Virginia Patton and Jimmy Stewart in front of the popcorn machine. http://www.risefallriseagainblogspot.com
Last December I rated Christmas movies according to my experience. This December I can say I have talked with one of the stars of my #1 pick, It’s a Wonderful Life (1947).
Virginia Patton played Ruth, the wife of George Bailey’s brother, Harry. She appears in the scene where Harry returns from college to Bedford Falls on the train and surprises George with the news that he’s married. It’s a pivotal point in the plot, one in which George realizes that because Harry is going to work for his father-in-law, he himself will probably spend the rest of his life maintaining the Building and Loan.
We got to talk with this lovely lady this fall when my sister-in-law introduced us in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she’s lived for many years. She gave up acting to marry and have a family in the early 1950s.
Virginia, now 93, recalled for us some details of her experience working with Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra. “They were so very professional,” she said. “Mr. Capra wouldn’t have it any other way. He had a strict budget, and everyone worked hard.”
As she talked to Jimmy Stewart in the railroad depot, she was eating out of a bag of popcorn. “That popcorn was stale!” she exclaimed, “It had been sitting on the set for two or three days.” The director couldn’t decide whether or not she should wear gloves during the scene, while she was eating. She left them on.
I asked her about two of my favorite actors, Beaulah Bondi and Thomas Mitchell. She repeated how delightful they were to work with. “And I was the only actor Mr. Capra ever signed to a contract,” she told me. She appeared in several other films before she decided the Hollywood lifestyle was not for her, and doesn’t regret leaving.
It was fascinating to spend time with someone who was a part of movie history. Mrs. Moss is a living link to a work of art we cherish, an icon which represents decency and hope. She was employed in the industry which gave us the film, and then left it to live a wonderful life herself.