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Virginia Patton Moss, Last Surviving Adult Cast Member of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ Dies at 97

She co-starred in the most famous Christmas movie of all time.

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Virginia Patton Moss, the final surviving adult cast member of Frank Capra’s 1947 holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, died on August 18 in Albany, Georgia at 97 years old. Moss’ death was confirmed by Mathews Funeral Home, who shared that she “passed peacefully of natural causes.”

In Christmas feature It’s a Wonderful Life (widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time), Moss played Ruth Dakin Bailey, the wife to Todd Karns’ Harry Bailey and sister-in-law to protagonist George Bailey, played by star Jimmy Stewart. Moss was the last surviving adult cast member of the movie, though several of the film’s child actors are still alive. The story follows Stewart’s George, a depressed man who contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve but changes his mind after an intervention by his guardian angel. 

Karolyn Grimes, who worked with Moss on Capra’s film as a child actor, posted a tribute to her late co-star on Facebook. “We have another angel! Virginia Patton Moss. She was 97 years old,” Grimes wrote. “She is now with her beloved Cruse. She will be missed!” Grimes — who is now 82 — celebrated her sixth birthday during production of the film. Her character Zuzu is the one who delivers the movie’s most famous line: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

In 2012, Moss’ husband Cruse W. Moss claimed that his wife was the only girl that was contracted directly by director Frank Capra. “Everybody else in that film was loaned by another studio. But Ginny was not with the studio and Frank Capra actually signed her for that picture.”

Moss acted in four additional films, including a lead performance in 1948’s Western Black Eagle, before retiring from acting in 1949. Her final screen credit was the 1949 comedy The Lucky Stiff. That same year she married Cruse and they relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Moss began a career as a businesswoman and served as a docent at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The couple stayed married until Cruse’s death in 2018.

“I couldn’t see me doing that for my life,” Moss said in 2012, reflecting on her decision to leave acting and focus on raising a family. “I wanted exactly what I am. Ann Arbor, Michigan, a wonderful husband, wonderful children, a good part of the community. I work hard for the community.”

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