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The Little Girl From "It's a Wonderful Life" Looks Incredible at 80

Actor Karolyn Grimes played Zuzu 74 years ago. Now, she's devoting her life to the film's message.

It's a Wonderful Life is one of the most popular Christmas movies of all time, and it also has one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history. At the end of the film, George Bailey's young daughter Zuzu says, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings," giving her father the peace of mind that Clarence served his purpose. The movie came out 74 years ago, and the actor who played Zuzu in It's a Wonderful Life, Karolyn Grimes, is now 80 years old. It's been a long time since she's acted, but she's devoted her life to spreading the message of It's a Wonderful Life and connecting with the film's many fans. To see what Grimes is up to today and how far she's come, read on. And for more classic holiday movies, here's The Best Christmas Movie of All Time, According to Critics.

Read the original article on Best Life.

It's a Wonderful Life wasn't her first movie.

Karolyn Grimes and Jimmy Stewart
RKO Radio Pictures

Grimes was only six years old when she played Zuzu opposite James Stewart's George Bailey, but it wasn't her first film and it was far from her last. Grimes began acting at age five, and had been in four films by the time she was cast in It's a Wonderful Life. After playing Zuzu, she continued acting until she was 15. Her other big role was playing Debby in the 1947 Cary Grant movie The Bishop's Wife. To find out what some more child stars of the past are up to, here's The Biggest Child Actors Ever, Then and Now.

Her life changed course once she left Hollywood.

Karolyn Grimes in The Bishop's Wife
RKO Radio Pictures

By the time Grimes was 15, she'd lost both of her parents and was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Missouri. As she explained in a 2019 interview with Fox 11 Los Angeles, she wasn't happy about her new life and her strict family at first, but grew to love Missouri and the people in her community. She ended up studying to become a medical technologist. She has been married twice, and raised seven children—four of her own and three step-children—according to her website. Read about what another child actor from a Christmas classic is doing now in This Is What the Actor Who Played Cindy Lou Who Looks Like Now.

It took 40 years for her to see the movie.

Karolyn Grimes Fox 11 interview
Fox 11 Los Angeles

In her interview with Fox 11 Los Angeles, Grimes said that she didn't see the movie until the 1980s, when it had a resurgence of popularity and she was approached by a reporter who wanted to interview her about it. Around this time, she was also tracked down by Stewart, who was interested in seeing what became of his young co-star. In 1993, she reunited with the other "Bailey kids." She told Fox 11 with a laugh that she's now seen the movie "three-, four-hundred times."

She experienced a lot of tragedy.

Karolyn Grimes in 2016
Derek Storm/Everett Collection/Alamy Live News

In addition to losing both of her parents at a young age, Grimes' first husband was killed in a hunting accident and her second husband died of lung cancer after they had been married 25 years. Her youngest child died by suicide when he was 18 years old. These tragedies eventually contributed to Grimes' new focus in life.

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She devotes her time to promoting the film and connecting with fans.

Karolyn Grimes
13WHAM ABC News/YouTube

After what she went through personally, it's no surprise that Grimes would connect with a movie about valuing life and the effects we all have on one another.

"I celebrate this movie year-round, and I love to share it with the people," Grimes said in a 2016 interview with the National Catholic Register. "I'm getting fan mail from all over the world now, from email to snail mail, as well." Grimes' involvement with the movie's memory involves attending the annual It's a Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls, New York, which provided the inspiration for the film's setting of Bedford Falls. There is also an It's a Wonderful Life Museum in the town that was started with personal items from Grimes before expanding with more memorabilia.

And for the holiday movies that aren't nearly as beloved as It's a Wonderful Life, check out The Worst Christmas Movie of All Time, According to Critics.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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