An Interview With It's A Wonderful Life Star Karolyn Grimes

Posted on: 16 December 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

50connect talks to Karolyn Grimes who played George and Mary Bailey’s daughter Zuzu.

An Interview With It's A Wonderful Life Star Karolyn GrimesIn the weeks coming up to Christmas, Karolyn is in London to promote a remastered DVD of one of the most enduring Christmas films, Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. She spends most of her time these days travelling around giving talks about the film and its meaning and is particularly busy in the months coming up to Christmas.

“It’s great to be in London- it’s really warm! I hear so many people complain that it’s cold, but I don’t think they know what cold really is - I’ve come from New York and Chicago and that’s real cold.”

“365 days a year It’s a Wonderful Life rules my world - even my grandkids call me Granma Zuzu! It’s a film that really resonates with people. I think everyone can find a message in there that is relevant to their own life.”

Karolyn appeared in Frank Capra's It’s A Wonderful Life when she was just six years old. She had had a successful acting career from the tender age of just four and by the time she worked with Capra and James Stewart Karolyn had already worked with stars such as Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

“To me, when I made the film, it was just another job. I’d been acting for years by that time, even though I was only six years old. I never felt pressurised, I was a very normal child. Of course, nobody knew at the time what the film would become.”

When It’s A Wonderful Life first came out in cinemas in 1946, it was considered a box office failure. It languished for many years and only became the Christmas staple that it is today due to a clerical error in 1974 when nobody renewed the copyright. For many years the film was in the public domain and television stations started to show it regularly.

“After the film got so much exposure, it became essential Christmas viewing - Christmas simply wouldn’t be the same without it. It’s a tradition in so many homes. I feel like a piece of history and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

Karolyn’s Hollywood career ended in her teens when her parents died. She later married and had two daughters but the marriage ended in divorce. Two years later the girls' father was killed in a hunting accident.

Karolyn went on to marry a man with three children. They had two more together so Karolyn raised seven children. Her youngest child committed suicide at 18. As she recovered from this tragedy, her husband of 25 years died from lung cancer.

Karolyn says that despite all this sadness, she has a very strong spiritual belief that someone is up there watching over her.

“I get a lot of strength from It’s A Wonderful Life. George Bailey is a perfect role model. We all need to be reminded exactly how much we have in life; love, hope, faith, friends and that’s the reward you get for living every day just as well as you can and touching people’s lives just like George did. No matter how bad things get, you’re never really alone.”  

As a star of one of the most popular Christmas films of all time, it’s apt that Karolyn is a big fan of Christmas day, especially with her large family. She loves to gather around with them all and enjoy a meal before settling down to watch movies.

Her firm favourite is The Bishop’s Wife, in which she appeared with Cary Grant and David Niven when she was seven, and she also enjoys a little comedy with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and the classic Miracle on 34th Street.

By Emily Bird


You can find out more about Karolyn at her website:

It's A Wonderful Life is available in all good DVD and video shops for £17.99 or online at Amazon for £11.98.

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