Will a sequel get its wings?
Karolyn Grimes has brought tears of happiness to moviegoers since 1946, when flower petals belonging to her Zuzu Bailey character turned up in the pocket of leading man Jimmy Stewart, thus beginning his new lease on life in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Grimes, now 81, could see a followup to that Christmas classic being born.
“I think a sequel might be kind of fun,” she told the Daily News.
While it wasn’t a blockbuster when it was released, “It’s a Wonderful Life” has become the quintessential holiday picture. Paramount is celebrating the film’s 75th anniversary this year with a new two-disc set on Blu-ray.
The film — which for years was seemingly on every TV channel at all hours during the holiday season because it had fallen into the public domain — now gets two showings a year on NBC. This year it will be Dec. 4 and Christmas Eve.
The movie revolves around Stewart’s down-and-out George Bailey character meeting up with a guardian angel, who shows him how much his seemingly mundane existence meant to his family and their community in the bigger picture.
The actress who played that character’s young daughter envisions a followup in which George Bailey’s children continue his legacy.
“It’s the rest of the story,” Grimes said. “The kids would grow up and they’d have lives that are different. I think there’s a story there.”
In 2013, there was buzz of a sequel in the works, but it never came about, according to Screen Rant. It was reportedly to focus on Zuzu Bailey, whose character famously brought the film to a perfect ending with her classic line: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
Grimes, who said she may now be “a little long in the tooth” for a project of that kind, said she had no idea how important “It’s a Wonderful Life” would turn out to be.
“I was 6 years old and ... I’d already done four movies,” she said. “It was just another job, so I didn’t give it much thought. And apparently, the audiences didn’t give it much thought either because it wasn’t a success.”
Grimes, a Hollywood native, appeared in 16 films as a child, including “The Bishop’s Wife” with Cary Grant, before leaving the business. But “It’s a Wonderful Life” is her signature film — even though it took a while to catch on.
The film initially failed to recover its roughly $3 million budget. Though nominated for best picture, it didn’t win the 1947 Academy Award. But audiences later came to appreciate Frank Capra’s masterpiece, a movie Roger Ebert said “improves with age” in 1999.
According to Grimes, these days of uncertainty and unrest make for a fine time to revisit “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I think a lot of people turn to this film to give them hope and it’s a film that touches peoples’ lives,” she said. “It’s very positive, but there is a sense of negativity in the film, too. But everybody survives it and I think that’s a reminder of today’s times that if we have hope and if we try to make a difference, if we give of ourselves, I think it can all turn around.”
Her favorite part of the film is when George finds the flower petals Zuzu had given to her father, which disappeared when a clumsy angel played by Henry Travers was showing him what the town of Bedford Falls would have been like had he not braved his taxing but virtuous life.
“I like the scene where George is on the bridge and he wants to come back to life and he says, ‘Please God, please God, I want to live again’ and the snow starts to fall so then you know immediately he is back,” she told The News. “He learns a really valuable lesson and that’s really good. He learns about faith, family and friends and the possibility of miracles.”
Grimes laughed when reminded of a 1986 “Saturday Night Live” parody of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in which — rather than practicing kindness and forgiveness — the townspeople of Bedford Falls form an angry mob and attack the elderly curmudgeon who was largely responsible for George Bailey’s hardships.
“And they beat him with a bat?” she chuckled, adding, “It might be (how people would behave) today.”