‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Child Star Talks Filming the Classic
We doubt the Frank Capra knew back in 1946 the his film "It's a Wonderful Life" would become one the most iconic holiday films ever made. The adorable little girl bestowed with uttering the iconic line, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings” surely didn't realize either the impact her character would have on the lives of viewers for the past seven decades.
Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey when she was just 6 years old, recently spoke about her role in the iconic film centered around the fictional Bedford Falls. She spoke alongside Jimmy Hawkins, who played Tommy Bailey, and reflected on the memories of making the film and working with the legendary James Stewart.
Frank Capra chose Grimes for the role of daughter ZuZu and although it was not her first role, (she began acting at just 6 months old), she didn't pursue acting much further than a few years after the film came out.
Grimes was basically unaware of the star power on set, but she vividly remembers James Stewart, who played her father in the film. As for Donna Reed who portrayed her mother Grimes comments, “People ask me all the time what it was like working with Donna Reed. And I don't even remember. I was so absorbed with (Stewart). I was into him all the way. We had a chemistry going, and I really felt like I was his little girl. And he was just so gentle and kind.”
Grimes realizes now the impact the film has had on generations of movie goers and is honored to have been part of something so special. “It's an honor to be in that movie because it means so much to people, not only in the United States but around the world,” Grimes shared. “And it makes such a difference in people's lives. I feel like it's become a part of American history, certainly film history... I feel very privileged to be a part of that.”
Karolyn Grimes, now 79, went on to have seven children, and her focus for many years was raising her children and working at her job in medical technology. It's interesting to note the when the film premiered Grimes did not see it. In fact it took 30 years for her to actually sit down and watch the film that forever has her a child filled with the wonder of Christmas.
Grimes along with Hawkins currently tour with special screenings of the film with special Q & A sessions.