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Virginia Patton Moss, the last surviving adult cast member of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ dies at 97

The actor played Ruth Dakin Bailey, the sister-in-law of James Stewart's character, George Bailey.

Virginia Patton Moss, a former actor who was the final surviving adult cast member of Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” died on Aug. 18 in Albany, Georgia. She was 97 years old.

Moss’ death was confirmed through Legacy. Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey as a child actor in the film, posted a tribute to her costar on her personal Facebook page.

“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!”

Newly signed Warner Bros. starlet Virginia Patton, 1943
Virginia Patton in 1943.Everett Collection

Moss is credited as her birth name, Virginia Patton, on the 1946 feature. She played Ruth Dakin Bailey, the wife to Todd Karns’ Harry Bailey and sister-in-law to protagonist George Bailey, played by star James Stewart. Moss was the final surviving adult cast member of the holiday classic (a number of the child actors in the film, including Grimes, are still alive).

Moss began her career as a performer as a student at the University of Southern California, acting in plays and playing small roles in features. She continued to participate in interviews regarding her experience making “It’s a Wonderful Life” throughout her life.

“Virginia was the only girl that was contracted directly by Frank Capra,” Moss’ husband, Cruse W. Moss, claimed in 2012. “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 more films, including a lead performance in 1948’s Western “Black Eagle,” before retiring from acting. Her final screen credit came in 1949 with the comedy “The Lucky Stiff,” starring Dorothy Lamour, Brian Donlevy and Claire Trevor.

The actor married Cruse W. Moss in 1949 and took her husband’s last name. The couple relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Moss began a career as a businesswoman, raised a family of three children and served as a docent at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Cruse and Virginia remained 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 behind. “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.”