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Karolyn Grimes - “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946) / “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947)

Karolyn Grimes At the tender age of 4, Karolyn Grimes began memorizing lines and acting in the fantasy world of cinema. She worked with film legends: John Wayne, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby (pictured, below, from a scene in “Blue Skies”), Loretta Young, Donna Reed, Fred MacMurray, Betty Grable, David Niven, Danny Kaye, Randolph Scott, Gabby Hayes and, of course, Jimmy Stewart. She already had appeared in four films when the part of Zuzu Bailey came along. It was just another small part, but one that has made an indelible imprint on the American consciousness.

During the filming of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Karolyn recalled: “Jimmy Stewart was wonderful. I had a lot of wonderful movie experiences. They were people who were not stuck on themselves; everyday people who had the ability to act.”

In 1952, Grimes appeared with Danny Kay in “Han Christian Anderson,” which proved to be her final film. During her years as a child actress, she humorously notes: “I have had a lot of famous parents.”

Look, Daddy! Teachers says, ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings’.” -Zuzu Bailey, “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Former child actress, Karolyn Grimes, as she appeared in the 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” (at top), and assuming familiar “Zuzu Bailey-like” pose for a recent photo (below). Her childhood acting career spanned 16 motion pictures. Two movies, “It’s a Wonderful Lifeand “The Bishop’s Wife” became cherished Christmas classics.

Karolyn Grimes (above) performing with the legendary Bing Crosby in the film, Blue Skies (1946)

Karolyn's life has not always been wonderful. In fact, tragedy beset her early and often. Her Hollywood career ended in her teens when her mother died from early-onset Alzheimer's disease and her father was killed in an automobile accident. An only child, Karolyn was sent by the court to live in tiny Osceola, Mo. Living in a less than desirable home, she found support from the townspeople, and, through their love and encouragement, Karolyn decided to get an education and became a medical technician.

She eventually married and had two little girls. The marriage ended in divorce, and two years later her girls' father was killed in a hunting accident. Karolyn then married a man who had three children. They had two more together, so Karolyn raised a family of seven children. Her young, 18 year old son committed suicide. Karolyn describes this as the most devastating time in her life. As she climbed out of that despair, her husband of 25 years died from lung cancer.

At the time, the rebirth of interest in "It's a Wonderful Life" had begun, and Karolyn soon found a new life's focus. She moved to the Seattle area from Missouri and serves as the unofficial ambassador for the film, traveling the world and speaking at screenings, benefits, conventions and other venues. Her sparkling personality and her courageous story allows her audiences to feel good about themselves and their lives, no matter the hardship.

Today, Karolyn is happily married to Chris Brunell, whose residence is now in Washington State.

Working Her Zuzu Magic” (Author: Chris Henry,

For Grimes, the fan mail is still coming, along with gifts of “Wonderful” artwork, bells, and angels that cram a spare room. With husband Chris Brunell’s help, she has build a successful brand out of Zuzu, with collectible ornaments, memorabilia and limited edition merchandise.

. Karolyn Grimes (above) relaxing at home with her loving husband, Chris Brunell.

For some reason, being Zuzu, people feel they can confide in her the way they can with Santa or their hairdresser. She just seems to get kind of in a zone. She’s working her Zuzu magic.” -Chris Brunell (on wife, Karolyn’s gift of empathy)

But there’s more to it than that. Grimes and Chris met in 1997, when she was speaking at a conference on suicide prevention. Brunell, a clinical psychologist, hadn’t seen the film but saw her as a “kindred spirit.”

For Grimes, her son’s suicide added a depth of meaning to the movie that ebbed into her encounters with fans. “The message from that film meant a lot to me. I have a lot of fans who tell me they’ve been on the bridge or are on the bridge (like George Bailey in the movie). It’s a pretty serious commitment to hear from all these folks that the movie means so much to them. “If I can listen and I can love them, that’s what’s important,” notes Karolyn.

For some reason, being Zuzu, people feel they can confide in her the way they can with Santa or their hairdresser,” stated Chris Brunell. “It’s very cathartic for them to be able to cry on her shoulder. ... She just seems to get kind of in a zone. She’s working her Zuzu magic.”


It's a Wonderful Life (1946) (129 minutes, B/W, Liberty Films/RKO Radio Pictures available on DVD)

Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, Virginia Patton-Moss (2013 “Spirit of Christmases Past, Present & Future Award” Honoree, as Ruth Daken-Bailey ) and Karolyn Grimes (2016 “Spirit of Christmases Past, Present & Future Award” Honoree, as Zuzu Bailey)

Look, Daddy! Teachers says, ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings’.” -Zuzu Bailey, “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Former child actress, Karolyn Grimes, as she appeared in the 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” (at top), and assuming familiar “Zuzu Bailey-like” pose for a recent photo (below). Her childhood acting career spanned 16 motion pictures. Two movies, “It’s a Wonderful Lifeand “The Bishop’s Wife” became cherished Christmas classics.

The film is considered one of the best movies; if not the best of all time. This timeless story touches the human heart with a message told with down-to-earth simplicity, directness and honesty. It has often been said that, if the movie-goer is not moved by the hope-filled message of “It’s a Wonderful Life”: “They’d better check their pulse; because they’re probably dead”.

