Virginia Patton, actress in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, dies at 97

Virginia Patton, who played Ruth Dakin Bailey, sister-in-law of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, in Frank Capra’s holiday classic It’s a wonderful life, is dead. She was 97 years old.

Patton died Thursday at an assisted living facility in Albany, Georgia, Mathews Funeral Home announcement.

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Patton’s character in the 1946 film was married to Harry Bailey (Todd Karns), and her big scene takes place at the Bedford Falls train station, when she meets George and Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) for the first time.

As crew members lit up her scene – filmed at the now defunct Lamanda Park station of the Santa Fe to Pasadena Railroad – with her replacement, she wondered how she was going to eat her popcorn with butter while wearing white gloves.

“I was dressed as a young matron. I had a hat, a suit and white gloves, I was coming to meet my new in-laws”, she called back in 2016. “And I was going to eat buttered popcorn with white gloves?”

“We rehearsed, and Frank didn’t say anything about it, his assistant didn’t say anything about it, the cameraman didn’t say anything about it. I was sitting there, ‘What am I going to do? I’m going to put popcorn on these gloves. …I thought, ‘Well, I’m just going to pretend like everybody’s eating butter popcorn with their gloves on, and they’ve all got butter on them.'”

Virginia Ann Patton was born in Cleveland on June 25, 1925. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, where she graduated from Jefferson High School in 1942, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.

She signed with Warner Bros., made her film debut in the musical Thank your lucky stars (1943), with Eddie Cantor and an all-star cast, and appeared in small roles in other films, including Joan (1944), Hollywood canteen (1944) and Jack Benny The horn rings at midnight (1945).

The niece of World War II General George Patton, she had acted in a play written by William C. De Mille, brother of Cecil B. De Mille, while attending USC, and it put her on the spot. Capra radar. it was flowing It’s a wonderful lifethe first film he will direct for his new production company Liberty Films.

“I read for him, and he signed me,” she said in 2013, adding that she was “the only girl he ever signed in his entire career”. His contract at Warners had expired, and all other adult cast members would work on loan from other studios.

Left to right: Todd Karns, Virginia Patton, Jimmy Stewart and Thomas Mitchell in

Left to right: Todd Karns, Virginia Patton, Jimmy Stewart and Thomas Mitchell in “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 1946 – Credit: Courtesy Everett Collection

Courtesy of Everett Collection

Since It’s a wonderful life aired several times a year around Christmas for decades, Patton often joked that “I’ve probably been to more houses than even Santa Claus.”

Patton had the female lead in The Burning Cross (1947), a film about the Ku Klux Klan, and black Eagle (1948), a western, then retired after a supporting role in The lucky stiff (1949).

She left Hollywood and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, after marrying Cruse automobile executive W. Moss in 1949, and they had three children. They were married for 69 years until his death in 2018.

Patton was a professor at the University of Michigan Museum of Art and chairman and director of Patton Corp., a real estate holding and investment company.

In a interview 2012Patton noted that Capra asked her to think twice about quitting show business, but she said she was comfortable with her decision.

“I have a beautiful letter which [Capra] wrote to me because I stayed in touch with him,” she said. “He wrote: ‘I just knew you would be a wonderful mother with three little toddlers and a wonderful husband.'”

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