Virginia Patton, who played George Bailey’s sister-in-law in the holiday staple It’s A Wonderful Life, died in an assisted living facilty on Aug. 18. She was 97.
Patton was Ruth Dakin Bailey in the 1946 film, married to war hero Harry Bailey. Her most prominent scene was at the Bedford Falls train station, when she meets George and Uncle Billy for the first time.
Virginia Ann Patton was born in Cleveland on June 25, 1925. Raised in Portland, Oregon, she went to Los Angeles after high school graduation to pursue an acting career.
She signed with Warner Bros. and made her movie debut in the musical Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), starring Eddie Cantor, and appeared the films Janie (1944), Hollywood Canteen (1944) and Jack Benny’s The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945).
Patton, a niece of World War II General George Patton, came to It’s a Wonderful Life director Frank Capra’s attention via a USC play. The timing was fortuitous, as her Warner Bros. contract had lapsed. She read for Capra and he signed her.
After the 1946 filming of It’s a Wonderful Life, which did mediocre box office in theaters, but became a cult hit on TV, Patton had the female lead in The Burning Cross (1947), a movie about the Ku Klux Klan, and Black Eagle (1948), a Western.
She retired from acting after a supporting turn in The Lucky Stiff (1949).
Patton moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, after marrying automotive executive Cruse W. Moss in 1949. They had three children and were married for 69 years, until his 2018 death.