Sat. Sep 24th, 2022

Virginia Patton, actress in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ dead at 97: ‘Another bell has rung’

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Virginia Patton, who starred as Ruth Dakin Bailey, the sister-in-law of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” has died. She was 97.

The actress passed away on Thursday at an assisted living facility in Albany, Georgia, the Mathews Funeral Home announced.

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey in the Frank Capra classic, told Fox News Digital on Sunday that “another bell has rung.” Jeanine Ann Roose, the former child star who played Little Violet Bick in the 1946 film, passed away on New Year’s Eve 2021.

Virginia Patton passed peacefully of natural causes on Aug. 18, 2022.

Virginia Patton passed peacefully of natural causes on Aug. 18, 2022.
(CBS via Getty Images)

We mourn the loss of another cast member,” the 82-year-old shared. “A few years ago, I got to visit Virginia in her home, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her husband, [automotive executive] Cruse [W. Moss] took me on a tour of the grounds. She was an artist and a history buff. She and her husband had stunning collections of artifacts of history from all over the world. She was always proud that she got to work with Frank Capra.”

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“Some of Virginia’s artwork can be viewed at the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, New York,” Grimes added.

In the film, Patton’s big scene takes place at the Bedford Falls train station, where she meets George and Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) for the first time. Patton once recalled how she worried about eating her buttered popcorn while wearing white gloves for the scene, which was filmed at the now-defunct Lamanda Park Station in Pasadena, California.

The first reunion of the "It’s a Wonderful Life" cast, in 1993, included, from left, Carol Coombs (Janie Bailey), Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy Bailey), Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey), Todd Karns (Harry Bailey) and Virginia Patton (Ruth Bailey).

The first reunion of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” cast, in 1993, included, from left, Carol Coombs (Janie Bailey), Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy Bailey), Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey), Todd Karns (Harry Bailey) and Virginia Patton (Ruth Bailey).
(Courtesy of Karolyn Grimes)

“I was dressed as a young matron,” she said in 2016. “I had a hat, a suit and white gloves. I was coming to meet my new in-laws. And I was going to eat buttered popcorn with white gloves? We rehearsed it, and Frank [Capra] didn’t say anything about it, his assistant didn’t say anything about it, the cameraman didn’t say anything about it. I was sitting there, ‘What am I going to do? I’m going to get the popcorn all over those gloves.’… I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just pretend everybody eats buttered popcorn with their gloves on, and they all get butter on them.'”

Virginia Ann Patton was born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 25, 1925. She was raised in Portland, Oregon, and made her way to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. After signing a contract with Warner Bros. she made her film debut in the 1943 musical “Thank Your Lucky Stars” starring Eddie Cantor. She went on to appear in “Janie” (1944), “Hollywood Canteen” (1944) and Jack Benny’s “The Horn Blows at Midnight” (1945).

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Patton, the niece of World War II Gen. George Patton, had starred in a play written by William C. De Mille, the brother of Cecil B. De Mille, while she was attending USC. It was there she caught the eye of Capra, who was casting “It’s a Wonderful Life” for his new Liberty Films production company. In 2013, Patton boasted that she was “the only girl he ever signed in his whole career.”

James Stewart (1908-1997), as George Bailey, and Karolyn Grimes as his daughter Zuzu, in a scene from "It's a Wonderful Life," directed by Frank Capra, 1946. Grimes told Fox News Digital "another bell has rung" in response to Virginia Patton's passing.

James Stewart (1908-1997), as George Bailey, and Karolyn Grimes as his daughter Zuzu, in a scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” directed by Frank Capra, 1946. Grimes told Fox News Digital “another bell has rung” in response to Virginia Patton’s passing.
(Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Patton also joked, “I’ve probably been in more homes than even Santa Claus.”

Patton went on to star in “The Burning Cross” (1947) and “Black Eagle” (1948). After “The Lucky Stiff” (1949), she retired from acting. She married Moss in 1949 and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they raised their three children. The couple was married for 69 years until his death in 2018.

After Hollywood, Patton took on completely different roles. She served as a docent at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art, as well as president and director of the Patton Corp., an investment and real estate holding company.

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In 2012, Patton said Capra asked her to think twice about giving up a successful career in show business. However, she had zero regrets about leaving Hollywood.

In a scene from "It's a Wonderful Life," Ruth Dakin Bailey (Virginia Patton) is introduced to her new in-laws, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) and Uncle Billy Bailey (Thomas Mitchell) by her husband Harry Bailey (Todd Karns).

In a scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Ruth Dakin Bailey (Virginia Patton) is introduced to her new in-laws, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) and Uncle Billy Bailey (Thomas Mitchell) by her husband Harry Bailey (Todd Karns).
(CBS via Getty Images)

“I have a beautiful letter that [Capra] wrote me because I kept in touch with him,” she said. “He wrote, ‘I just knew you’d be a wonderful mother with three little bambinos and a wonderful husband.'”

She is survived by two children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.



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