Life turned tragic for ‘Wonderful Life’ actress

JUST ABOUT EVERYONE has seen the Christmas season movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ — probably several times — but not everyone knows the sad story behind one of the young actresses in the film.

Karolyn Grimes, who played James Stewart’s six-year-old daughter Zuzu Bailey in Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, was born in Hollywood, but she will never go back.

When she was 14, her mother died of early onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 44. The following year her father was killed in a car crash and Karolyn became an orphan at the age of 15.

She left Hollywood and moved to a small town in Missouri in the care of an uncle and his wife. She went to college there and became a medical technologist.

Tragedy continued to stalk her through the years, the worst being the loss of her youngest son when he took his own life. A few years later her husband died of cancer.

She soldiered on, forever buoyed by the positive spirit of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ But she was all through with Hollywood and acting.

“I realized I didn’t want to go back to Hollywood. It was a shallow, dog-eat-dog world. I didn’t want that in my life.”

Wonderful life actress tragedy
Karolyn Grimes

As for the classic Capra movie: “It’s a scary world out there,” said the former actress, now 81, “and we need a film like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ now more than ever.”


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