Last Surviving Stars of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ Reflect on Christmas Classic’s Legacy

by Allison Hambrick

The former child stars of It’s a Wonderful Life discussed their experience working on the film in anticipation of its 75th anniversary. The last two surviving stars are Karolyn Grimes and Jimmy Hawkins, who played Zuzu and Tommy, respectively.

Grimes, being six at the time of filming, has few memories of working on the film. Ironically, her character Zuzu delivers one of the film’s most memorable lines: “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

However, Grimes has a strong appreciation for the film, which has only grown with time.

“It gives us such an optimistic view of what our lives can be,” Grimes told Fox News. “And we have the power to make that. We can make a difference and we can make things happen.” 

Interestingly, Grimes noted that the film “bombed more or less” upon its initial release. The popularity it developed came about when the film entered the public domain. According to Grimes, “it was on every channel every year.”

Additionally, Grimes revealed that the film has fans from different generations as well as different locations around the world.

“I get a lot of fan mail from Great Britain and even the Mideast and all kinds of places,” the former actress said. “It’s reaching a lot of people, and I think people will want to make a difference.” 

Hawkins Remembers Capra on It’s A Wonderful Life Set

While Grimes may not remember much, her onscreen brother does. Hawkins remembers many experiences surrounding the film—including waking up before dawn as a 4-year-old to travel to set and film his scenes. 

“I have vivid memories of doing that film,” said Hawkins. “On the set, Capra would squat down, eye-to-eye, tell me what he wanted me to do and did I understand it. I said, ‘Oh, yes, sir.’” 

Additionally, Hawkins recalled how precise director Frank Capra was on set. The director had a movie in mind, and he would settle for nothing less than that movie.

“People fell by the wayside because it was his vision,” the former actor explained. “If you didn’t have his vision, you weren’t making his move. He was very precise, very nice to everybody on the set. But now it’s a job.” 

Like Grimes, Hawkins is grateful to be a part of the legacy of It’s a Wonderful Life.

“We feel we’re lucky to have played those parts and carry Frank Capra’s message,” Hawkins stated. “He’s not around to do it, and he gave us a great part and a lot of wonderful memories, so we just naturally do it. We want to carry on that message, whether it’s to inmates at Attica or ringing the bell at the Stock Exchange. We talk to everybody to keep it going.”