Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blogging From A to Z - Z is for Zuzu

Welcome to the It's A Wonderful Blog's Blogging From A to Z April (2015) Challenge. For this challenge, I will post every day in April (except for Sundays) about topics related to the Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart film, It's a Wonderful Life.

Sadly, this is the end of the challenge. I am so grateful for what it has done for me during the month of April. It forced me to look at the film in ways I had never thought of before. I had creative ideas and I wrote about topics I never thought I would suicide.

So thank you for the challenge, and thank you for reading. Stick around. Photo Friday returns tomorrow and it's back to the regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday rotation.


Zuzu Bailey is a special child. One might argue a preferred child. I will make that argument here.

Zuzu and George Bailey
George and Mary have four children. While Zuzu, their youngest daughter, is sick in bed, the rest of the family is getting ready for a family Christmas party that will be held later that night.

Mary, Pete, and Tommy are decorating the Christmas tree. Both boys are wearing Santa Claus masks. Janie is practicing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” on the piano. She plans to play it during the party.

In telling him about their day, his children innocently remind George of their financial situation. When he learns that Zuzu is sick on top of that, he begins to lash out at his family, complaining about their “drafty old house.”

Mary, George and Zuzu.
George goes upstairs to check on Zuzu, and when he gets to her room, we again see the calm, caring George that we have come to love throughout the film. Zuzu has a calming effect on George. She is able to silently remind him that he is there to take care of others. While the other children are annoying him on this night, Zuzu is his special child, who is ill. It is his responsibility to take care of her. We see George’s tenderness when Zuzu wants him to paste the petals back on her flower. Instead of snapping at her like he did at Pete about asking how to spell words, George humors her and pretends to “paste it.” The theme of Zuzu’s petals are even carried to her headboard, which has cartoonish drawings of flowers on it.

Zuzu is treated as a special child from the moment we meet her through the end of the film. She is introduced separately from the other children, and she will greet George separately from the other children upon his return from Pottersville. She is the only child to have a separate, one-on-one scene with George. Additionally, she utters the most famous line of the film when she tells her dad, “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” When George loses control of his emotions, trashes his home office and yells at his family, Zuzu is the only one spared from his anger. George holds her during the final scene, even though she is not the youngest of the Bailey children.

Her name is the only “odd,” non-traditional name in the family. George and Mary’s other children, Tommy, Pete, and Janie, have names that sound like they came straight out of a book written for first graders. Zuzu also is the only Bailey child with a nickname. George calls her “my little ginger snap.”

Scrooge and Tiny Tim.
Of the one-on-one scene with Stewart, Karolyn Grimes’ biographer Clay Eals says, “The scene hints that Zuzu is her dad’s favorite child — or that she is at least the most endearing example of how George deeply values his family” (57).

When George returns to his home after the Pottersville scene, he is joined by his wife and all four of their children. It is the first time we see the Bailey family together in its entirety. Allowing all six members of the Bailey family to be together for the first time just before the final scene solidifies the film's message of the important role that family plays in civic-minded capitalism and the American Dream.

There also are several connections between Zuzu and Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Both Zuzu and Tiny Tim are ill, and both of them seem to be their father’s favorite child. There is a symbolic parallel that can be drawn between Zuzu’s petals and Tiny Tim’s crutch. Furthermore, both of them have a brother named Pete.

Finally, both of them utter their respective story’s most famous lines. In the case of It’s a Wonderful Life, Zuzu observes that “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” Tiny Tim’s famous line is “God bless us, every one!”

The parallels between these two children appears to be intentional on Capra’s part.

Eals, Clay. Every Time a Bell Rings: The Wonderful Life of Karolyn Grimes. Seattle: Pastime Press, 1996.
Purchase Every time a bell rings: The wonderful life of Karolyn Grimes on

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