Smallest Star Of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ Zuzu, Spills Set Secrets, Talks Sequel
DETROIT (WWJ) Every time a bell rings, an angel may get their wings, but every time the classic Christmas hit “It’s A Wonderful Life” aired over the decades, the smallest star of the film was nowhere to be found.
That’s right, Karolyn Grimes, now 73, also known as “Zuzu,” didn’t see the movie where she uttered those famous lines for the three and a half decades following its release. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was made in 1946; Grimes saw it for the first time in 1980.
“I never took the time to see the movie,” she told WWJ. “I never just sat down and watched the film.”
As it happened, Grimes wasn’t the only one who didn’t watch it. The movie fell flat at its initial release closely following the dark days of World War II. It took time to gather steam and become the classic it’s considered today.
Now it’s such an enduring hit that there’s sudden talk of a sequel. Is it on? Grimes say yes.
“It’s a whole different story,” she said. “It’s a story of Peter Bailey’s son and Petey Bailey, was my older brother. It’s the story of his life. It’s a beautiful story. There are some references to Clarence and so forth, but it’s a whole different story. It’s not a remake and it’s not a sequel. It’s just the rest of the story.”
She said fans should expect to see it in theaters at Christmas 2015. “I’m an angel (in the movie),” Grimes said.
Hopefully, she’ll see this one sooner after its release than she did the original.
“(I first saw it) in 1980 when people started knocking on my door in Kansas and saying ‘Were you the little girl who played in that movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’ ‘Can we interview you?’” Grimes recalled. “Pretty soon, there were more interviews, and then I started getting fan mail and I thought ‘Maybe I should watch this movie…’”
What did she think when she finally saw it? “Frank Capra was a genius,” Grimes said, describing the film’s famous director.
He was also a perfectionist, she said, adding that he would always get down on his knees to speak to her at her level. She said Jimmy Stewart was her favorite cast mate, and the entire experience was “stress free” and “fun.”
“I can see what he did, I remember how he really tried to encourage me, he was just a really nice guy,” she said, adding Stewart tracked her down in Kansas when fans started clamoring to hear from her.
There was one not-so-fun cast mate, she added — Lionel Barrymore, aka Mr. Potter.
“He was a bit crotchety,” she said, laughing. “But you know, he had rheumatoid arthritis … He did a little nipping here and there with his little flask and that’s the way it went. It was pretty typical in those days and there were a lot of them on that set that did it.”
She was paid $75 a day for the role, money she described as “very good.” Little Tommy by comparison got $50 a day.
Now, she spends time with friends and family, including her third husband, and she still promotes “It’s a Wonderful Life.” She’s in town to introduce a showing of the movie at Detroit’s old Redford Theatre Friday and Saturday. Get tickets HERE.