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Rope DVD James Stewart, Farley Granger and John Dall star in this macabre spellbinder,... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

The Man Who Knew Too Much... An Alfred Hitchcock MasterpieceJames Stewart and Doris Day give magnificent... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

The Rare Breed DVD Universal Western CollectionVeteran western director Andrew V. McLaglen puts his... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

Shenandoah DVD Universal Western CollectionWith the integrity and depth of an epic, Shenandoah... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

Bend Of The River DVD Universal Western CollectionMan-with-a-past James Stewart guides a band of... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

The Far Country DVD Universal Western CollectionJames Stewart and Walter Brennan are a loner and his... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

Also Known As: Jamie Stewart, James M Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Died: July 2, 1997
Born: May 20, 1908 Cause of Death: blood clot in lungs
Birth Place: Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA Profession: actor, author, colonel, bomber pilot, brigadier general

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

James Stewart was arguably the most loved actor ever to have appeared on screen. Certainly, he was the last of the great men who captured audience hearts in the throes of the Depression and became, in the words of Andrew Sarris, "the most complete actor-personality in the American cinema." Stewart's origins read like cliches; he was born in 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, the son of the local hardware store owner (his Oscar has permanently resided in the store, which has been in the family for generations). While studying architecture at Princeton (his father's alma mater), he met Joshua Logan, who convinced him to begin acting. Billy O'Grady, MGM's chief talent scout, saw his performance in a line of female impersonators and remembered him as "the only one who didn't ham it up." Bitten at last by the drama bug, Stewart moved with Logan to summer stock work with the University Players in Falmouth, MA, joining future co-stars Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan. That summer a production had a pre-Broadway tryout at Falmouth and Stewart, as a chauffeur, had two lines: "Mrs. Mainwaring's car is waiting" and, after being delayed, "Mrs. Mainwaring's going to be sore as hell." It tore down the house and...

James Stewart was arguably the most loved actor ever to have appeared on screen. Certainly, he was the last of the great men who captured audience hearts in the throes of the Depression and became, in the words of Andrew Sarris, "the most complete actor-personality in the American cinema."

Stewart's origins read like cliches; he was born in 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, the son of the local hardware store owner (his Oscar has permanently resided in the store, which has been in the family for generations). While studying architecture at Princeton (his father's alma mater), he met Joshua Logan, who convinced him to begin acting. Billy O'Grady, MGM's chief talent scout, saw his performance in a line of female impersonators and remembered him as "the only one who didn't ham it up." Bitten at last by the drama bug, Stewart moved with Logan to summer stock work with the University Players in Falmouth, MA, joining future co-stars Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan.

That summer a production had a pre-Broadway tryout at Falmouth and Stewart, as a chauffeur, had two lines: "Mrs. Mainwaring's car is waiting" and, after being delayed, "Mrs. Mainwaring's going to be sore as hell." It tore down the house and was noticed and written up by a visiting New York critic. Stewart and Fonda moved to New York, where Hedda Hopper recommended Jimmy for a screen test, resulting in a long-term MGM contract.

From the first, Stewart's performances stood out: raw, edgy, full of nervous, boyish energy. Tall, skinny and not conventionally handsome, he nonetheless possessed an engaging, approachable charisma and a naturalistic warmth. While his rivals played with masculine understatement, Stewart mirrored the vital excesses of those most American of rising actresses--Crawford, Davis, Rogers, Hepburn.

Audiences first took note of him as Eleanor Powell's leading man in 1936's "Born to Dance". Everyone at Metro at least had to "try" musicals; Stewart, singing--sort of--introduced Cole Porter's "Easy to Love". He was hopeless, but the public found him adorable.

Most of Stewart's big breaks came away from MGM: George Stevens's "Vivacious Lady", at RKO with Ginger Rogers, and Frank Capra's "You Can't Take it With You", at Columbia (both 1938); David O. Selznick's "Made For Each Other" (1939), opposite Carole Lombard; Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (his greatest pre-WWII performance), with Jean Arthur, at Columbia; and "Destry Rides Again", taming Marlene Dietrich and the west at Universal (both 1939). MGM rallied with two winners, both co-starring Sullavan: Ernst Lubitsch's entrancing "The Shop Around the Corner" and Frank Borzage's haunting "The Mortal Storm" (both 1940). George Cukor's "The Philadelphia Story" followed. Stewart surprised the industry and himself, winning a Best Actor Oscar, despite being second lead to Cary Grant.

At age 33, Stewart enlisted as private and rose to colonel in the Air Force, leading one thousand plane strikes against Germany; Stewart won the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In his later years he gradually rose in rank in the reserves until he retired a brigadier general.

