Today is the 109th birthday of Jimmy Stewart. Chances are that one of your favorite classic movies also happens to be one of his. Some of my favorites of his are: After The Thin Man, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Philadelphia Story, Rear Window and The Man Who Knew Too Much. I could have gone on naming more, I could have just copied his IMDB listings and it would have been accurate. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Jimmy Stewart
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor
BIRTH DATE: May 20, 1908
DEATH DATE: July 2, 1997
EDUCATION: Princeton University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Indiana, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California
GOLDEN GLOBE: 1974 for Hawkins
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME: 1708 Vine St.
KENNEDY CENTER HONOR: 1983
PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDM: 1985
OSCAR: for Best Actor 1941 for The Philadelphia Story
BEST KNOWN FOR: Jimmy Stewart was a major motion-picture star known for his portrayals of diffident but morally resolute characters in films such as It’s a Wonderful Life.
One of film’s most beloved actors, Jimmy Stewart made more than 80 films in his lifetime. He was known for his everyman quality, which made him both appealing and accessible to audiences. Stewart grew up in the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his father operated a hardware store.
Stewart got his first taste of performing during his time as a young man. At Princeton University, he acted in shows as a member of the Triangle Club, which put on shows. Stewart earned a degree in architecture in 1932, but he never practiced the trade. Instead he joined the University Players in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the summer after he graduated. There Stewart met fellow actor Henry Fonda, who became a lifelong friend.
That same year, Stewart made his Broadway debut in Carrie Nation. The show didn’t fare well, but he soon found more stage roles. In 1935, Stewart landed a movie contract with MGM and headed out west.
In his early Hollywood days, Stewart shared an apartment with Henry Fonda. The tall, lanky actor worked a number of films before co-starring with Eleanor Powell in the 1936 popular musical comedy Born to Dance. The movie featured the Cole Porter hit “Easy to Love.” Another career breakthrough came with Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You (1938). This comedy won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and made Stewart a star.
Stewart also played the lead in Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). In this film, he portrayed a young, idealistic politician who takes on corruption. Stewart received his first Academy Award nomination for this film. The following year, he took home Oscar gold for The Philadelphia Story. Stewart co-starred with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, two other major movie stars, in the romantic comedy.
From 1941 to 1946, Stewart took a break from his acting career to serve in World War II. He joined the U.S. Air Force and rose up through the ranks to become a colonel by war’s end. In 1946, Stewart returned to the big screen with It’s a Wonderful Life directed by Frank Capra. This film tells the story about a man brought back from the verge of suicide by a guardian angel and visions of the world without him. It was a disappointment at the box office, but it became a holiday favorite over the years. Stewart reportedly considered it to be one of his favorite films.
Stewart soon starred in Harvey (1950), a humorous movie about a man with an imaginary rabbit for a friend. But he seemed to be less interested in doing this type of lighthearted film in his later career. Stewart sought out grittier fare after the war, appearing in Anthony Mann’s westerns Winchester ’73 (1950) and Broken Arrow (1950). He also became a favorite of director Alfred Hitchcock, who cast in several thrillers. They first worked together on Rope (1948). Vertigo (1958) is considered by many to be Hitchcock’s masterpiece and one of Stewart’s best performances. The following year, Stewart also won rave reviews for his work in Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder.
In the 1970s, Stewart made two attempts at series television. He starred on The Jimmy Stewart Show, a sitcom, which ran from 1971 to 1972. The following year, he switched to drama with Hawkins. Stewart played a small-town lawyer on the show, which proved to be short-lived. Around this time, he also made a few film appearances. Stewart worked opposite John Wayne, Lauren Bacall and Ron Howard in the 1976 western The Shootist.
Stewart became the recipient of numerous tributes during the 1980s for his substantial career. In 1984, Steward picked up an honorary Academy Award “for his high ideals both on and off the screen.” By the 1990s, Stewart had largely stepped out of the public eye. He was deeply affected by the death of his wife Gloria in 1994. The couple had been married since 1949 and had twin daughters together. He also became a father to her two sons from a previous marriage. Jimmy and Gloria Stewart were one of Hollywood’s most enduring couples, and his apparent love and commitment to her added to his reputation as an upstanding and honorable person.
Poor health plagued Stewart in his final years. He died on July 2, 1997, in Beverly Hills, California. While he may be gone, his movies have lived on and inspired countless other performers. Stewart’s warmth, good humor and easy charm have left a lasting impression on American pop culture.
