Karolyn Grimes played James Stewart’s bright 6-year-old daughter Zuzu Bailey in the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Grimes’ life was impacted by his role in the 1946 Frank Capra picture, although not necessarily for the better. The now 81-year-old actress has revealed the terrible cause for her departure from Hollywood.
Her exit from the spotlight began when she was just 12 years old when she lost both of her parents, she told Fox News.
Grimes went from Hollywood to a little Kansas town after her parents died.
She described her uprooted life with distant family members as “at first, I felt I’d died.” “It took me approximately a year to feel comfortable. And, regrettably, I was in a terribly bad situation at home.”
But it was the kind of compassion that only a tiny community can provide that helped her get through.
“I was in a town of 800 people, and everyone knew what was going on,” she explained. “The merchants, my professors, all the kids, everyone rallied around me, and they just embraced me with open arms,” she says.
Her neighbours’ “love and self-confidence” contrasted sharply with the environment she had left behind.
“I came to the realisation that I didn’t want to return to Hollywood.” It was a shallow, kill-or-be-killed world. That was something I didn’t want in my life. So I was happy to stay in Kansas,” Grimes explained. “At first, I was homesick for Hollywood. However, things changed for me after a year in Kansas.”
Grimes made her debut in the 1945 film “That Night With You.” “Honeychile,” from 1951, was her last credited part.
“Zuzu Bailey’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Cookbook,” a book on her experiences working on the film, was recently published. Grimes revealed that the Jimmy Stewart Museum contacted her and requested her to produce a book commemorating the 75th anniversary of the picture.
She also discussed how she landed the coveted post.
“Back in the day, we didn’t have auditions.” Interviews were held. “And the majority of the kids were represented by the same agent,” Grimes said. “If the studio stated, ‘We want a blond-haired, blue-eyed freckled kid,’ they had a hand in choosing the best child for the part.” Everyone, including the extras, was chosen by them. I spoke with Mr. Frank Capra directly, and the next thing you know, I was cast in the part.”