Falls but is visiting when, at a graduation party for one of the high school classes, her brother comes up and asks George if he would dance with her. Here we get a great idea of just how hard she has fallen for him:

  1. Her brother tells George that if he would just dance with her would make her extremely happy (I forget the exact words he uses).
  2. George sees Mary from across the room and, when their eyes meet, he is visibly awed by her beauty, but she is visibly excited to see him.
  3. It appears as though Mary is there with another date, as the young man is telling her a story, but when George approaches her she completely ignores the guy, hands him her drink and leaves to dance with George.

After a quick dip in the pool we get to a great scene where we learn that both Mary and George are not what I would call squeaky clean – they are obviously young people in love and want each other, physically. Nowhere near as overtly over-sexualized as modern film, the exchange is great as we come to find that George is a bit of a sly dog (the lines he mutters to himself while she hides in the bushes are GREAT) and Mary lets a little bit of innocent sexuality slip into the conversation as well (you know, before she gets naked – on accident, I know). Particularly after breaking a window in the old house. Though we learn later what she claims she wished for, her attitude at the moment certainly makes one wonder if her wish was purely carnal.


Later we find that she has again returned to Bedford Falls for a visit and we get to see her put a little ‘girl game’ in action. When George reluctantly comes over for a visit she takes a few steps to ensure that he will be reminded of their previous encounter, and even fakes enjoying a phone call from an old beau to make him jealous. She obviously wants him, despite the fact that he is frustrated about the lemons life has handed him once again (as if telling her mother that he is “making violent love to me” wasn’t enough of a give away). He obviously wants her as well, though he fights it and loses in the end.

Fast forward to George and Mary getting married and, while headed out of town, George has to save the building and loan from failure. Despite not wanting her now husband to get involved Mary is right there supporting him. When things look like they are about to take a turn for the worst she voluntarily gives up the money they had saved for their honeymoon to keep the building and loan open. Later that evening after George gets “home” he finds that his new wife, without complaint, has prepared a table, a meal and a bed (the look on his face when he double-takes the bed is hilarious) in the dilapidated old house that will be their home. This scene is fantastic! Knowing full well what George wants to do with his life, but that he has once again been stymied by circumstances, Mary has friends cover the windows of the house with large posters of far away, exotic locations. IMDB indicates that the posters are actually larger versions of the pictures in the travel brochures we see George carrying earlier in the film. She knows her man and she does what is within her power to cater to him. She cares for him and, knowing he has just been though a very rough day, has made sure he comes home to as great a home as she can give him at the moment. It’s very sweet and endearing, and we really get a great look at her character in this scene.

Fast forward again to George’s discovery of the missing 8000 dollars his uncle has misplaced and his subsequent panic. He arrives at home, harried, worried and frustrated, no doubt in fear that he is going to jail. Mary, unaware of what is going on, is happy while she helps the children decorate the Christmas tree, but quickly becomes aware that something isn’t right. George is angry and makes some very disparaging remarks about the house, about their children – now, a modern wife in a modern show would have quickly berated or torn down her husband in an attempt to “put him in his place”, but not Mary Bailey. Despite her husbands obvious barbs she remains calm and attempts to help him by getting him to relax and attempting to understand what he is going through. Only when he flies off the handle and starts yelling at his daughters school teacher over the phone and yelling at the children does she speak out against him, and even then only for a moment. She doesn’t grab the kids and proclaim “I’m going to my mothers!”, she doesn’t wait for him to leave then tell the kids to pack their things so they can leave him – she picks up the phone to call friends for help and tells her children to go and pray for their father. She doesn’t know why George is distressed, only that he is distressed and needs help.


The end of the movie see’s her bringing in all of George’s friends who are more than happy to bail him out of the situation he is in. It’s a great scene as we get to see the full bounty of the charity and love George and Mary have sown over the years come to fruition. Dozens of friends arrive to help George out by donating money to cover the lost 8000 dollars, and they do it without a hitch – its not even a thought to help out their friend! Now, we never know for sure, but though we see Mary as the instigator of the event I don’t feel that she went out looking for people to give up their money for her husband. Likely she went out looking for him after he left the house and, during her search, finds out what is going on with the money. Undeterred she continues to look for him, but word gets around and soon their friends have formed a convoy, of their own accord, and head to the Bailey house to do whatever they can.


Throughout the film the character of Mary Bailey is a fantastic example of a biblical wife. Some people might call her a doormat for not stepping up and challenging her husband when he comes home irritated and angry, but she certainly lives up to the biblical standard of her husbands submissive helpmate. The sorrowful thing is that ANY woman can live up to this standard if she wanted. Is it easy? Likely not, but it is not impossible. There is nothing wrong with her catering to her husbands wants and needs, she is not less of a woman for it, but, in fact, is a GREATER woman for it!

What do you think?


Author: SnapperTrx

Just a guy on the internet.

17 thoughts on “Mary Bailey – model wife”

    1. Right on! I don’t think people really think of George and Mary as ‘heroes’, but they definitely are! I mean, George gave up all his dreams, voluntarily, mind you, to serve the people of Bedford Falls. He could easily have left on more than one occasion but duty and love kept him there. Together they served a community that, without them, would have been under Potter’s greedy thumb! That’s a hero in my book!

      1. Yeah I think that they represent the heroism of servitude, if you’ll pardon my reference, which is very Christlike. I think this film is so inspirational. And it ends with my favorite Christmas song: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!

