Jimmy Hawkins & Karolyn Grimes on It is a Fantastic Life
CS Interviews: Jimmy Hawkins and Karolyn Grimes Talk about It’s a Fantastic Life
It’s a Fantastic Life has stood the check of time to turn into a perennial vacation basic for audiences of all ages. This yr, Paramount unveiled a 4K UHD Steelbook copy of the movie and to rejoice, ComingSoon.internet sat down with two of the movie’s stars, Jimmy Hawkins and Karolyn Grimes, who performed Tommy and Zuzu Bailey, respectively, and mentioned the affect and legacy Frank Capra’s movie continues to have in popular culture almost 75 years later.
It’s a Fantastic Life was launched on December 20, 1946 and grossed a modest $3.Three million towards a $3.18 million funds (RKO recorded a $525,000 loss). Vital response was blended on the time and the movie drifted out of the general public psyche till networks started airing it on TV within the late 70s/early 80s. In 1990, the movie was added to the Nationwide Movie Registry of the Library of Congress and is now thought to be one of many most interesting movies ever made.
Right here’s the synopsis, through IMDB: An angel is shipped from Heaven to assist a desperately annoyed businessman by displaying him what life would have been like if he had by no means existed.
It’s a Fantastic Life stars James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers and was directed by Frank Capra from a screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett and Capra.
Jimmy Hawkins starred as little Tommy within the movie when he was simply 4 years outdated and later went on to look in 68 movies and TV exhibits, together with The Donna Reed Present, Depart it to Beaver and Annie Oakley; and likewise serves as producer on movies reminiscent of Evel Knievel (1971) and TV films reminiscent of A Time for Miracles (1980) and Good Cookies (2012).
Buy It’s a Fantastic Life on 4K UHD Steelbook (4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital)!
ComingSoon.internet: It’s a Fantastic Life is sort of 75 years outdated. You have been solely 4 and a half on the time. However I’ve learn interviews the place you mentioned that you’ve got detailed reminiscences of the filming. So what are your most vivid reminiscences in regards to the set?
Jimmy Hawkins: Effectively, simply strolling on the set day-after-day. It took 12 days to shoot all of the stuff with the Bailey youngsters in it. And so, I’d stand up actual early within the morning. It was darkish exterior and also you’d take avenue vehicles and buses to Culver Metropolis. After which stroll onto this lovely stage 14. And once you stroll into that lounge, it’s all lit up and lighting for the primary take of the day. The Christmas tree is there. And it’s simply all of the commotion occurring and the entrance of the home, the facade for the surface of the home, too. And so they had actual snow exterior, you realize? And that was type of attention-grabbing to see. It’s 90 levels exterior after we have been capturing the movie, the exteriors, nevertheless it was simply terrific. I bear in mind Frank Capra and the way he improvised quite a bit. I might go over the script the night time earlier than with my mother, and that will all the time change the subsequent morning after we acquired on the set as a result of Frank Capra had enterprise. He all the time had actors doing little enterprise. And so, he would clarify to me what he wished me to do within the scene, sitting on this man’s lap and placing a pencil on his head. After which this girl over right here will say one thing, after which when she finishes saying that, you say this line, you realize that? I’d say, “Oh sure sir, I do know that.”
After which, after we got here out of the lounge scene going into the kitchen, he had me try this, “Excuse me” line. After which I find yourself — nicely, he had me say it a number of occasions on the best way to the kitchen and he’d cease all of the motion after which he’d squat down and discuss to me one-on-one face-to-face and inform me precisely once you get to this spot proper right here, say excuse me, hold pulling on this man’s tailcoat. Okay. Go there. And so, he was all the time doing stuff like that, improvising. And so, these are the type of reminiscences I’ve. And you realize, I don’t bear in mind something at 4 and a half. Such as you’d be shocked of how a lot you bear in mind when it comes right down to it. After which, all this stuff come previous your thoughts and also you go, “Ah, I bear in mind doing that. Yeah, oh wow.” And I might chew bubblegum on a regular basis. So he didn’t thoughts. You’d simply chew the gum within the image. That’s all proper. He didn’t care. That’s extra pure, he mentioned.
So, after which all of the tales that you just study alongside the traces once I began writing books about it and speaking to forged members and the way their expertise was with Capra; and Dimitri Tiompkin’s property and speaking to Mrs. Tiompkin and simply all of the various things that it took to make the image — the set decorator, you realize, [told] me what the city appeared like. It’s only a nice expertise to speak to all people and get us all again collectively once more after so a few years. And it’s been fairly a thrill, and dealing with Paramount on their totally different initiatives. However what I like about it’s they hold updated with the film, and you know the way they’ve a Blu-ray 4K in particular packaging, what they name the SteelBook. And I imply, once you see the film like that, I imply, you are feeling such as you’re proper there. I imply, you simply step into it. It’s so crisp and similar to higher than it ever was when it confirmed in theaters.
