Why This IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE Actress Left Hollywood

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Why This IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE Actress Left Hollywood

By Movieguide® Staff

At just six years old, Karolyn Grimes earned a part in perhaps the most beloved movie of all time, 1947’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Grimes starred alongside Hollywood greats Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed as Zuzu Bailey, one of George Bailey’s daughters.

To commemorate the classic story, Grimes recently released a book called “Zuzu Bailey’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Cookbook,” where she shares her favorite recipes and stories for the movie’s 75th anniversary.

Despite her age, Grimes remembers Stewart’s kindness on set.

“He was very tall and very thin. But he was just the best thing. He was very gentle and kind,” she told Fox News. “He was very generous with his time and really patient with me. So I really enjoyed working with him. I remember I made a mistake with a line and he said, “Well, that’s all right, Karolyn, you’ll get it the next time.” He was very encouraging. I felt like I learned a lot working with him.

“Jimmy Stewart left such an impression on me,” she added. “He was so gentle with me. I was always in his arms or on his neck. And you have to remember, sometimes you have to film a scene over and over again, especially with [director] Capra because he was such a perfectionist. But Jimmy never complained. He never made me feel bad if I got a line wrong. So I really appreciated all of those things as a child.”

Grimes said that it was not until 1980, over 30 years after the movie’s premiere, that she got a sense of how popular IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was amongst fans.

“The movie came out so long ago. But clearly, there was an interest in it still. I dug up all of my memorabilia from the basement and started sharing stories. Then the fan mail started coming in,” she said after someone asked for an interview in 1980.

“I think the story applies to everyone,” she continued. “They see themselves in George Bailey. They identify with the struggles he went through and how he survived. He made his own life wonderful. And there are wonderful things in life. It’s a story of hope and how we can all make a difference, even when things seem hopeless.”

Grimes, 81, said that despite her success in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, she eventually decided to leave Hollywood after the tragic death of their parents.

“My parents instilled in me that in the end, everything is going to be OK,” she said. “It may not feel that way at the moment, but it will be. Life is what you make of it. My parents also gave me a religious background that was very solid. I have a certain amount of respect for anyone who believes in a higher being and tries to follow a good path in life. I think that’s something we should all strive to do.”

“We need a film like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ now more than ever. I think that’s how I coped,” she added.

Grimes said that moving to Kansas made her realize that Hollywood was “shallow.”

“I was in a town of 800 people and they all knew my situation,” she said. “These townspeople rallied around me – the merchants, my teachers, all the kids, everybody – and they just welcomed me with open arms. They gave me so much love and self-confidence. Then I realized I didn’t want to go back to Hollywood anymore. It was a shallow, dog-eat-dog world. I didn’t want that in my life. So I felt content staying in Kansas. At first, I did miss Hollywood. But after I was in Kansas for a year, things changed for me.

“My whole life is a wonderful life. For me, my life is about spreading that message,” she said.