It’s a Wonderful Life: What happened to Zuzu Bailey? Star makes rare appearance

Classic Christmas movie 'Elf' Trailer

It’s A Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man desperate and suicidal as Christmas dawns. However, in seeing what life would have been like without him, he realised his life is worth living and finds the joy of the festive season. His daughter, Zuzu, was played by child actress Karolyn Grimes – but what happened to her?

Young Zuzu Bailey was the daughter of George Bailey, the man who is the subject of the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

In the story, George contemplates suicide, feeling nothing is going right in his life.

An angel, Clarence Odbody, visits George and tries to show him why his life is worth living, showing him his past, present, and an alternate reality of his life.

His daughter Zuzu, along with his other children, would not exist without him and it turns out his wife Mary would have been a lonely librarian with no family, had it not been for George.

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When George goes home after begging for his life back, his young daughter Zuzu says one of the most famous lines in the film: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

But what happened to Zuzu, and the actress who played her, after the movie?

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu, was a child actress, making her film debut at just six months old.

The now 80-year-old appeared in the famous film aged six and went on to appear in many films before the age of 10.

After It’s A Wonderful Life, she appeared in 11 films over the following six years, though some of these were uncredited.

Her final role was in the 1952 musical movie Hans Christian Andersen, about the writer and starring Danny Kaye in the title role.

In more recent years, however, she has become an advocate for the film which gave her her most iconic role.

Karolyn tours and speaks at larger screenings of the movie, as well as taking part in Q&As, autograph signing and other Christmas ventures.

The actress also released a cookbook inspired by the film, called Zuzu Bailey’s It’s a Wonderful Life Cookbook, which includes film-related treats like Henry Potter Pot Pie and Harry Bailey Hero Sandwich.

Speaking about her work with the film in 1994 to the Toledo Blade, Karolyn said: “I have a blast.

“And the people are so kind and so generous and so loving. You just can’t match that feeling.

“I think there was a reason I was Zuzu… I travel around the country and people tell me how the movie changed their life.

“They feel their dreams were never fulfilled, and they would have been better off if they were never born.

“But they can see, like him, their lives do mean something.”

More recently, Karolyn recorded a special welcome message to be broadcast ahead of the film at The Erin Arts Centre in the Isle of Man.

Speaking about this, business owner Martin Brunschweiler, whose brewery sponsors the annual screening, said: “She was really lovely and was really happy to do it for us.

“We have been sponsoring the film for seven years now and we wanted to do something a little special.

“I think that is wonderful that we are able to have an actual member of the cast give us a personal message and this will make this year’s film screening that little bit more special.”

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