How much money did Uncle Billy lose in It’s a Wonderful Life?
Why is Uncle Billy walking through Bedford Falls with $ 100,000 in cash just before Christmas?
OK, in the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the cash that Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) is carrying – and losing – is identified as $ 8,000.
But that was $ 1946. According to the inflation calculator data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpiccal.plthat $ 8,000 is nearly $ 100,000 today.
That makes Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) an accomplished thief if he finds the money and keeps it.
Some other interesting inflation calculations from the movie:
• When boy George said, “I wish I had a million dollars,” in 1919, he wishes for almost $ 15 million in current dollars. (The adjustment is roughly the same for 1925, when the young adult George makes the same request.)
• The $ 17.50 that Mrs. Davis (Ellen Corby, later Grandma Walton) asked George at the Building and Loan to bridge the gap until the bank reopened during the 1930 Bank Run would be a little more today worth than $ 250 while, the $ 242 deducted by the previous construction and loan customer would be worth more than $ 3,500. And the $ 2 that the building and loan has left at the end of the run is about $ 30 today – still a slim margin against bankruptcy.
• The $ 45 weekly salary that George Bailey (James Stewart) pays from the Building and Loan around 1936 – before the birth of his first child with his wife Mary (Donna Reed) – would be around $ 800 today for an annual salary worth (before tax) an estimated $ 41,000.
• The $ 20,000 annual salary that Mr. Potter George also offered in 1936 would be worth more than $ 350,000 today. Quite a bribe for a worker to refuse.
Finally, the $ 25,000 line of credit Sam Wainwright (Frank Albertson) granted George Bailey in the final scene would be a whopping $ 286,000 today. Well, that’s a pretty wonderful friend.