Enrichment Arts & Culture

Beloved Christmas movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ turns 75 and young star speaks out

In this Dec. 8, 2006 photo, Karolyn Grimes who played “Zuzu” in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” poses for a photo in Seneca Falls, N.Y.  (Associated Press photo/David Duprey, File)

Story at a glance

  • “It’s A Wonderful Life” was released 75 years ago this month.
  • Karolyn Grimes, 81, portrayed the main character George Bailey’s youngest daughter, Zuzu, when she was only 6.
  • Though she stopped acting during her teenage years, Grimes has appeared for the film’s viewing in Seneca Falls, N.Y., where it was filmed, for the last two decades.

Seventy-five years ago this month, “It’s A Wonderful Life” was released — and now one of its youngest stars is speaking out about its enduring legacy.

Karolyn Grimes, 81, portrayed the main character George Bailey’s youngest daughter, Zuzu. Grimes, who delivered one of the film’s best-known lines — “Look, Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings” — spoke with The Washington Post about her part in what has become a holiday classic.

Grimes was only 6 when she won the role of Bailey’s youngest daughter. “I had no clue whatsoever those words would be so special to so many people,” she told the Washington Post. “I’m thrilled I got to say them and that I got to be a part of that scene and that movie.”


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Though she stopped acting during her teenage years, Grimes has appeared for the film’s viewing in Seneca Falls, N.Y., the inspiration behind the film’s “Bedford Falls,” for the last two decades, though she hadn’t watched the film all the way through until she was about 40.

In the years since its release, “It’s A Wonderful Life” has gone on to rank highly on numerous lists of the best Christmas films of all time.

“It impacted me in a way I will never forget,” Grimes said. “I was taken on an emotional roller coaster, and at the end, I realized what a wonderful message this film has for everyone. I knew then that this was going to be a part of my life, because I wanted it to be.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Seneca Falls was said to be the inspiration for the fictional town of Bedford Falls.


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