"The letters I get [from fans of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’] are just incredible. They love the movie… What a great gift I've been given.” -Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey, “It’s a Wonderful Life”)


The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) 108 minutes, B/W, Samuel Goldwyn Productions/RKO Pictures available on DVD

Cast: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Elsa Lanchester and Karolyn Grimes (2016 St. Nicholas Institute Award Honoree as Debby Brougham)

Samuel Goldwyn’s “The Bishop's Wife” (1947) ranks with “It's a Wonderful Life” (1946) as one of motion picture industries most enduring Christmas classics. Film legend, Loretta Young (pictured above, right) in her role as the bishop’s wife (Julia Brougham) encourages Karolyn Grimes, portraying her on-screen daughter (Debby). This picture marked the second year in a row in which Grimes would appear in a major Yuletide film.

The Christmas story begins with the arrival of an angel, Dudley (Cary Grant), who takes on a human form as he mysteriously enters the life of an Episcopal Bishop, Henry Brougham (David Niven). Dudley informs Bishop Brougham that he is an angel sent from heaven as the answer to the bishop’s prayer for guidance in resolving problems associated with the construction of a new cathedral building. At the same time, however, Bishop Brougham’s wife, Julia (Loretta Young), has prayed that heaven would send her husband who is overwhelmed by all the challenges that such a project entails. Julia has grown increasingly troubled that, in her husband’s excessive zeal with his building project, he has unwittingly alienated himself from both she and their daughter, Debby (Karolyn Grimes). Only after experiencing a series of humorously humiliating missteps (initiated through Dudley’s annoying interventions) does the bishop realize how foolish and unrealistic his priorities had become. The story concludes with the Christmas Eve service, during which the relationship of Henry, Julia and their daughter, Debby, is restored with renewed peace and familial love.

Dudley the Angel (Cary Grant) reveals to Debby (Karolyn Grimes), the daughter of Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) that it was an angel who inspired King David to write the Good Shepherd Psalm.

An Angel Put an Idea into David’s Head” –Dudley, “The Bishop’s Wife”

Dudley the Angel (Cary Grant) gets acquainted with Debby Brougham (Karolyn Grimes)

The Bishop’s Wife” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” Production Trivia

Did you know that “The Bishop’s Wife” features two child actors who also were credited in It’s a Wonderful Life. Karolyn Grimes, who plays young Debby in The Bishop’s Wife, was Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life. And Bobby Anderson, who played the young George Bailey who was slapped by the pharmacist in It’s a Wonderful Life, plays what is labeled in the script as “the captain of the snowball fight” in The Bishop’s Wife.

Incidentally, David Niven, perhaps driven by his grief and dramatic change in his personal life, wanted nothing to do with children on the set of The Bishop’s Wife and asked to have them kept away from him. Niven’s filming came shortly after the sudden death of his young wife, due to an accident at a Hollywood party. A the time he was left alone to care for his two young children. Cary Grant was welcoming to the kids and is known for pulling Grimes on a sled while he skated on the ice on the set of the movie. (Source: )

Zuzu’s Snowball Fight (“This isn’t a Game, it’s a Battle!”)

70th Anniversary Year Screening “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Friday, December 16th thru Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Redford Theatre 17360 Lahser Road Detroit, MI 48219

Meet LIVE and IN PERSON: Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey)

This Christmas Season, invite family and friends to join you in celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Frank Capra’s classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Detroit’s historic Redford Theatre.

Former child actress, Karolyn Grimes (a.k.a., ZuZu Bailey) will introduce the film at each and every showing. Three day screenings are scheduled on Friday, December 16th; Saturday, December 17th and Sunday, December 18th, 2016. Ms. Grimes will meet and greet movie-goers before and after each performance. Share with your entire family how “Zuzu’s petals” (with little help from an angel named Clarence) would lead to George Bailey’s discovery of his “wonderful life.”

Don’t miss a rare opportunity to experience this beloved motion picture on the “silver screen;” the same way audiences first came under its spell when it was first released in 1946.

Movie Show Time Information:

Frank Capra used his genius, combined with his love of family, to give his audiences this classic treasure. It is full of little nuggets that are spiritual and compelling.” – Karolyn Grimes, “Zuzu” Bailey, “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Meet the “Bailey Kids” During 70th Anniversary of “It’s A Wonderful Life” Friday, December 9th thru Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Seneca Falls, NY “The Real Bedford Falls”

Seneca Falls, NY is the small own that inspired Frank Capra’s vision of Bedford Falls for the studio set of his 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Meet Special Guests, three of “The Bailey Kids” (in alphabetical order):

Carol (Janie Bailey) Coombs

Karolyn (Zuzu” Bailey) Grimes

Jimmy (Tommy Bailey) Hawkins

The Festival will include Three Full Days of fun activities, special presentations, and discussions about the film and its history. (NOTE: We suggest that you plan to arrive on Thursday, Dec. 8 and leave on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016).

Further Information Seneca Falls Visitor Center: 315-568-1510 Seneca Falls “It’s A Wonderful Life” Museum: 315-568-5838

I Want To Live Again… I Want to Live Again! …Please God, I Want to Live Again!”

-George Bailey (“It’s a Wonderful Life”)

When I came around the corner and saw [Seneca Falls’] main street, I gasped and said, ‘This is Bedford Falls! … [Even the bridge] is nearly a replica of the same bridge that George Bailey had grown up with all his life.”

-Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey)







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