1of3Actress Karolyn Grimes speak at a unique screening the "It"s a wonderful Life" in ~ the Alamo Drafthouse. Robert Saucedo, right, leader the Q& session.

You are watching: Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings

Claire Goodman / staff writerShow MoreShow Less

2of3Karolyn Grimes to be 6-years-old as soon as she played Zuzu Bailey in the 1946 classic film "It"s a exorbitant Life"

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Every Christmas season, bells jingle, bells carol and sleigh bells ring. And also anyone who has seen the movie “It’s a wonderful Life” knows the behind each joyful sound, an angel has earned his wings.

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey in the 1946 standard film, yielded the famous line, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings” at the age of 6. She never ever pursued an acting career past that role, however her character has touched the lives of viewers because that the past seven decades.


As a special celebration for the Christmas season, the Alamo Drafthouse in LaCenterra organized a one-of-a-kind screening that “It’s a wonderful Life” through Grimes as the guest the honor. Grimes reflect on her role in the film as well as the time she invested working alongside film symbols James Steward, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.

Grimes’ involvement in the film began when director Frank Capra decided her for the role. Follow to Grimes, Capra personal selected every actor and also actress in the film, no issue how small the role. That even chose the film extras. “There room over 2,000 gibbs in the movie,” Grimes marveled, “and he hand-picked every one.

Grimes recalled the Capra was really kind to the youngsters actors and had simple rapport with them. “He would gain down top top his knees and look in ours eyes, and tell us exactly what he wanted united state to do,” she said.


As she was only 6-years-old at the time of filming, Grimes was usually unaware that how well known some of she co-stars were, yet she vividly remembers James Stewart, that played she father in the film.

Said Grimes: “People asking me all the time what it was choose working through Donna Reed. And also I don"t also remember. I was so soaked up with (Stewart). Ns was right into him all the way. We had actually a chemistry going, and I really felt choose I to be his little girl. And also he was simply so gentle and also kind.”

“It’s a exorbitant Life” is just one of only 2 acting experiences because that Grimes. The movie was not a critically-acclaimed struggle at the moment of the release, and also Grimes left the Hollywood step not long after. She walk on to have seven children, and also her emphasis for plenty of years was raising her children and working at her project in medical technology. In fact, Grimes never also saw the film, and her recollections of the moment she spent working on what would later on be psychic as one of the greatest movies of every time wafted right into the recesses of she memory.

Grimes to trust the film’s lackluster debut was as result of the truth that the film was rushed through production to release it gradually for Christmas. “(Capra) did the ideal he could to obtain it the end on time, however he didn"t gain it released until December the 20th. It was as well late to really make it pop and also be good,” she recalled. Coupled with the deluge of post-World battle II feel-good movies saturating audiences, “It’s a wonderful Life” was prefer white noise. “It type of just passed away on the vine after ~ that,” Grimes said.

The film can have drifted into total obscurity to be it no for a strange rotate of occasions that would bring “It’s a exorbitant Life” and also Grimes herself back into the limelight.

This time around, there is no the hindrances that hasty marketing and also a bombardment of like-genre films, audiences to be able to appreciate the subtle genius the a film that is now synonymous v Christmas itself. “It’s currently a Christmas tradition all over the joined States, and also it"s rated the number one most inspirational movie of every time by the American movie Institute,’ Grimes reported.

After the film’s resurrection into Hollywood, the public started to clamor for the original actors members. Grimes was living in Kansas City in ~ the time, and also she still had actually not seen her very own film. “A movie crew confirmed up at my door one day and asked, ‘Were friend the little girl in the movie?’ and also I said, ‘Yes.’ and also they said, ‘Great, can we interview you?’” Grimes laughed.

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“After that, I ended up being famous,” she added.

Finally, over 30 year after the film’s release, Grimes experienced the movie. “I satellite down and watched the film, and also I knew. I simply knew appropriate then and also there exactly how special the was.”

After the Q&A, Grimes met through fans in the lobby of Alamo Drafthouse come speak one-on-one around her life experiences, but prior to she left the theater, Grimes added, “Don’t forget, Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an point of view gets his wings.”