Legendary actor, James Stewart, was born James Maitland Stewart on May 20, 1908 in Indiana, PA. Stewart appeared in over 95 film and TV roles. His best known films include You Can't Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Destry Rides Again, The Shop Around the Corner, The Philadelphia Story, It's a Wonderful Life, Harvey, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Anatomy of a Murder, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and How the West Was Won. Stewart died at the age of 89 on Jul 2, 1997 in Los Angeles, CA and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn (Glendale) Cemetery in Glendale, CA.
Born on May 20th 1908, James Stewart is still the greatest paradigm for the everyman-persona. With his distinctive mid-western drawl and awe-shucks charm, Stewart remains one of the most appealing and accessible actors of all time.
His life began in the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania, an entire continent away from the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood lifestyle. As the eldest of three children, Stewart was expected to take reign over the family business, and was sent to the prestigious Mercersburg Academy Prep School. He excelled academically and was an incredibly active student, participating in sports, glee club, John Marshall literary society, and was art editor of the school yearbook. He also made his stage debut in the play, The Wolves, at Mercersburg. During his breaks, he worked a series of labor jobs before becoming an assistant to a professional magician, a job that allowed him to demonstrate his accordion skills, often utilized later in his film work. Although the shy Stewart spent much of his spare time in his basement working on model planes, mechanical drawings, and chemistry with dreams of entering the United States Naval Academy, his father insisted he attend Princeton University instead. While he again excelled academically, so much so that he was offered a scholarship to pursue graduate studies, Stewart became more and more interested in the school's drama and music clubs.
This would lead him to the University Players summer stock company for college students in Cape Code. It was there that he would meet his life-long friend and fellow future Hollywood legend, Henry Fonda. The two would end up rooming together in New York, where Stewart made his Broadway debut as a chauffeur in the play Goodbye Again. Though his part was small, he left a lasting impression on his audience, receiving good notice in credible publications such as The New Yorker. Between 1932 and 1934, with the depression in full swing and movies becoming the working-mans' entertainment of choice, work was sporadic for Stewart. In 1935, however, Hollywood began to take notice of the young actor after seeing him in the play, Divided by Three. He was invited to Hollywood for a screen test and on April of 1935, Stewart signed a contract with MGM Studios. His early work at the studio included appearing in screen tests alongside newly signed starlets and bit parts in subpar films including the 1935 Spencer Tracey vehicle The Murder Man. In 1936 he received his first major role in the melodrama Next Time We Love, thanks to former University Player member Margaret Sullavan who insisted he get the part. That year he also had major roles in After the Thin Man and Born to Dance opposite Eleanor Powell.
FRANK CAPRA / STARDOM:
In 1938 Stewart would have his first collaboration with director Frank Capra when he was lent to Columbia Pictures for You Can't Take it with You. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and launched Stewart into stardom. Stewart would team up again with Capra the next year for the populist themed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the film, Stewart plays a naive idealist thrust into the corrupt world of American politics. For his work, Stewart was nominated for what would be his first of five Academy Awards. The role has since become one of his most iconic, solidifying his everyman all-American on-screen persona. That year he also starred in his first Western, Destry Rides Again, opposite Marlene Dietrich. In 1940, Jimmy Stewart would strike Oscar Gold for his role in George Cukor's comedy of divorce, The Philadelphia Story, taking home the Academy Award for Best Lead Actor. That year he also starred opposite Margaret Sullavan in The Shop Around the Corner and again in The Mortal Storm, one of earliest of Hollywood's anti-Nazi films. He would go on to star in string of successful screwball comedies before he enlisted in the army on March 22, 1941. He was the first major Hollywood star to do so.
WORLD WAR II:
Although enlisted as a Private, Stewart's commercial pilot's license allowed him to apply to the Air Corps. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant after Pearl Harbor. Although the military assigned him to the March of Dimes rally to serve as a recruiting symbol, Stewart had other ideas. He would fight tooth and nail to serve active duty, something both his age (he was in his mid-thirties at the time) and stardom would make difficult. He would eventually be deployed overseas as a bomber pilot, flying 20-plus missions over Germany, and gaining a chest full of medals in the process. Although he would retire from active duty in 1946, he would remain in the Air Force Reserve for another 22 years, even flying non-combat missions in Vietnam. By the time Stewart retired from the military he had reached the rank of Brigadier General, the highest of rank of any entertainer in the U.S Military.
