Virginia Patton Moss, It’s a Wonderful Life Actress, Dead at 97

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

Former actress Virginia Patton Moss died on August 18 of natural causes, according to her obituary. She was best known for her role in the Frank Capra classic Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life, in which she plays Ruth Dakin, who marries Harry Bailey. She appeared in four films after It’s a Wonderful Life, including Black Eagle, which was her sole leading role. She acted for a total of seven years in her youth before retiring in 1949, the same year she married Cruse Moss, to focus on her offscreen life; the two were together until his death in 2018. She is survived by two children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Moss’s role in It’s a Wonderful Life followed her for many years, and she was the last surviving adult cast member of the film. “That really is a wonderful motion picture,” said Moss after watching it at a viewing in 2012, according to “I hadn’t seen it in a while. I’m getting tears in my eyes.” Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s young daughter Zuzu in the movie, posted a tribute to Moss on Facebook.

Moss spoke reverently about Capra throughout her life. “Because it was right after the war, he thought the whole world was in shambles … and he wanted to bring the world a message of peace and courage and to lift their spirits,” she told the National Catholic Register in 2013. She also noted that she was the sole actor whom Capra himself had signed for It’s a Wonderful Life as all the others were on loan from studios; she said this made her “the only girl he ever signed in his whole career.” Although she quit acting in 1949, Moss never expressed regret at her decision. “I couldn’t see me doing that for my life,” she said to Patch. “That isn’t what I wanted. 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.”

Virginia Patton Moss, It’s a Wonderful Life Star, Dead at 97