For me, no holiday season is complete without a trip (or two) to Detroit’s Redford Theatre. Going there to see Christmas classics like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street never fails to get me in the holiday spirit. Not only is it a treat see my favorite holiday movies on the big screen, the theater is also beautifully decorated and there is always such a nice feeling of community in the audience during those movies.
Christmas came to the Redford a little early this year with three very special screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life. Actress Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, made appearances at all three shows. But before the final screening on Saturday night, Karolyn joined a small group of VIPs for dinner at the Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison district. The Boston-Edison district is full of beautiful old homes, many of them built by or lived in by some of Detroit’s most famous residents including Henry Ford, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy. My mom and I were among the lucky attendees for this event and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to be there.
Before dinner, Karolyn briefly spoke to us about her career and answered a few questions. Once dinner got started, Karolyn came around to each table to say hello and answer more questions. Since Karolyn also starred in The Bishop’s Wife, I couldn’t resist asking what it was like to work with Cary Grant and Loretta Young. She said Cary was just wonderful, but remembered Loretta as being a bit aloof. However, she and Loretta started corresponding more when they were a bit older and Loretta would often send her prayer devotionals. While they were filming The Bishop’s Wife, Loretta put a “curse box” on set and anytime somebody cursed, they had to put money in the box. When the movie was finished, Loretta donated the money to a Catholic church.
As soon as we were finished with dinner and dessert, we headed over to the Redford Theatre to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. I saw It’s a Wonderful Life at the Redford a couple of years ago and there was a great crowd then, but this time, it was even better — it was a sold out house! Before the show, Karolyn signed autographs and took pictures with fans in the lobby. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Karolyn, don’t be shy to say hello! She’s extremely approachable and very sweet.
When stars make appearances at the Redford, they come onstage and give an introduction before the movie starts. Typically this lasts about 5 to 10 minutes, but Karolyn went above and beyond and spent about half an hour talking about It’s a Wonderful Life trivia, her memories of making the movie, and what it was like working with Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra. She didn’t have a single unkind word to say about working on It’s a Wonderful Life. The experience was very stress-free for her and Jimmy and Frank made it very fun to be on the set.
It truly was a wonderful night, pun fully intended. Being able to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen is always a joyous occasion, but having Karolyn there made it exceptional. It was the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season.
On a side note, I got an autographed copy of Karolyn’s book “Celebrating It’s a Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On.” If you’re looking for a gift for someone who is a big fan of the movie, this book would be a great choice. It’s a very cute little book full of trivia, Karolyn’s memories, recipes inspired by the movie, and comments from fans about what the movie means to them.