Jimmy Stewart returned to Hollywood a changed man. Although he remained as approachable and endearing as ever, gone was the shy, awe-shucks charm that captivated the movie going audience. With the memories of combat fresh in his mind, he began to explore the more in-depth complexities of his craft, taking on darker, more morally ambiguous roles. The first of such roles would come from none other than Frank Capra in the 1946 Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life. In the film, Stewart played George Bailey, a compassionate but frustrated down-on-his-luck banker who learns the true meaning of life. Thanks to countless years of Christmas Eve reruns, the film has become a staple in American culture and is perhaps Stewart's most associated performance. In 1948, he would team with Alfred Hitchcock for the film Rope, the first of their four films together. After a string of flops, Stewart returned to Broadway to play the lead role in Harvey, the story of man whose best friend is a 6-foot tall invisible rabbit. After the show's three year run, Stewart returned to Hollywood. In 1950, he starred in Anthony Mann's Winchester 73, playing a vengeful sharpshooter searching for his prized rifle. The film was a massive success and cemented Stewart's partnership with Mann. It also solidified Stewart's evolving screen persona, as more mature, edgier and morally ambiguous. Other notable Mann/Stewart Westerns are Bend of the River (1952) , The Naked Spur (1953), and The Far Country (1954).
In 1954, Stewart once again was teamed with Alfred Hitchcock for the film Rear Window. In this thriller masterpiece, Stewart plays Jefferies, an injured photographer who voyeuristically spies into the windows and lives of his New York City neighbors. The film was the highest grossing of the year and made Stewart the highest grossing actor of 1954, just ahead of John Wayne. Hitchcock and Stewart would work together twice more, in 1956's The Man who Knew Too Much and 1958's Vertigo, arguably the best of all Hitchcock films. Hitchcock, more than any other director, took a direct challenge to Stewart's on-screen persona, casting him as men who at times are doubtful of their morals, humanity, and sanity. Their work together is considered by many to be the best of their careers. In 1959, Stewart starred in Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder playing a lawyer defending a temperamental solider claiming temporary insanity after murdering his wife's rapist. The film was consider quite explicit for the time and marked his last Oscar nomination.
Throughout the 1960's, Stewart would continue to star in a number of westerns, his most notable ones being with director John Ford. Those films include 1961'a Two Rode Together with Richard Widmark and 1962's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance co-starring John Wayne. That year he also starred in the hit comedy Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. He would spend the remainder of the decade starring in a series of comedies and westerns. By the time the 1970's rolled around, Stewart semi-retired from film and worked in television, starring in his own short-lived sitcom, The Jimmy Stewart Show and the drama Hawkins. At this point he was also a frequent guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, famously rendering the talk show host teary-eared with his poem ÃÂBeau,ÃÂ a tribute to his dog. In 1984, Stewart was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award for ÃÂhis high ideals both on and off the screen.ÃÂ By the 1990's Stewart had all but dropped out of the pubic eye, deeply affected by the death of his wife, Gloria, in 1994. The two had been married since 1949 and was one of Hollywood's most enduring marriages. After years of failing health, Stewart died on July 2nd, 1997 in his Beverly Hills home. He was 89 years old.(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
STEWART / HITCHCOCK FILMS:
James Stewart starred in four films directed by Alfred Hitchcock: Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Vertigo (1958).
HONORS and AWARDS:.
James Stewart was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for Best Actor for The Philadelphia Story (as Mike Connor) in 1940.
|1939||Best Actor||Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)||Jefferson Smith||Nominated|
|1940||Best Actor||The Philadelphia Story (1940)||Mike Connor||Won|
|1946||Best Actor||It's a Wonderful Life (1946)||George Bailey||Nominated|
|1950||Best Actor||Harvey (1950)||Elwood P. Dowd||Nominated|
|1959||Best Actor||Anatomy of a Murder (1959)||Paul Biegler||Nominated|
He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. James Stewart's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #81 on Feb 13, 1948. In addition, Stewart was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 2007.
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Macaulay Connor: Don't kid yourself, they are.
Jefferson Smith: Dad always used to say the only causes worth fighting for were the lost causes.
Elwood P. Dowd: Miss Kelly, you know, when you wear my flower you make it look beautiful.
read more quotes from James Stewart...