Karolyn Grimes

Karolyn Grimes (born July 4, 1940) is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Zuzu Bailey in the classic 1946 Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life. She also played Debbie in the 1947 film The Bishop's Wife.

Karolyn Grimes
Grimes in It's a Wonderful Life, 1946
Born (1940-07-04) July 4, 1940
Years active1945–1954
Notable work
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Spouse(s)Hal Barnes
(m. 19??; div. 19??)
Mike Wilkerson
(m. 1968; died 1993)


Grimes' film debut came when she was 6 months old.[1] She first attracted attention with a role in Pardon My Past.[2]

Zuzu had been a part of Grimes' past but as It's a Wonderful Life gained more attention, she gave local interviews in the 1980s and national interviews in the 1990s. After she suffered a serious financial setback during the early 2000s recession, she made a career of her advocacy for the film.[3]

Grimes tours big-screen showings of It's a Wonderful Life at dinner theatres worldwide, signing autographs, sharing tidbits, and pointing out small errors.[4] She also produced a cookbook inspired by that role[5] and marketed a limited line of "Zuzu Dolls".[6]

Grimes was honored as a famous Missourian with a star on the Missouri Walk of Fame in Marshfield, Missouri. She also received the city's highest honor, the Edwin P. Hubble Medal of Initiative in 2007 at the annual Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival.[7]

Personal life

Grimes was born in Hollywood, California. At age 5, she studied piano and violin at the Boyd School for Actors.

Grimes' parents, Mr. and Mrs. La Van Grimes were teachers in Kansas City, Missouri. Her mother pushed her into acting, but her acting career declined with her mother's health. The latter died from illness when Grimes was 14, and she lost her father from a car crash a year later. A court ruling sent her from Hollywood to Osceola, Missouri, where she lived in what she called a "bad home" with her aunt and uncle. She went to college in Warrensburg, Missouri at the University of Central Missouri, married, raised children, and became a medical technologist.

Grimes' first marriage, to Osceola local Hal Barnes, resulted in two children before ending in divorce, after which Barnes died in a hunting accident.[8] She married divorcee Mike Wilkerson in 1968, having two more children with him.[8] Their 18-year-old son died by suicide in 1989, and Wilkerson died from cancer in 1994.[9][10]


Year Title Role Notes
1945 That Night with You Orphan Uncredited
1945 Pardon My Past Stephanie Pemberton
1946 Sister Kenny Carolyn Scenes deleted
1946 Blue Skies Mary Elizabeth Adams
1946 It's a Wonderful Life Zuzu Bailey
1947 Sweet and Low Tammie Short film
1947 Philo Vance's Gamble Pat Roberts Uncredited
1947 The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Laurine de Marelle
1947 Mother Wore Tights Iris, age 6 Uncredited
1947 Unconquered Little Girl Uncredited
1947 The Bishop's Wife Debby Brougham
1948 Albuquerque Myrtle Walton Also known as Silver City
1949 Lust for Gold Martha Bannister Also known as For Those Who Dare
1950 Rio Grande Margret Mary
1951 Honeychile Effie
1952 Hans Christian Andersen Copenhagen Match Girl Uncredited


  1. "Behind the Scenes in Hollywood". Indiana, Valparaiso. The Vidette-Messenger. August 28, 1945. p. 4. Retrieved March 13, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  2. "Karolyn Grimes Bids For Moppet Stardom". New York, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. August 25, 1946. p. 25. Retrieved March 13, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  3. "It Wasn't Always a Wonderful Life for Little Zuzu Bailey". Social.entertainment.msn.com. Archived from the original on 2011-12-08. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
  4. Barry, Dan (5 December 1996). "As Zuzu Can Attest, Americans Love Hopeful Ring of 'It's a Wonderful Life'". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  5. Zuzu Bailey's It's a Wonderful Life Cookbook.
  6. Farnham, Margaret (25 December 1994). "It Was a Wonderful Part". Toledo Blade via Google News. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  7. "Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival Homepage".
  8. Palmer, Alun. "Wonderful life? I was orphaned, my son died and I lost a fortune". Hollywoodland. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  9. Henry, Chris (5 August 2014). "For Karolyn 'Zuzu' Grimes of Port Orchard, it's still a wonderful life". Kitsap Sun. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  10. Nudd, Tim (December 24, 2013). "Karolyn Grimes, Actress Who Played Zuzu Bailey: 'No One Has a Wonderful Life'". People. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
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