A Web Exclusive with Karolyn Grimes

Karolyn Grimes is best known for her role as Zuzu in the family classic It's A Wonderful Life.  She plays the youngest daughter of George Bailey (James Stewart) in this bittersweet tale of finding out what it truly means to be happy.


This year the film celebrates its 65th anniversary and Karolyn has been using her role as Zuzu to spread the meaning of this remarkable story all around the world.


Karolyn has come a long way from the little girl who was best known for the line "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings".  She has endured countless personal tragedies of her own, losing her mother at a young age to Alzheimer's, her Father in an automobile accident and her youngest child to suicide.  These moments in Karolyn's life have made her who she is a today, a remarkable ambassador for a movie that has the power to inspire us all!  Now in its 65th year, this poignant film is synonymous with Christmas has a cult following and is bigger than ever!  We spoke with Karolyn to find out her thoughts on how this so-called box office 'failure' came to mean so much to so many people.



STUDIO: It's the 65th anniversary of It's A Wonderful Life, how does it feel to be part of something so huge that's spanned the years?

Karolyn Grimes: I feel privileged and honoured to have played that little girl.  The movie has become an unlikely Christmas tradition in homes around the world and has so many great family memories attached to it.  It captures a moment in time that we can all relate to.  The inspiring story of George Bailey means so much and gives people that little bit of hope and inspiration that they're perhaps missing in their own lives.


STUDIO: The film wasn't deemed the box office hit that people expected it to be.  Can you remember the moment when you realized that is was in fact, so much more than just another movie?

KG: It lost so much money at the box office and Liberty Films went belly up.  It was only when the copyright license for the movie wasn't renewed and people started seeing it on their TV screens for the first time that it gained the attention it deserved.  Then in 1980 a journalist knocked on my door and asked me if I was the actress who played Zuzu...  This started a snowball effect and I remember thinking to myself, "This movie is going to be a conduit to help people...  There's something here."


STUDIO: I've heard there are some great bloopers in the movie, you forgetting the lines to Auld Lang Syne for example.  Are there any other funny moments you can share with the readers here at STUDIO magazine?

KG: (Laughing) Oh there were so many.  I remember Jimmy Stewart trying to hold his laughter in as I mouthed the words, I mean I still don't know them today...  And secretly I don't think he did either.  Frank Capra was the greatest director and he made us all feel so good about what we doing, he had the magic!  Sometimes he let us make up our own lines, and I think that there's a certain natural ability in doing that in films.  All I'll say is look out for the bedroom scene when George is in bed with Mary, and pay attention to the piece of string that's dividing them.  And also look at the Christmas wreath on George's arm in the office scene - now you see it, now you don't!


STUDIO: The story of It's A Wonderful Life is as true today as it was when the movie was first aired, do you have any advice to people who are going through a difficult time in their own lives?

KG: This movie can truly help people.  All of us can identify with George.  Life isn't about money...  It's about love, faith and family.  It's A Wonderful Life gives us the clearance we need to make us look at our own lives and appreciate what we have, or to make the changes we need to be a happier person.  »




STUDIO: What's your favourite memory of playing Zuzu?

KG: I was so young and mischievous.  I remember chasing little Tommy (played by Jimmy Hawkins) around the set.  We're still great friends to this day!


STUDIO: To me  It's A Wonderful Life means it's Christmas time!  What one thing means Christmas to you?

KG: For me everyday feels like Christmas.


STUDIO: I know you travel a lot spreading the message of the film.  What's the most inspiring story you've heard whilst meeting people who have been touched by the movie?

KG: You know, I hear so many powerful stories.  People who have renewed spirit and direction...  As a world we all just need to come together with a sense of community and say, "Hey we need to change things!"


STUDIO: Do you think the essence of  It's A Wonderful Life stays true today after sixty-five years?

KG: Absolutely.  People can watch this movie all year round and really enjoy the message that it conveys.  It gives people hope and inspiration, and how many movies do that today?!


STUDIO: The American Film Institute named it as one of the 100 best American films ever made, and one of the most inspirational films of all time.... Who or what inspires you?

KG: People inspire me.  We all have the potential to do great things.


STUDIO: I hear that there's an  It's A Wonderful Life museum in Seneca Falls, NY.  Was the inspiration behind the fictitious Bedford Falls of the movie?

KG: Absolutely.  I cut the ribbon myself last Christmas.  Most of the props are from my own personal collection, and the fans from the It's A Wonderful Life society have been amazing.  I believe that Seneca Falls was the inspiration behind Bedford Falls so there was no question that is where the museum should be.


STUDIO: Do you think that movies today convey the same kind of inspirational messages that  It's A Wonderful Life portrayed back then?

KG: Movies today focus so much on violence and It's A Wonderful Life is all about family.  How family is so important and how we need it to exist!  Today's movies are incredibly entertaining, but personally I feel that there's not enough 'meat' to take home with you, not so many messages that we can relate to.



Words by Carley Dale.



The 65th anniversary edition of It's A Wonderful Life is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

"I feel privileged and honoured to have played that little girl. The movie has become an unlikely Christmas tradition in homes around the world."
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