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It’s been more than 70 years since this actress has appeared in a movie’s credits — for a good reason.
Karolyn Grimes starred in the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” as James Stewart’s precocious 6-year-old daughter Zuzu Bailey.
The part in the 1946 Frank Capra-directed film changed Grimes’ life, but not necessarily for the better. The now-81-year-old has revealed the tragic reason why she decided to leave Tinseltown.
Her departure from the limelight began with the loss of both her parents when she was about 12 years old, she told Fox News.
Following her parents’ death, Grimes moved from Hollywood to a small town in Kansas.
“At first, I thought I’d died,” she said of her uprooted life with distant family members. “It took about a year for me to feel at ease. And unfortunately, I was in a really terrible home situation.”
But it was the generosity that can only be found in a small town that helped her pull through.
“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.”
The “love and self-confidence” she felt from her neighbors stood in stark contrast to the world she left behind.
“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,” Grimes said. “At first, I did miss Hollywood. But after I was in Kansas for a year, things changed for me.”
Grimes first appeared in the 1945 “That Night With You.” her last credited role was 1951’s “Honeychile.”
The former actress recently wrote a book about her experiences working on the flick titled “Zuzu Bailey’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Cookbook.” Grimes dished that it was the Jimmy Stewart Museum who called and asked her to write the book for the film’s 75th anniversary.
She also opened up about how she scored the coveted role.
“We didn’t have auditions back in the day. We had interviews. And most of the kids had the same agent,” Grimes said. “So if the studio said, ‘We want a blond-hair, blue-eyed freckled kid,’ they had a hand at picking the best child for the role. They had a hand at picking everyone, even the extras. I spoke to Mr. Frank Capra himself and next thing you know, I got the role.”
“It was a shallow, dog-eat-dog world. I didn’t want that in my life.”
Grimes noted that an encounter in 1980 was when she realized how timeless “It’s a Wonderful Life” really was. Someone came to her front door while she was living in Kansas and asked her to do an interview about the film.
“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.
She still does appearances around the country on the film and its legacy — and believes that the movie’s message is as relevant as it ever was.
“It’s a scary world out there,” she said. “And we need a film like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ now more than ever.
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