    1. Yes! Even in his frustration and anger she supports him and attempts to HELP him! Modern cinema has every woman CHALLENGING their men when something doesn’t go the way they want. They push the false concept that men like women who are mouthy and challenging – basically women who act like men. Nothing could be further from the truth! I read somewhere that submission is the heart of womanhood, and that certainly seems true. A submissive and kind woman is considered ‘a woman’ while a divisive and confrontation woman goes by….well, another name. And not just by men, either, women will call out other women for having that type of attitude. The portrayal by Donna Reed was refreshing and, yes, saddening, as young girls are seldom taught to act in like manner.

      1. Right! We just watched a movie called Draft Day together last night. It was such a guy movie – and I told my husband how they way these men talked and bargained with each other is just SO not how women act with other women … unless they are a hardcore career woman, and even those are well known as acting more like men in the workplace. I remember reading in a magazine a while ago that career women who were really good at their high-powered jobs often took testosterone pills! They admitted it was the only way they could really compete in that environment. Yuck!!

      2. ” I remember reading in a magazine a while ago that career women who were really good at their high-powered jobs often took testosterone pills!”

        Ugh, seriously? I mean, women need T, sure, but not THAT much! I have also read that those same type of hardcore career women are quickly coming to the realization that their business success does not bring them happiness, and yet all the years they could have spent being a wife/mother are gone. They are too old to physically have children without assistance, and even if they went through with it many of them just don’t think they have the energy now, in their 40’s & 50s, to raise a child. Some of them don’t even have a husband around to act as a father, since they never invested time in finding one! It’s a sad story, and one I am trying to convince my daughter of. You can go to school, I tell her, but you should consider raising children first. School will always be there, but the best time for you to have children will quickly go by. You will soon find it wont happen naturally, and you wont have the energy to keep up. I don’t think she is listening, though.

  1. Yes yes Yes! I love this movie and have always admired Mary. I can’t help but wonder what your wife’s opinion of her was. I’ve found that even more feminist women often can’t help but appreciate the peace and stability that Mary exudes. It’s almost like we’re programmed that way……….

    1. Funny you should ask that, as I never thought to, though when George is home and starts flipping tables and kicking things over she made sure to let him know he was a jerk (he was). I don’t think she would have the same patience for it and likely was wondering why Mary didn’t kick him out then and there (I say this knowing what I know about my wife). As I said at the end of the post, I don’t think being the biblically submissive wife is an easy task, not by any stretch of the imagination, but in Christ all things are possible, and He enables us and transforms us into reflections of Him. Doing it by our own power is impossible, but we do have to take the initiative to move in that direction, and we have to allow the holy spirit to point out where we need to change and allow Him to change us.

  2. “I don’t think being the biblically submissive wife is an easy task, not by any stretch of the imagination”

    – – –

    being the biblically anything is rarely easy and not attainable under human ‘power’

      1. i think we get the impression that following Jesus should be easy and natural, but following Jesus means dying to self and depending on Him, believing Him when we have nothing tangible to back that up, hoping in Him when despair tries to drown us.

        living a life dependent on God and following Jesus is hard. it often goes against the flow of humanity and culture. it sometimes isolates us – some more than others. it causes us to make choices that even other christians question and criticize. and it will not be fair, just, or equal on this side of heaven.

  3. I’ve been thinking about Snappers and Ames comments and while I agree, I think it misses part of the picture. It is hard to be a perfect Biblical wife…in fact impossible. But I think that following our biological nature is not. I am not respectful or submissive 100% of the time like I should be, but my desire to have a strong leader in my husband and to not have the responsibility that is intended for him is always present. If women didnt try to stifle their natural programming, things wouldn’t be so bad. That’s part of what makes modern feminism so sad is it tries to reprogram women. I think that’s part of why so many people are attracted to what Mary represents even though they don’t live that way.

    1. I would agree except that some women aren’t wired that way. Sure we can say the majority of women are, but some women just don’t have the strong innate desire to be wife and mom that some others do, or to be submissive. These women, when they are Christians, at least, have to instead look towards the word of God to see that His order is good and good for us. My wife, due to life circumstances growing up and her own personal attitude, is not one for submitting. I could go into a bunch of other red pill type stuff that would offer a hundred different reasons why and what I could do to help fix the problem, but what it SHOULD boil down to is her submission to Christ. It doesn’t matter what her life circumstances were/are – as a Christian she should want to be obedient to God, regardless of what her nature (or lack thereof) tells her.

      This reminds me of some of the posts on Dalrocks in which GBFM was, for lack of a better term, trolling everyone about teaching husbands how to game their wives. His point was, “Why do we need to teach men to game their wives when their wives should be submitting to the word of God?”. Though not as nice and clean as all that, it was a valid point. Yes its in a woman’s nature to always look for the next best man or to be swept away by another alpha male, but shouldn’t Christian women be trying harder because they know the word of God? They DO know the word of God. Their biological nature, however, causes them to ignore it!

      It’s our nature that the word of God helps us combat, because our nature, man or woman, is to sin, and to serve self. Not every woman feels like you do. Some women want a strong husband, but can’t handle him being the leader, they need to be in control. Some women want a husband who provides, but could never see themselves submitting to him in the way prescribed in the bible. If this woman claims to be a follower of Christ, she has much growing up she needs to do, spiritually.

  4. True, but I’d be willing to bet that most women aren’t as similar as your wife, outside of the few God calls for singleness. It’s not an issue of not wanting control–my husband says I’m a control freak and often struggle being comfortable with situations I’m not in control of–but more of possessing more feminine qualities as well. I don’t know what happened to your wife, but I know my sister loved babies and family life when she was younger and thanks to some unfortunate circumstances, is the exact opposite now.

    American Dad posted about grabbing one’s wife, putting her on a counter, and kissing her as a way of relieving stress and tension and he is 100% correct. Most women who aren’t reprogrammed to believe that such actions are “marital assault” find that that display of masculine power and control is exactly what they need and crave.

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