Hawkins Billy Jim Hawkins (1973-74)
The Jimmy Stewart Show Jim Howard (professor, 1971-72)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (21-Nov-1991) · Wylie Burp [VOICE]
North and South II (4-May-1986)
Right of Way (21-Nov-1983)
The Green Horizon (19-Jul-1980)
The Magic of Lassie (2-Aug-1978)
The Big Sleep (13-Mar-1978)
Airport ’77 (11-Mar-1977) · Philip Stevens
The Shootist (11-Aug-1976)
That’s Entertainment! (23-May-1974) · Himself
Fools’ Parade (18-Aug-1971)
The Cheyenne Social Club (12-Jun-1970)
Firecreek (24-Jan-1968) · Johnny Cobb
The Rare Breed (2-Feb-1966) · Burnett
The Flight of the Phoenix (15-Dec-1965) · Frank Towns
Dear Brigitte (8-Jan-1965)
Cheyenne Autumn (3-Oct-1964) · Wyatt Earp
Take Her, She’s Mine (13-Nov-1963) · Frank Michaelson
How the West Was Won (1-Nov-1962) · Linus Rawlings
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (15-Jun-1962) · Mr. Hobbs
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (22-Apr-1962) · Ransom Stoddard
X-15 (22-Dec-1961) · Narrator [VOICE]
Two Rode Together (26-Jul-1961) · Sheriff Guthrie McCabe
The Mountain Road (Jun-1960)
The FBI Story (25-Jan-1960) · Chip Hardesty
Anatomy of a Murder (1-Jul-1959) · Paul Biegler
Bell Book and Candle (19-Dec-1958) · Shepherd Henderson
Vertigo (9-May-1958) · John “Scottie” Ferguson
Night Passage (24-Jul-1957)
The Spirit of St. Louis (20-Apr-1957) · Charles Lindbergh
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1-Jun-1956)
The Man from Laramie (31-Aug-1955) · Will Lockhart
Strategic Air Command (25-Mar-1955) · Lt. Col. Robert Holland
The Far Country (4-Oct-1954) · Jeff
Rear Window (1-Aug-1954) · L. B. Jeffries
The Glenn Miller Story (10-Dec-1953) · Glenn Miller
The Naked Spur (3-Aug-1953) · Howard Kemp
Thunder Bay (21-May-1953)
Carbine Williams (May-1952)
Bend of the River (23-Jan-1952)
The Greatest Show on Earth (10-Jan-1952)
No Highway in the Sky (21-Sep-1951) · Theodore Honey
The Jackpot (1-Nov-1950) · Bill Lawrence
Harvey (13-Oct-1950) · Elwood P. Dowd
Broken Arrow (21-Jul-1950) · Tom Jeffords
Winchester ’73 (12-Jul-1950) · Lin McAdam
Malaya (27-Dec-1949) · John Royer
The Stratton Story (12-May-1949)
You Gotta Stay Happy (28-Oct-1948)
Rope (28-Aug-1948) · Rupert Cadell
On Our Merry Way (3-Feb-1948) · Slim
Call Northside 777 (1-Feb-1948) · P .J. McNeal
Magic Town (7-Oct-1947) · Rip Smith
It’s a Wonderful Life (20-Dec-1946) · George Bailey
Ziegfeld Girl (25-Apr-1941) · Gilbert Young
Pot o’ Gold (3-Apr-1941) · Jimmy Haskell
Come Live With Me (29-Jan-1941) · Bill Smith
The Philadelphia Story (1-Dec-1940) · Macaulay Connor
No Time for Comedy (7-Sep-1940)
The Mortal Storm (14-Jun-1940) · Martin Breitner
The Shop Around the Corner (12-Jan-1940) · Alfred Kralik
Destry Rides Again (29-Dec-1939) · Tom Destry, Jr.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (17-Oct-1939) · Jefferson Smith
It’s a Wonderful World (19-May-1939) · Guy Johnson
The Ice Follies of 1939 (10-Mar-1939) · Larry Hall
Made for Each Other (10-Feb-1939) · Johnny Mason
You Can’t Take It with You (23-Aug-1938) · Tony Kirby
The Shopworn Angel (15-Jul-1938) · Bill Pettigrew
Vivacious Lady (13-May-1938) · Peter
Of Human Hearts (5-Feb-1938) · Jason Wilkins
Navy Blue and Gold (19-Nov-1937)
The Last Gangster (12-Nov-1937) · Paul North
Seventh Heaven (25-Mar-1937)
After the Thin Man (25-Dec-1936) · David
Born to Dance (27-Nov-1936) · Ted Barker
The Gorgeous Hussy (28-Aug-1936) · “Rowdy” Dow
Speed (8-May-1936) · Terry Martin
Small Town Girl (10-Apr-1936)
Wife vs. Secretary (28-Feb-1936) · Dave
Next Time We Love (30-Jan-1936)
Rose-Marie (28-Jan-1936) · John Flower
The Murder Man (12-Jul-1935)