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Karolyn Grimes

Personal information
Birth dateJuly 4, 1940(age 76)
Place of birthHollywood, California, U.S.

     Home | American actors | Karolyn Grimes

Karolyn Grimes (born July 4, 1940) is an American actress known for her role as "Zuzu Bailey" in the Frank Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life. She also played "Debbie" in the 1947 Christmas film, The Bishop's Wife starring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young.

Grimes was born in Hollywood, California. Her mother pushed her into acting, but her acting career declined with her mother's health. The latter died from illness when Grimes was 14, and she lost her father from a car crash a year later. A court ruling sent her from Hollywood to Osceola, Missouri, where she lived in what she called a "bad home" with her aunt and uncle. She went to college, married, raised kids, and became a medical technologist.

Zuzu had been a part of Grimes' past but as It's a Wonderful Life gained more attention, she gave local interviews in the 1980s and national interviews in the 1990s. Her first husband's death in a hunting accident, 18-year-old son's suicide in 1989, and second husband's death from cancer in 1994 made it difficult for Grimes to move on. After she suffered a serious financial setback during the early 2000s recession, she made a career of her advocacy for the film, whose hopeful and optimistic message she now says she can relate to.

"There have been adverse things happen in my own life, but there are balances out there. And the movie itself has affected my life so much because I have George Bailey's philosophy … that friendships and caring and loving will carry you through anything ... I really feel like Zuzu is kind of a mission maybe, I don't know. I think that there is a higher power at work and that I had to go through a lot of adverse situations in my life to understand other people's pain."

She tours big-screen showings of It's a Wonderful Life at dinner theatres worldwide, signing autographs, sharing tidbits, and pointing out small 'goofs'. One such mistake is that she, 6 years old at the time, faked the lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne" in the movie's famous closing scene. "If you watch closely, James Stewart is holding me tightly and he looks at me and begins to laugh because he knows I'm not singing the right words", she says.

Grimes was honored as a famous Missourian with a star on the Missouri Walk of Fame in Marshfield, Missouri. She also received the city's highest honor, The Edwin P. Hubble Medal of Initiative in 2007 at the annual Marshfield cherry blossom festival.

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