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Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

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Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Old 12-09-11, 09:36 AM
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Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life


For Zuzu of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ it wasn’t such a wonderful life afterward

By Raymond M. Lane,

“I never saw the movie before,” said Karolyn Grimes, 71, remembering living near Kansas City, Mo., in December 1979 and catching out of the corner of her eye flickering images on the television of familiar faces and places from long ago.

Working full time and raising seven children, the 39-year-old Grimes had no time to spare, much less to sit around watching television. But something tugged at her as she saw snatches of snow-clogged streets of small-town America and people she thought she knew.

“Then it hit me,” said Grimes. “I was in that movie. I was Zuzu.”

The film, of course, is the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which premiered at the Globe Theater in New York Dec. 20, 1946. Though she had never seen it before 1979, her kids and everyone else seemed to be familiar with the sentimental chestnut from filmmaker Frank Capra. When the copyright lapsed in 1974, television stations worldwide began looping the movie into their schedules. It was free programming, a cash gusher with no royalties paid to its creators, and the widespread exposure informed the imagination of generations of families huddled around the television over the holidays.

“I never saw movies I was in because my mom told me that would be prideful, being stuck on yourself,” said Grimes.

Watching it for the first time, 33 years after she appeared in the film, however, Grimes said she was swept away by the story she had never heard before.

It was about Clarence the angel (played by Henry Travers) coming down from heaven on Christmas Eve to save financially ruined George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) from killing himself so his life insurance would support his wife Mary (played by Donna Reed), and their four children — 6-year-old Zuzu, her big sister Janie (played by Carol Coombs), and big brother Pete (Larry Simms) and baby Tommy (Jimmy Hawkins).

“Oh, it was fresh and dark, about as relevant today as it was when it was made,” said Grimes, quieting a moment. “Think of all the people out of work, losing their homes, hungry kids worried about their parents. What’s so different about today and 60 years ago?”

Whatever its social relevance, the film remains popular. For the 65th anniversary, there is a pileup of festivities, with Los Angeles for the first time designating a day in honor of a film, Dec. 3. “Look, we’ve got ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstrators right here in front of city hall,” said the sponsoring city council member, Tom LaBonge (D), in a telephone interview. “We need more George Baileys in our world.”

Meanwhile, NBC will offer viewers a jazzed-up colorized version of the black-and-white original, and Paramount Studios has released Blu-ray color and black and white copies. And in Seneca Falls, N.Y., the small town Capra is said to have used as a template for Bedford Falls, the town laid out its 10th annual IAWL festival Dec. 9-11, with Grimes and Coombs on hand.

After hitting the Los Angeles and Seneca Falls celebrations, Grimes will fly to London to promote the film. In Los Angeles, Jimmy Hawkins released a third IAWL-related book, this one a coloring book.

“Actually, we didn’t think it was a big deal doing films back then,” said Grimes, who confessed that her childhood nickname was Kay, not Zuzu. “It was just a job. All the kids in my neighborhood went over to the studios, Jimmy and Larry, and Carol and me. We walked over or were taken over by our moms, trying for crowd scenes or other work to make a little money.”

The money was important to her family, though, because her dad worked as a grocery store manager for Safeway and her stay-at-home mom was succumbing to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In all, Grimes appeared in 16 movies as a child, and she remembers being paid $75 a week — about $830 in today’s money — or nearly $10,000 over the 12-week shoot of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Before her film career ended, Grimes appeared in gems such as “The Bishop’s Wife,” starring Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young, and John Ford’s “Rio Grande,” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

But after her film work ended, she grew up fast. “My mother died when I was 12, and right after my dad died in a car crash. I was 15 and had no family. The court sent me to live with my uncle and aunt in Missouri,” she said.

“They were kind of nutso religious fanatics who didn’t believe in movies, dancing, singing, that kind of thing,” she remembered. “I don’t think they believed in laughing, either.”

