Virginia Patton Moss, Actress Who Played Ruth In It's A Wonderful Life, Has Died At 97

The last surviving adult cast member from the Frank Capra Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" has died. According to Variety, Virginia Patton Moss, the actress-turned-businesswoman who starred in a handful of films and was a favorite of Capra's, died on August 18, 2022 in Albany, Georgia. She was 97 years old. 

Actor Karolyn Grimes, who worked alongside Moss when she played little Zuzu Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life," posted a tribute to the late performer on her Facebook page, saying that "we have another angel!" Moss was preceded in death by her husband, Cruse W. Moss, who died in 2018. 

Moss was best known for playing Ruth Dakin Bailey, the sister-in-law to protagonist George Bailey (James Stewart) in "It's a Wonderful Life." While some of the child stars from the film are still alive, Moss was the final surviving adult cast member of the classic Christmas film.

A short but bright acting career

Moss started acting when she was a student at the University of Southern California and began by performing in plays and several small roles in short films and features. She was cast in a few uncredited roles before ending up in the spotlight when she was picked for "It's a Wonderful Life." Her husband Cruse said in 2012 that Moss was the only girl that was contracted directly by Capra:

"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."

After "It's a Wonderful Life," Moss acted in four more movies: the Western "Black Eagle," drama "The Burning Cross," film noir "A Double Life," and comedy "The Lucky Stiff." After wrapping on "The Lucky Stiff," Moss retired from acting to focus on a business career and raising her three children. She went to the University of Michigan and later served as the docent at the university's Museum of Art.

Moss was the niece of famous army general George Patton and she maintained a friendly relationship with Capra for the rest of their lives. When she chose to retire from acting, she said that Capra warned her to think about what she was leaving behind, but he understood and supported her:

"I have a beautiful letter that (Capra) wrote me because I kept in touch with him and he said, 'I just knew you'd be a wonderful mother with three little bambinos and a wonderful husband.'"

Moss was a talented performer and businesswoman, raised a family, and did a great deal of work for her community. She will be missed.