She delivered one of the most memorable lines from one of the most beloved classic movies 70 years ago, and she’s coming to North Texas for some screenings and meet-and-greets.
Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life, will be a special guest of Moviehouse & Eatery’s three locations in North Texas — Keller, Flower Mound and McKinney — Nov. 17-20. Grimes will introduce each showing and meet fans in the lobby, where there will be souvenirs for purchase.
Grimes, 76, played the youngest daughter of George and Mary Bailey — played by Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed — in the popular Frank Capra film that has become a Christmastime tradition. Near the end of the movie, Grimes delivered the line, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
As a child, Grimes was in 15 other movies alongside stars such as John Wayne, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby, according to her website.
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Perhaps most surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1980 that she sat down and watched It’s a Wonderful Life.
“I didn’t watch any of them, really,” she said. “I had seven kids to raise — that was pretty much my life. I didn’t watch TV.”
Grimes started receiving interview requests and fan mail in the 1970s, so she watched it and “I realized what a gem it really was.”
Today, Grimes is a published writer and has done work with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity and March of Dimes. But mostly, she’s doing work and public events related to It’s a Wonderful Life.
“From October through December, I’m almost never home,” Grimes said. “These people have embraced this little girl — it’s not me, it’s Zuzu who is dear to their hearts, and I get to ride along.”
Grimes said at these public events, like the upcoming ones in DFW, she carries tissues with her “because there’s always tears” and the film’s emotional impact “touches your heart.”
“People want to be like George Bailey,” Grimes said. “They don’t realize they probably already are, and it sets you down and shows you that you’re already making a difference.”
Despite the high regard many hold the movie in today, it was actually a box office flop when it was released om Christmas Day 1946, Grimes said. It was largely forgotten until 1974, when Republic Pictures accidentally neglected to renew the copyright and it entered the public domain, according to reports. TV stations soon began airing it often during the Christmas season because they didn’t need permission or to pay royalties, and it became far more popular than it ever had been.
Republic got the copyright back in 1993 after a Supreme Court ruling, significantly reducing the number of showings on TV, but by then it had become a Christmas season staple for millions.
“It transcends time — it applies to yesterday, today and tomorrow,” Grimes said. “We all have a Mr. Potter in our lives, and sometimes all we need is a little rejuvenation ... and I think that’s why it’ll live on forever.”