So you realize, individuals, they wish to see it greatest as it could and streaming by no means does that. Streaming can’t be — 4K, Blu-ray, nothing. It simply is a pleasant, clear copy. However they need that movie. They appear to need that disc they will play each time they wish to, and lots of people, I see them, they usually ask me, as a result of I suppose this SteelBook has caught on and folks wish to have that as a part of their assortment, whether or not they ever open it up and play it, they like this concept of getting it. And so they ask us, you realize, the totally different appearances we’ve made in Seneca Falls on the “It’s a Fantastic Life” Museum. And so they mentioned, “Oh are they going to return out with SteelBook?” And I mentioned, “Oh I didn’t even know in the event that they do SteelBook.” However they know greater than we do. It’s actually one thing. They bring about up stuff with the film and [I’m like] oh actually? No, it’s nice speaking to them they usually carry their kids to our appearances and clarify that once they have been that age, they watched the movie with their mother and father, they usually’re passing this film onto their kids. And the youngsters, they love the movie. They don’t perceive at 6 or 7 the entire Bailey Constructing and Loans and stuff like that, however they know they just like the film; they usually don’t thoughts sitting and watching it with their mother and father.
So it’s an awesome expertise to see the keenness that the mother and father have they usually’re passing it onto their youngsters. It’s been fairly a thrill, the totally different locations that It’s a Fantastic Life has taken us. I rang the bell on the Inventory Alternate in New York. I confirmed it to the prisoners of Attica two years in the past at Christmas, and Karolyn Grimes — Zuzu — and I went there for a two-hour Q&A. And these guys have been unbelievable. It’s simply an expertise. This film has taken us in all places. It’s nice to speak about it, getting the chance to speak to you about it, and like I mentioned, you’re part of the legacy now and you’ll keep on, write about it and inform different individuals about it. It simply retains rising and getting larger and greater. When it’s on NBC at Christmas time, that’s the most well-liked present on TV that night time. It’s going to be 75 years outdated subsequent yr and it’s larger and higher than it ever was.
CS: Such as you mentioned, you have been 4 years outdated on the time. And clearly, you in all probability weren’t conscious of Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra and Donna Reed, or at the least the affect that that they had in popular culture on the time. At what level did you begin to understand: Wow! I used to be in a film with Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Frank Capra?
Hawkins: Effectively, in fact, I stayed within the enterprise. I did over 400 TV exhibits and co-starred with Elvis in photos. I used to be eight years on the Donna Reed Present, so I acquired to know her by all that point, after which we stayed buddies after the present, had lunches. And I used to be together with her proper earlier than she handed away and was at her home and introduced her an decoration to placed on the tree. However the first time I suppose, what you’re asking, is when did I understand It’s a Fantastic Life was massive, or that it was rising? As a result of when it went out [on it’s initial release], it was only a day — nicely, for us, 12 days working. And also you went to a different film. And the identical method in speaking to all the opposite characters from the movie, it was simply one other film to do. The hope was to be good and be standard, however no one ever anticipated it to be what it grew to become. No one. It was simply work and also you have been hoping Capra and Stewart after World Warfare II would make successful of it after which proceed on with their lives. However no one thought it could ever do what it’s finished now. So 1992 is once I first realized that everyone was watching it. They acquired to see it as a result of it fell into public area and folks throughout TV stations in all places may present it totally free. And so they took benefit of that. And so, tv made It’s a Fantastic Life what it’s at the moment. I talked to Sheldon Leonard in regards to the movie — he performed Nick the Bartender — and requested him myself, what do you assume, in any case these years, it grew to become standard? He mentioned, bear in mind one factor, Jimmy, the film by no means modified, not a body modified. The individuals modified. They wanted that message greater than ever. They didn’t want it in 1946. They have been onto different issues. However when the 70’s got here in and it fell into public area, it began displaying up each Christmas getting larger and greater. And the viewers wanted that message. They wanted to know that they’re all necessary, and every man’s life touches so many others. They’re necessary. That’s when George Bailey acquired to see. He didn’t assume something he did was necessary. However every part. He went to work, helped anyone, did one thing, touched anyone’s life and went on to do that. And he acquired to see all that and he noticed that type of method life was the fallacious factor to do as a result of we are able to make a distinction in all people’s life. That’s what the viewers discovered. I’m necessary. I make a distinction.
