JIMMY STEWART BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Jimmy Stewart was born James Maitland Stewart in Pennsylvania on May 20, 1908, the son of a hardware store owner, with Scottish Presbyterian roots.
He was always interested in music (his mother was an excellent pianist), and when his father received an accordion as a gift Jimmy learned how to play it, and often kept it backstage during his career as an actor.
It was during his time at Mercersburg Academy prep school, where he was involved in sports, the choir and glee club, and the literary society, when he made his theatrical debut playing the part of Buquet in the stage play, The Wolves.
Stewart was a member of the Class of 1932 of Princeton, where he studied architecture, but was soon drawn to the school’s drama and music clubs. Because of his acting and accordion playing talents he was invited to join the University Players, an intercollegiate summer stock company in Massachusetts, where he played bit parts in their productions during the summer of 1932. It was during his time with the University Players that Jimmy Stewart met Henry Fonda, a previous member of the Players. The play, ‘Goodbye Again’, had been tried out in the summer stock season, and when Stewart and Fonda moved to New York, where they shared an apartment, Jimmy was cast as a chauffeur in the play on Broadway. His miniscule role included two lines of dialogue.
According to Stewart, times were tough, and he is quoted as saying that from 1932 through 1934 he had only worked three months, with every play he was cast in folding. However, he did begin to get better roles, and when he was cast in his first dramatic stage role in ‘Yellow Jack’ he was convinced that he should continue his acting career.
Late in 1934 Bill Grady, an MGM scout, saw Jimmy perform on opening night in ‘Divided by Three’, and at his suggestion and with Henry Fonda’s encouragement, Stewart agreed to take a screen test. In April, 1935, Jimmy Stewart was signed to a seven-year contract with MGM as a contract player.
His first film role was in “The Murder Man” in 1935, with Spencer Tracy, and then in 1936 he appeared in “Rose Marie” starring the team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. His first substantial part was in “After the Thin Man” in 1936.
Jimmy Stewart had met actress Margaret Sullavan while with the University Players, and when they were reunited in Hollywood she pushed the studio to make him her leading man in the romantic comedy, “Next Time We Love” (1936). With her encouragement, Jimmy’s confidence grew, and she urged him to “be himself” in his roles. Around that same time he met Leland Hayward, who would become his agent, and who began loaning Jimmy out to other studios for roles.
Director Frank Capra saw Jimmy in “Navy Blue and Gold” in 1937, and realized he was just the type of actor he was looking for, and in 1938 Jimmy Stewart was loaned out to Columbia Pictures where he was cast by Frank Capra in “You Can't Take it with You”, along with comedienne Jean Arthur (the movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture). Capra was later quoted as saying, “I think he’s probably the best actor who’s ever hit the screen”.
The winning combination of Stewart, Arthur, and Capra was repeated in 1939’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, for which Jimmy was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. “Destry Rides Again” (Stewart’s first Western role), with Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, and “Made for Each Other”, with Stewart and Carole Lombard, were also released in 1939.
During this time period, between movies, Jimmy also began a radio career where his distinctive style of talking was soon recognized by many on shows such as “Lux Radio Theatre” and “The Screen Guild Theater”.
In 1940 Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart were teamed up for two movies: “The Shop Around the Corner” (fans will recognize the story in the more recent film, “You’ve Got Mail”); and “The Mortal Storm”. That same year he starred in “The Philadelphia Story” for which he would win the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Coinciding with the ending of his contract with MGM, Jimmy Stewart was drafted in late 1940. His ancestors on his mother’s side of the family had served in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War, and his father had served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I.
A licensed pilot since 1935, Jimmy was accepted into the United States Army Air Corps, and in 1941 was the first major American movie star to serve in World War II. Although at first he was assigned training and recruiting duties, he campaigned strongly and was finally assigned to an active military unit in 1943, and flew many combat missions with the 445th and 453rd Bombardment Groups.
