“It’s a Wonderful Life” cast celebrates the making of the film 75 years later

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — One by one, they were introduced in front of re-creations of their familiar movie sets.

Karolyn Grimes, Carol Coombs, Jimmy Hawkins, Michael Chapin, Donald, and Ronald Collins.

These are the surviving cast members of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They were child actors 75 years ago, back in the mid-1940s, but they didn’t think of themselves as movie stars. For this weekend, they are Hollywood royalty.

Ron Collins was one of the tiny twins who played “Little Pete Bailey” in a flashback scene before he and his brother Don were even really aware where their playpen had been set up. “My mother didn’t tell us we were in the movie till we were in high school.  I said, ‘What??'” stated Ron.


Seneca Falls has adopted “It’s a Wonderful Life,” based on stories that claim filmmaker Frank Capra drew inspiration for the storyline while visiting the town while he was developing the film.

The legend started getting national attention in the mid-1980s, based on two things.  Several mentions of Upstate New York towns that were sprinkled throughout the script, the bridge spanning the Seneca/Cayuga Canal through town, and the story of Antonio Varacalli, who lost his life while trying to save a woman in the waters below.

Karolyn Grimes played one of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed’s daughters, ZuZu. The girl who uttered the famous line, “Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” She fell in love with the legend when she first saw the town 19 years ago.  She believed ever more after talking with a local barber who has since “earned his wings.”


“His name was Tony Bellisimo, and Bellisimo in Italian means Beautiful,” says Grimes. “And he said I’ll always remember Frank Capra because Capra in Italian means Goat.  And he said I’ll always remember cutting the goat’s hair.”


Through Sunday, December 12, visitors can see George Bailey’s Dodge touring car from the film, and hear first-hand from some of the actors who were there, when Frank Capra’s vision first appeared on the big screen.

Anwei Law co-founded the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Museum in Seneca Falls with Karolyn Grimes. “(Capra) wanted people to believe in themselves and believe in each other again,” she says. “And if that’s not relevant now, I don’t know what is.”

You can see the full schedule for the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival, December 8-12 in Seneca Falls, here.

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