CS: You talked about working with Donna Reed and the connection that you just had together with her. Did you ever stumble upon Capra Stewart once more?
Hawkins: Oh no, no. I might stumble upon Capra on the Academy. I’m a member of the Movement Image Academy they usually have been having a director’s selection. And nice administrators would come and present what they thought was their greatest film. Effectively, he was there, and so, I talked to him whereas we have been out within the lobby, able to go on. And discovered extra about him. And Jimmy Stewart, I did Winchester ’73 with him. However I’d met him at events, after which they introduced me in to play his son in legislation in a TV sequence that they have been placing collectively at Warner Brothers and NBC or one of many networks. And so they introduced me in they usually examined me to play his son in legislation within the sequence. And I used to be producing films then. I used to be doing an image referred to as Evel Knievel that I raised the cash in the direction of and was a producer on with George Hamilton. And I got here again from Butte, Montana, the place we have been capturing up a day earlier to do that check. And so they have been testing this man, that man, and I all the time thought my profession — no matter I did, all the time considered Jimmy Stewart once I did issues. And since I used to be only a man in a scenario, all the time checked out, how would you say that line if he have been in that film? And I wasn’t an awesome actor, however I used to be nice at doing that. And it by no means stopped. It by no means stopped, whether or not it was the Annie Oakley sequence or The Ruggles again in 1949; after which I did Petticoat Junction for 3 or 4 years, Ozzie and Harriet for 3 or 4 years, and simply stored working — Depart it to Beaver — simply all these things. And I by no means, ever stopped. However you bought Evel Knievel, and I mentioned, I like this and I take pleasure in this. So, very fortunate. A terrific profession. I actually have a beautiful life.
CS: You stopped performing round in regards to the mid-70’s. How had Hollywood modified by that time?
Hawkins: Effectively, it actually had modified. Particularly now, I’m producing a movie now on the lifetime of Mary Edwards Walker. She’s the one girl to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor. And he or she was a surgeon within the Civil Warfare. A terrific story. I’d love to do tales which might be uplifting, constructive. Ones that make you go: If that girl went by that and got here out like she did, nicely possibly my life really might get higher. And I did the Satchel Paige Story with Lou Gossett … and I’ve finished a whole lot of uplifting films as a result of I like that theme. I like that individuals see one thing after which they will do one thing like that. If that individual did one thing, they may overcome their obstacles. It was a good time. But it surely’s not like that anymore. An excessive amount of greed and I don’t prefer it anymore. It’s simply not enjoyable. It’s totally different, simply totally different.
I’d have been fortunate to be in that Golden period, little question about it. I labored with each main star within the 40’s. After which, when it got here to tv, whether or not it’s Fred McMurray or Donna Reed otherwise you title all of them, I acquired an opportunity to work with them as extra of an grownup, and it was very rewarding. The individuals have been as good as you noticed them on the display. 90 p.c of the time, they have been simply actual good individuals. Frederick Burns, very good individual. I’m simply very fortunate to be with good individuals doing good exhibits.
Karolyn Grimes starred in It’s a Fantastic Life as Zuzu, who delivered the movie’s most memorable line, “Each time a bell rings an angel will get his wings.” Grimes labored as an actress till 1954, starring in movies reminiscent of The Bishop’s Spouse and Rio Grande.
ComingSoon.internet: I learn a narrative some time in the past the place you recalled seeing It’s a Fantastic Life for the primary time in 1980 and out of the blue remembering that you just have been within the movie Are you able to inform us extra about that second? Is that one thing that actually occurred?
Karolyn Grimes: What occurred was, I began getting individuals knocking on my door wanting interviews. And so they requested me if I used to be in that film and I mentioned, nicely, yeah. And so, they mentioned, “Might we’ve got an interview?” And I mentioned, “Effectively, certain.” So I dragged all my stuff up from the basement and confirmed them my memorabilia and over time the identical factor stored occurring, and I used to be fairly shocked. I believed, my goodness, what’s occurring right here? After which, I began getting fan mail. And so, I believed, nicely, I higher watch this film. So I sat down and I watched the film. I used to be 40, however you realize, my life has been very busy. And I used to be elevating seven youngsters. I lived within the automobile, within the laundry room and kitchen and all of that. I didn’t have time to actually watch the film, so I by no means did. I had seen bits and items of my half within the film, however I by no means actually sat down and acquired the entire content material — and oh, what a pleasure! I imply, it was an expertise I’ll always remember my entire life. I cried and cried and cried. And it simply touched my life a lot that I spotted that I needed to be part of the message from this movie. In order that’s what I made up my thoughts to do again in 1980. And I used to be nonetheless elevating youngsters, so I didn’t do an excessive amount of till 1993. The Goal Firm reunited the Bailey youngsters and despatched us on a tour round america. And that’s once I type of hooked on the street as a result of I actually met the individuals. And so they inform me tales of how this film had affected their lives in such a constructive method. Effectively, I simply acquired hooked. And so, I’ve been on the street ever since.