After his discharge James Stewart would continue to be active in the United States Air Force Reserve, and attained the rank of Brigadier General in 1959. Jimmy Stewart retired from the Air Force in 1968 after twenty-seven years of service. His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
When he returned from the war in late 1945 Jimmy Stewart decided not to renew his contract with MGM, but rather signed with a talent agency. Not bound by contract to any studio, he was one of the first independent actors and was able to pick and choose his projects.
His first film after the war was his last with Frank Capra, “It's a Wonderful Life” (1946) co-starring with Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Ward Bond and a host of other great actors. The American Film Institute has declared the film to be one of the best movies ever made.
James Stewart returned to the stage and starred in “Harvey” for three years, and the play was adapted into film in 1950. Stewart received his fourth Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd.
Unsure of his ability to compete with the new crop of rising stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean, Stewart appeared in several movies such as “Magic Town” (1947), “On Our Merry Way” (1948) starring alongside Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, William Demarest, Dorothy Lamour and Victor Moore, and “You Gotta Stay Happy” (1949) co-starring Joan Fontaine, Roland Young, Eddie Albert and Percy Kilbride, none of which were successes, and he decided to return to the Western genre in the early 1950’s, with films such as “Broken Arrow” starring with Jeff Chandler, Debra Paget, Jay Silverheels, Arthur Hunnicutt and Will Geer.
“Winchester '73” in 1950 was Jimmy Stewart’s first film directed by Anthony Mann, which began a partnership that would produce other great movies such as ”Bend of the River” (1952), “The Far Country” (1954), and “The Man from Laramie” (1955). But their partnership was not limited to Westerns. They also collaborated on “The Glenn Miller Story” (1953) co-starring with June Allyson, Harry Morgan and George Tobias and featuring cameo appearance by Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa, “Thunder Bay” (1953), and “Strategic Air Command” (1955) also starring June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan and James Millican.
From 1953 to 1954 Jimmy Stewart was also starring in “The Six Shooter”, a Western radio show.
Another huge influence on his career was his work with director Alfred Hitchcock. They had worked together on the 1948 film, “Rope”, and went on to make “Rear Window” (1954), “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956), and “Vertigo” (1958) together.
John Ford directed Jimmy Stewart in several movies, notably “Two Rode Together” (1961) co-starring Richard Widmark, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962) co-starring John Wayne, Edmond O'Brien, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Woody Strode and Andy Devine, “How the West Was Won” (1962) narrated by Spencer Tracy and with a superb cast including Carroll Baker, Walter Brennan, Lee J. Cobb, Andy Devine, Henry Fonda, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, Harry Morgan, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, Eli Wallach, John Wayne and Richard Widmark, and “Cheyenne Autumn” (1964) co-starring Ricardo Montalban, Gilbert Roland, Carroll Baker, Richard Widmark, Sal Mineo, Karl Malden, Dolores del Rio, Victor Jory, John Carradine, Arthur Kennedy, Patrick Wayne and Edward G. Robinson.
In the 1960’s Jimmy Stewart starred in movies as part of a multi-movie deal with 20th Century Fox. These included “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” (1962) co-starring Maureen O'Hara, Fabian Forte and John Saxon, “Take Her, She's Mine” (1963) starring alongside Sandra Dee, Audrey Meadows, Robert Morley and Bob Denver, and “Dear Brigitte” (1965) starring with Glynis Johns, Ed Wynn, Fabian Forte and of course the woman who's name inspired the title, Brigitte Bardot.
Jimmy Stewart’s career in film covered many genres, including comedies, suspense, Westerns and family films. As his career in film began to wind down, he continued to make movies in various genres such as “The Flight of the Phoenix” in 1965 featuring Hardy Kruger, Peter Finch, Dan Duryea, George Kennedy, Richard Attenborough and Ernest Borgnine, “The Cheyenne Social Club” in 1970 co-starring Henry Fonda, Shirley Jones and Sue Ane Langdon, “The Shootist” with John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and Harry Morgan in 1976, “Airport '77” in 1977, and “The Big Sleep” with Robert Mitchum in 1978. In 1983 he starred with Bette Davis in “Right of Way”, the first made for cable movie.
