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'It’s a Wonderful Life' star Virginia Patton Moss dies at 97

Moss had been the last surviving adult actor from the beloved Christmas classic. 
Newly signed Warner Bros. starlet Virginia Patton, 1943
Virginia Patton Moss, pictured in 1943, shortly after signing with Warner Bros.Everett Collection

Virginia Patton Moss, the 1940’s starlet who had a small but memorable role in Frank Capra’s Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” has died.

According to an obituary published to the Mathews Funeral Home website, Moss died of natural causes on Thursday, Aug. 18, at the age of 97. 

Newly signed Warner Bros. starlet Virginia Patton, 1943
Virginia Patton Moss at the age of 18 in 1943.Everett Collection

Moss, or Patton as she was known in her acting days, launched her Hollywood career in 1943, when the then-teen landed an uncredited part in the Warner Bros. musical comedy “Thank Your Lucky Stars.”

However, it didn’t take her long to go from an uncredited unknown to a true big screen presence.

It's A Wonderful Life
Virginia Patton Moss as Ruth Dakin Bailey and James Stewart as George Bailey in 1946's "It's a Wonderful Life."CBS via Getty Images

In 1946, she starred in “It’s a Wonderful Life," playing the part of Ruth Dakin Bailey, the beaming sister-in-law of George Bailey (James Stewart).

The Hollywood Reporter noted that, due to the film's ubiquitous presence on television at the holidays each year, Moss often joked that she'd "probably been in more homes than even Santa Claus."

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Todd Karns, Virginia Patton, James Stewart, Thomas Mitchell, 1946
A scene from Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." Everett Collection

But despite her rising fame in the mid-'40s, "It's a Wonderful Life" wasn’t the beginning of a long Hollywood career.

In fact, three years after that, with just a few more dramas and comedies to her name, she left acting behind and married Cruse Moss, the man she remained married to until his death in 2018. 

Moss was the last surviving adult star from "It's a Wonderful Life," and news of her death prompted one of the film's child actors, Karolyn Grimes, to post a tribute on Facebook.

"We have another angel!" Grimes, who played George Bailey's daughter Zuzu, wrote. "She is now with her beloved Cruse. She will be missed!"

Fans of the film responded to that post and to the online obituary to share similar sentiments about the woman they fondly remember, with one writing, "May she get her 'wings' even quicker than ‘Clarence.'"