CS: Do you bear in mind the way you first acquired concerned with the manufacturing?
Grimes: Effectively, I had an agent. I had already finished 4 films earlier than I did that one. I began once I was 4 years outdated. And I used to be simply a kind of little starlets in Hollywood. And it was simply one other interview. It wasn’t any massive deal. And I really had an expertise that wasn’t too cool as a result of once I was ready to be interviewed — there have been 5 of us little women — a mom unintentionally spilled some espresso on my gown — unintentionally, we’re unsure. [Laughs] Anyway, it didn’t trouble me one bit. I walked in there with a dirty gown and talked to Frank Capra as a result of it was a one-on-one factor. He handpicked each single individual in that film, even the extras. He handpicked all of them. He was that exact. He was a perfectionist. And so, I imply, I simply acted like myself and I acquired the half.
CS: Had been you conscious that you just have been in a film with greats like Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, directed by Frank Capra?
Grimes: I by no means knew a factor like that. I had labored with Bing Crosby, Randolph Scott. I imply, all these film stars. And luckily, my mother and father by no means actually let me assume that I used to be particular in any method and that these weren’t actual film stars. [Laughs.] I didn’t even assume I knew what a film star was. These have been simply my buddies and I used to be raised like that. So yeah, I by no means actually knew that these have been particular individuals and that they have been actual stars. I had no clue. And Jimmy Stewart contacted me in 1980, really, and that was one more reason I watched the movie, as a result of lots of people had been asking him no matter occurred to that little woman? And he had his secretary name me in the course of Kansas, and there I used to be. And so, he referred to as me out of the blue. It was actually type of unbelievable. And so, we type of developed a friendship after that and it was actually good.
CS: That’s a cool story. That would make its personal film proper there.
Grimes: Effectively, it may.
CS: And talking of Jimmy Stewart, you share a number of the movie’s most iconic scenes with him — do you recall filming these scenes? Did it’s a must to do quite a few takes?
Grimes: Effectively, sure, we needed to do quite a few takes. Typically we’d spend days simply on doing a phase. But it surely was the fourth, fifth film I had finished. And it was simply regular, on a regular basis stuff. However being up tall in his arms and type of towering over every part, I bear in mind the entire individuals within the final scene. I bear in mind so many issues about that film that I had so many fantastic experiences on, as a result of, for one factor, there have been youngsters, different youngsters, and I may play with different youngsters. You labored for 3 minutes and then you definately sit for an hour. And then you definately work for 3 minutes and also you sit for an hour. And for a child that’s six years outdated, that’s powerful. So to me, having different youngsters there to play with and to work together with, it was fairly nice. In order that, I bear in mind very nicely, simply having different youngsters, Jimmy Hawkins and Carol [Coombs]. And it was nice simply to have youngsters round. So I do bear in mind a whole lot of issues in regards to the movie.
CS: When was it that you just actually knew that you just had been part of one thing really particular?
Grimes: I didn’t know till 1980. Once I began getting fan mail, it blew me away. I imply, this was for a life 40 years — 35 years in the past, you realize, and abruptly I’m getting fan mail for enjoying this little woman within the film? I used to be blown away. I had no concept that the film was so like, nicely acquired and that individuals beloved it and it was an American custom and of their properties yearly at Christmas. I didn’t know. So I imply, it was an awesome, massive shock to me. And that’s once I actually discovered what a beautiful movie it was. And after I sat down and watched it, I vowed that I might positively promote that movie and I might attempt to be part of it to any extent further. And as soon as I began assembly the individuals, the followers did my appearances, I imply, they share with me tales of how this film has affected their lives. It’s unbelievable.
I imply, everybody — happiness, unhappiness, possibly a gal’s mom had began her watching the film years and years in the past, when she was a toddler, and the mom is now gone, however she would by no means miss out on watching that film yearly at Christmas as a result of it introduced her again to that point when she was together with her mother. You already know, these type of issues you’ll be able to’t purchase, the reminiscences in your coronary heart. And It’s a Fantastic Life simply offers you these time and again.