Besides having been a live stage actor and a renowned movie star, Jimmy Stewart also appeared on television many times. He was a guest on the Jack Benny Program more than once in the 1950’s, and was a popular guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.
In 1972 he starred in “The Jimmy Stewart Show”, an NBC comedy that aired from 1971-1972, and from 1973-1974 in the CBS mystery “Hawkins”. He also filmed several television movies in the 1980’s, including “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas”.
His final role in film was as the voice of Sheriff Wylie Burp in “An American Tale: Fievel Goes West” in 1991. From 1935 to 1991 he appeared in 92 films, television programs, and shorts.
He was nominated five times for Academy Awards, in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, It's a Wonderful Life” starring alongside Donna Reed, “Harvey”, “Anatomy of a Murder” co-starring Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott and Arthur O'Connell and “The Philadelphia Story” starring with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. He won the Academy Award for his role in “The Philadelphia Story”, and also won a Golden Globe Award for the television series “Hawkins”.
He is the most represented leading actor on The American Film Institute’s 10 Top 10 lists, on their 100 Years / 100 Movies list, and on Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time list, and has been named the third Greatest Male Star of all time by AFI.
When Jimmy Stewart was 79 he was asked how he wanted to be remembered. He replied, “As someone who believed in hard work and love of country, love of family and love of community.”
Jimmy Stewart died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, on July 02, 1997.
JIMMY STEWART FILMOGRAPHY:
1934-1935 Lux Radio Theatre
1939-1952 The Screen Guild Theater
1953-1954 The Six Shooter
1935 The Murder Man
1936 Rose Marie
1936 Next Time We Love
1936 Wife vs. Secretary
1936 Small Town Girl
1936 The Gorgeous Hussy
1936 Born to Dance
1936 After the Thin Man
1937 Seventh Heaven
1937 The Last Gangster
1937 Navy Blue and Gold
1938 Of Human Hearts
1938 Vivacious Lady
1938 The Shopworn Angel
1938 You Can't Take It With You
1939 Made for Each Other
1939 The Ice Follies of 1939
1939 It's a Wonderful World
1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
1939 Destry Rides Again
1940 The Shop Around the Corner
1940 The Mortal Storm
1940 No Time for Comedy
1940 The Philadelphia Story
1941 Come Live with Me
1941 Pot o' Gold
1941 Ziegfeld Girl
1946 It's a Wonderful Life
1947 Magic Town
1948 Call Northside 777
1948 On Our Merry Way
1948 You Gotta Stay Happy
1949 The Stratton Story
1950 Winchester '73
1950 Broken Arrow
1950 The Jackpot
1951 No Highway in the Sky
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth
1952 Bend of the River
1952 Carbine Williams
1953 The Naked Spur
1953 Thunder Bay
1953 The Glenn Miller Story
1954 Rear Window
1954 The Far Country
1955 Strategic Air Command
1955 The Man from Laramie
1955 Artists and Models (cameo)
1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much
1957 The Spirit of St. Louis
1957 Night Passage
1958 Bell, Book and Candle
1959 Anatomy of a Murder
1959 The FBI Story
1960 The Mountain Road
1961 Two Rode Together
1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
1962 Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
1962 How the West Was Won
1963 Take Her, She's Mine
1964 Cheyenne Autumn
1965 Dear Brigitte
1965 The Flight of the Phoenix
1966 The Rare Breed
1970 The Cheyenne Social Club
1971 Fools' Parade
1976 The Shootist
1977 Airport '77
1978 The Big Sleep
1978 The Magic of Lassie
1981 The Green Horizon (voice only)
1991 An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
1950’s The Jack Benny Program
1962 Flashing Spikes
1971-1972 The Jimmy Stewart Show
1980 Mr. Krueger's Christmas
1983 Right of Way
1986 North and South, Book II