‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Actors Debate Whether The 1946 Christmas Film is Better in Black & White or Colorized

by Katie Maloney
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Are you Team Color or Team Black and White? It’s a Wonderful Life actors share their preferences.

Whether you’ve seen the film in its original black and white form, or you’re an advocate for the colorized version, we can all agree that It’s a wonderful Life is a Christmas classic. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, it’s time to debate! Color or black and white?

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu, the youngest daughter of George Bailey (Jimmie Stewart), says that she loves the colorized version of the film.

“I know that’ll kill a lot of people, but I love the color,” Grimes said during an interview with Yahoo Entertainment.

Additionally, Grimes, who is now 80 years old, jokes that she has very practical reasons for her opinion. “You know, when I filmed it, it was in color. It was real life,” said Grimes. “And that’s how I remember my memories of making a film. It was real, not black and white. So for me, a color gives it more reality.”

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Actress Karolyn Grimes (portrayed Zuzu Bailey in the film) attends the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presentation of “It’s A Wonderful Life” (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)

Some Stars Of The Film Dislike The Colorized Version

However, her co-star Jimmy Hawkins, who played Tommy Bailey, is not a member of Team Color. “I like the black and white version because that’s the way it was shot and meant to be,” said Bailey. “The depths of the black and the white – a lot of work went into getting that look.”

Regardless of his preference, Hawkins is still impressed by the colorized version of the film.

“But I must say, I went to San Diego and took my siblings down there to where they colorized the picture. It was brilliant. It really looks like it was shot in color, it isn’t phony. … They did a fabulous job,” he continued.

Furthermore, Hawkins said that appealing to future generations so that they’ll keep watching the film and learning from its message is the real goal.

“And the kids today aren’t really into black and white. So they have this version,” said Hawkins. “I’ve told people, I don’t care if they Polka dot it. If it gets them to watch the movie and gets the message [across], that we’re all important, I’m all for it.”

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Clockwise from top: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Carol Coombs, Jimmy Hawkins, Larry Simms and Karolyn Grimes. (Photo by Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images)

What Would It’s A Wonderful Life Star Jimmy Stewart Think?

Both Grimes and Hawkins will agree that Stewart, “wasn’t a fan” of the film in color. “He said it looked like Walt Disney threw up on it,” said Hawkins.

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It’s A Wonderful Life, US lobbycard. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

To be fair, Stewart was referring to the earlier colorizations of the film produced by Hal Roach Studios in 1986 and Republic Pictures in 1989. The latest colorized version was created by Legend Films in 2007. This is the version that Hawkins saw in theaters in San Diego. This version has been better received by fans.

Grimes says that, regardless of where you stand with the color/no color debate, the film still comforts audiences today.

“It applies to yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” Grimes adds. “Every year at Christmas we have this opportunity to reflect on our lives and realize that yes, after we watch George Bailey go through his life, we realize that we really do matter. People care. It’s something that’s important to feel in your life, that you make a difference.”

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James Stewart as George Bailey surrounded by his children. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
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