Her aunt cut all connections she had with friends and studio contacts, said Grimes. “So with a lot of help from my high school teachers, I went to college and became a medical tech at a clinic outside Kansas City.”

Soon she was married with two daughters, then divorced, and the girls’ father died in a hunting accident. Remarried, she had a son and daughter and helped raise her second husband’s three children from a previous marriage. Then her 18-year-old son committed suicide, and her husband died of cancer. She retired to take care of her teenage daughters, two of whom became single parents.

“My life has never been wonderful,” she offered quietly. “Maybe when I was a child, but not after age 15.”

“And maybe that’s what makes the film so important for me and a lot of other people,” she continued. “The Jimmy Stewart George is suffering terribly in the movie — you can just see it. He’s in Martini’s café and saying to himself, ‘God, I’m not a praying man, but please show me the way.’ ”

“Gosh, it makes me cry,” she said.


“It’s not a Christmas movie, not a movie about Jesus or Bethlehem or anything religious like that,” she insisted. “It’s about how we have to face life with a lot of uncertainty, and even though nobody hears it, most of us ask God to show us the way when things get really hard.

“That was part of Capra’s genius,” she said. “Everybody has some sorrow, worry, and everybody asks God for help. One way or the other, we all do, and it can be in Martini’s, not a church on Christmas.”

Francis Caraccilo, a preservationist in Seneca Falls and an organizer of the annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” celebration, believes Capra’s film addresses other important issues. “For a lot of historians and people who just watch the film closely, the movie’s relevance includes the fact that it addresses anti-immigrant sentiments and religious bigotry,” pointing to the scene where the evil banker Potter complains that George Bailey is helping “garlic eaters” buy homes.

“Italian Americans appear throughout the film,” said Caraccilo, himself an Italian American. “When Capra came through this town, it was clear that anti-immigrant and not-too-subtle hostility toward Catholics was part of the American social landscape in 1946.”

“There’s a generous heart in this movie,” he said. “Think about that for a moment in 2011.”

More pressing, perhaps for Grimes, was financial help as fan mail turned into a stream of invitations to appear at showings of the film. She has been on the road since 1994 making a livelihood from appearance fees, knocking out a “Wonderful Life” cookbook and selling memorabilia.

After “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Hawkins, whose father was an original Keystone Kop in the old Mack Sennett silent movie series, built a life in show business as Tagg, Annie Oakley’s kid brother in the popular 1950s television series, and had prominent roles in “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “Petticoat Junction,” “The Ruggles” and other long-gone television series. He even played in two Elvis musicals, “Girl Happy” and “Spinout.”

Coombs, who declined several interview requests, is a mother and retired schoolteacher, Grimes said, and Simms grew up to became an aeronautical engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Once, “Carol and Jimmy and I were in Portland visiting Target stores and we learned that Larry was living at his brother’s place in the country,” said Grimes. “We got a limo and some pretty ‘Target girls’ and drove way out in the sticks.

“Larry was living in a camper in his brother’s barn,” she recalled. “He didn’t want to have anything to do with promoting the movie but was happy to see all of us ‘kids.’ ”

“That’s the last we saw of him. I think he’s living in Thailand, but he doesn’t want to be bothered again.

“That’s okay,” said Grimes. “We’re just artifacts, leftovers from a great movie that will probably live forever. In a few years, when we’re gone, all you’ll have is the film.”

Last edited by Dr Mabuse; 12-11-11 at 10:38 AM.
Old 12-09-11, 12:03 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

let me call you the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaambulance, Zuzu.
Old 12-09-11, 12:23 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Guilty.
Old 12-09-11, 12:54 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life



Bastards!
Old 12-09-11, 04:35 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

"Once, “Carol and Jimmy and I were in Portland visiting Target stores and we learned that Larry was living at his brother’s place in the country,” said Grimes. “We got a limo and some pretty ‘Target girls’ and drove way out in the sticks."

i want to hear more about this.

