Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Frank Capra Picked Me'

The Hollywood Palms Cinema hosted Karolyn Grimes this weekend. (And if you are a loyal follower of Naperville Now, you already know that Karolyn portrayed Zuzu Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.) She is absolutely delightful and looks like a million bucks. Now if she had a million bucks, she wouldn't be autographing books about the movie and having her eyes assaulted by digital camera flash.

I was pretty much in starstruck mute mode, though I did manage to squeak out, "I hope you know how much you are beloved.  Because of you. In this movie."

She said something sweet in reply. Starstruck syndrome evidently affects my hearing and memory.

Prior to the full screening of It's a Wonderful Life, Karolyn talked about the making of the movie, its stars and her life (four movies before IAWL, filmed when she was 6 in 1946).

Did you know:
  • Uncle Billy's blackbird is named Jimmy. And it's the same bird that flies onto the Scarecrow's shoulder in The Wizard of Oz.
  • There a string with a loop in it that hangs down over George and Mary Bailey in the "You on the nest?" scene. Karolyn said she thinks it was included in the scene because that's how the lights would have been switched off in a bedroom in that era. This odd detail was evident on the big screen, not so much on a TV set.
  • All of the child stars get together twice a year. No one has ever been able to find the little girl who played Mary as a young girl. (Or was that Violet? Sorry. I didn't take notes. Bad reporter.)
  • The Martinis' house in Bailey Park still exists in California.
  • Frank Capra chose each of the 2000 extras in the movie. And he chose Karolyn to portray ZuZu, which is the name of a cookie made by the American Biscuit Company -- ZuZu Gingersnaps.
  • When Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton) asks George Bailey for $17.50, it was at Capra's suggestion. The ad lib prompted George to give Ellen a big kiss in the midst of the run on the Bailey Building and Loan.
  • Her mother named her Karolyn for Karo syrup.
  • Karolyn spent her young adulthood in Osceola, MO, which is where my great grandparents are from. Different century, however. She became a Medical Technician, had a wonderful life and was retired until a reporter knocked on her door in 1980 and asked if she was ZuZu. Interest in the movie has grown by leaps and bounds and is now wildly popular, something it was not when it was released. Every seat in the theatre was sold, and it was the third showing on Friday. (Did I mention they serve wine in this theatre? And food?)

KG: Hi! How would you like the inscription to read?
KG: ?
Me: Hi!
KG: Hi! Inscription?

(Karolyn was very gracious, particularly in light of my doh-ness. Luckily, my husband talked up the Milton Bradley trade to Seattle, Karolyn's home, while we were at the table. You know, I can recite nearly ALL of the movie dialogue, but I barely managed to squeak out a few words. And then my purse opened up and I nearly dumped everything across the atrium floor. Very smooth.) is Karolyn's website. Great and wonderful stories on it. Pay her a visit. She is a lovely person.


Kathy and Freddy said...

Love this!
It's better than being there!

Sharon said...

As the author would say, "FABU"

Carol said...

Even after all these years, I can still see the ghost of the little Zuzu in Karolyn's face. What a great writeup. I'm glad to see the Hollywood Palms is getting off to a great start.