CS: You have been in plenty of initiatives after It’s a Fantastic Life, together with The Bishop’s Spouse and Rio Grande. Why did you finally determine to step away from performing?
Grimes: My mom began getting sick once I was eight, and he or she died once I was 14. After which my father acquired killed in a automobile wreck a yr later once I was 15. So I used to be orphaned and the courtroom in Hollywood determined that my greatest curiosity was to ship me to dwell with my father’s brother and his imply spouse in Missouri. In order that’s what occurred. I acquired out of Hollywood. That was the tip. You already know, I used to be on their own. I by no means went again. I went to school and lived like a standard individual.
CS: Oh wow! After which out of the blue you’re thrust again into this world you left behind …
Grimes: It was unlocking nice reminiscences I had up to now. I had been so busy that I by no means relived these moments. However as soon as I began to relive these fantastic occasions as a toddler, it grew to become such an enormous a part of my life as a result of I meet individuals they usually inform me these fantastic tales about how that film’s affected their lives. So it grew to become type of a champion for me. And I wished to be a part of that. I wished to have the ability to contact individuals’s lives after which to have the ability to share with them how a lot the film meant to me as nicely, as a result of I had simply found it. So, I don’t know. It’s a beautiful alternative for individuals to return collectively and share values and share love. And see, that’s what I feel the film offers to individuals. And I feel it’s so nice that Paramount brings out a brand new DVD yearly to rejoice that. I simply assume it’s fantastic as a result of it will get higher and higher. It’s sharper and it’s simply nice. It’s so fantastic, it’s like, proper there. You are feeling such as you’re part of that movie.
CS: There was discuss of a sequel that was set to launch again in 2015 that will’ve finally targeted in your character. What finally occurred to that undertaking?
Grimes: Effectively, I don’t know. It was an awesome undertaking and I feel it could’ve been an awesome story. It was a follow-up — a remainder of the story type of factor. And I believed that was nice. I believed it was nicely finished. However you realize, authorized issues and every kind of issues tied issues up, so some issues by no means occur. However there’s nonetheless hope. They’re nonetheless hoping that it’ll occur. You by no means know.
CS: While you watch It’s a Fantastic Life, what’s the one factor that that movie does that resonates with you personally?
Grimes: Effectively, I are inclined to get all caught up on the planet and each day actions and the traumas and every part that occurs in life. And I must refocus and I do know that. And It’s a Fantastic Life brings my ft again and type of brings all that scattered power that’s throughout. It’s the one drive that makes me really feel extra constructive and provides me extra power to face no matter we’ve got to face as human beings proper now. It’s a beautiful treatment for that as a result of it heals the spirit. It heals the soul and it offers us hope. And I positively suggest that as drugs for 2020.
CS: We want this film greater than ever. That’s for certain.
Grimes: Sure, we do.
CS: You talked about having a friendship with Jimmy Stewart. What was he like off-screen?
Grimes: He was George Bailey in actual life. He was a person who did issues for his fellow males, and he didn’t have to be patted on the again. He didn’t must have publicity for that. He was a delicate soul. He had morals. He had values. And you realize, he didn’t get married till he was 38 and he stayed with Gloria and he beloved her to the very finish. He was a person … I had a fan — you bought a minute? — who I met in New York at a enjoyable factor we have been doing with Jimmy, and he had made it doable for her to return to New York from higher New York. And he or she was type of blue collared. She got here right down to New York Metropolis and he or she was so excited to fulfill him for the primary time in her entire life. And he or she had been a fan of his since earlier than he was well-known. And he had finished some issues for her. Over time, her husband was dying of Parkinson’s illness they usually have been on the point of lose their dwelling. And he or she referred to as Jimmy and advised him about it. The subsequent day, the veteran’s hospital took him in so that they didn’t need to lose their dwelling. She is aware of that he was part of that taking place. And he or she ended up getting breast most cancers. And so, she went to go to her daughter in San Francisco. This was after I had met her and he or she wrote me letters afterwards. And he organized for her to return right down to his home to see his rose backyard. So he was in his rose backyard together with her. I imply, she was a religious fan. She simply worshiped him. And he or she was in his rose backyard with him. And that was in November. And in January, she acquired her wings. So he gave her a beautiful present, however nobody ever is aware of issues like that. Nobody knew then what he did for individuals and the way he helped them personally. He simply was an awesome man. And I’ve to say, he grew up in Indiana, Pennsylvania, this little city, and his father owned a ironmongery store there. And his father taught him a whole lot of fantastic issues about morals. And I simply assume he was an awesome man.