Were these some hot cashiers? a euphemism for hookers? the reason "larry" went to Thailand (to escape the law for what he did to the 'target girls')?

why are there no pretty "target girls" at my store? all the workers here are overweight and look like they have a load in their pants.
Old 12-09-11, 04:50 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

...and you live in NYC-ish? Damn.
Old 12-09-11, 11:26 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Jeez, it seems ever since the bitch ripped off those petals, she's been on a killing spree.
Old 12-09-11, 11:35 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Credit where credit is due: Source is the Washington Post for those who want to read the whole story.
Old 12-09-11, 11:46 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Was that article horribly written, or am I suffering from a sudden case of dyslexia?
Old 12-10-11, 12:45 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by SkullOrchard View Post
Was that article horribly written, or am I suffering from a sudden case of dyslexia?
The OP only contains the second page of the article. Click my link above for the entire story.
Old 12-10-11, 01:20 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

I worked at Target for awhile, we had like one or two hot girls, I went out with one of them.
Old 12-10-11, 03:02 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Wasn't Zuzu the demon that possessed the girl in The Exorcist?
Old 12-10-11, 03:19 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by Giantrobo View Post
Wasn't Zuzu the demon that possessed the girl in The Exorcist?
No you're thinking of Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters.
Old 12-10-11, 04:53 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

It was "Pazuzu" in the Exorcist and it was Zuzu Petals who Ford Farlane was tasked in finding.
Old 12-10-11, 06:52 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

My kitty's name is Zuzu, here she is!

Old 12-10-11, 01:31 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by Mr. Salty View Post
The OP only contains the second page of the article. Click my link above for the entire story.
"After hitting the Los Angeles and Seneca Falls celebrations, Grimes will fly to London to promote the film."

Sounds pretty wonderful to me. Why didn't the OP put the whole article up? Pretty much negates everything in the second part of the article.
Old 12-10-11, 02:39 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

I got the article from a site that apparently cut it in half?

I cut what was there and thought it was a typically poorly written thing someone had put on the net.

I don't think the first half 'negates' anything...
Old 12-10-11, 02:56 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse View Post
I got the article from a site that apparently cut it in half?
Always link to the original source.
Old 12-10-11, 03:03 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Don't be so GD bossy!

Old 12-10-11, 04:45 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by Charlie Goose View Post
My kitty's name is Zuzu, here she is!

It's bigger than a house! This feline hell beast shall devour us all!
Old 12-10-11, 06:06 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse View Post
I don't think the first half 'negates' anything...

Sure it does. The part you posted only shows what happens to her and no one gives a crap because we all go through shit. Big fuckin' deal. But when
you read the complete article it doesn't give a feeling you should feel sorry for her. She's just stating what happened and if she didn't have a wonderful life she; she sure seems to have made it through okay. That's pretty good in itself.

Makes you wonder why the site you got the article from would cut the article in half and twist the story around. Weird.
Old 12-10-11, 06:28 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

I think the article's title writer forgot to take his anti-depressants this morning. Sure, her parents died young, but she seems to have had a good career outside of showbiz, a couple of marriages and a bunch of kids.
Old 12-10-11, 09:29 PM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by majorjoe23 View Post
It's bigger than a house! This feline hell beast shall devour us all!
And still have room for more.
Old 12-11-11, 12:28 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Here's a pretty Target girl:

Old 12-11-11, 12:35 AM
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Re: Zuzu didn't have a Wonderful Life

Originally Posted by wmansir View Post
I think the article's title writer forgot to take his anti-depressants this morning. Sure, her parents died young, but she seems to have had a good career outside of showbiz, a couple of marriages and a bunch of kids.
18 year old son committed suicide, ex and father of her daughters killed in a hunting accident and a next husband died of cancer.

First off, marriage and children, aren't a career outside of hollywood and second, I don't think the writer didn't take his anti-depressants, but, rather, you are on too many.

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