After the war, Stewart contributed what is undoubtedly his best-known performance, in Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), a film and a performance full of postwar angst and visions of youthful dreams dashed yet also showing the compensations bound up with overlooked achievements. He would later deliver a speech before Congress protesting the film's colorization.

Postwar audiences no longer wanted sentiment. Stewart vigorously changed his image, turning hard-bitten for "Call Northside 777" and working for Hitchcock in "Rope" (both 1948). He returned to Broadway to replace Frank Fay in the whimsical "Harvey" and, before filming the 1950 movie version, made the first two westerns of many that would follow, both of which were hugely popular. Stewart also turned in a heart-tugging performance as a clown in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1951).

In 1952, Stewart's agent Leland Hayward successfully negotiated an agreement with Universal for Stewart to work on a percentage basis--a first for the sound era. Every star in the business stampeded to do the same, something which Stewart felt signified the last hurrah for the studio system. He still looks back on his "factory years", though, with clear nostalgia and gratitude.

The next phase of Stewart's career saw some of his most complex roles, for directors such as Hitchcock, Otto Preminger (1959's "Anatomy of a Murder" earned him a best actor award from the New York Critics--his second--and the Venice Film Festival), John Ford, Robert Aldrich and, most prolifically, Anthony Mann. His famous gawky, stammering mannerisms took on an extra interest for being filtered through toughness, cynicism and world-weariness. Though there have been occasional flops, he has undoubtedly proved his ability to transcend bad material, and to add an intriguing tang of both homespun idealism and even nasty bitterness to seemingly routine genre situations.

Stewart married his wife Gloria in 1949 and had four children. In 1970, he revived "Harvey" on Broadway with Helen Hayes and did occasional TV work, notably "The Jimmy Stewart Show" (NBC, 1971-72) and 1983's powerful TV-movie "Right of Way" (HBO), with Bette Davis.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Fonda On Fonda (1992)
2.
 American Tail: Fievel Goes West, An (1991) Voice Of Wylie Burp
4.
 Right of Way (1983) Teddy Dwyer
5.
 Going Hollywood: The War Years (1983) Himself (Archival Footage)
6.
 Magic Of Lassie, The (1978) Clovis Mitchell
7.
 Big Sleep, The (1978) General Guy Debrisai Sternwood
8.
 Airport '77 (1977) Stevens
9.
 The Shootist (1976) Dr Hostetler
10.
 That's Entertainment! (1974) Narration
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Stage acting debut in Boy Scout play
:
Joined director Joshua Logan's University Players in Falmouth, Massachusetts, acting with future film co-stars Margaret Sullavan and Henry Fonda
1932:
Professional stage acting debut in "Goodbye Again" with University Players in Cape Cod; also in play when it moved to Broadway
1932:
Moved to NYC with roommate Henry Fonda; Broadway acting debut in "Carrie Nation"
1934:
Moved to Hollywood; film debut (walk-on part) in "Art Trouble"
1935:
Film acting debut, "The Murder Man"
1936:
First lead in an 'A' budget motion picture, "Born to Dance", a musical starring Eleanor Powell
1938:
Made first of three films with director Frank Capra, "You Can't Take It With You"
1939:
First Western, "Destry Rides Again"
1939:
Garnered first Oscar nomination for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
1940:
Turned in Academy Award-winning turn as a reporter covering a society wedding in "The Philadelphia Story"
1941:
Last film before war service, "Ziegfeld Girl"
1941:
Became first Hollywood screen actor drafted into US Army (March 22)
1942:
Was a bomber pilot during WWII; achieved rank of full colonel
:
Replaced Frank Fay in Broadway run of "Harvey" in the late 1940s
1946:
First film after WWII service, "It's a Wonderful Life", his last film with Capra; received third Academy Award nomination as Best Actor
1948:
First of four films with director Alfred Hitchcock, "Rope"
:
Appeared in many Westerns during the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with such films as "Broken Arrow" (1950)
1950:
Made first of eight films with director Anthony Mann, "Winchester '73"
1950:
Starred in film version of hit Broadway play "Harvey"; received Oscar nomination as Best Actor
1952:
Cast as Buttons the Clown in Cecil B, DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth"
1954:
Reunited with Hitchcock for "Rear Window"
1954:
Had title role in the biopic "The Glenn Miller Story", directed by Anthony Mann
1956:
Co-starred with Doris Day in Hitchcock's remake of "The Man Who Knew Too Much"
1957:
Portrayed Charles Lindberg in "The Spirit of St. Louis", helmed by Billy Wilder
1958:
Last film with Alfred Hitchcock, "Vertigo"
1959:
Garnered fifth and final Best Actor Academy Award nomination for work as a lawyer in "Anatomy of a Murder"
1961:
First worked with director John Ford in "Two Rode Together"
1962:
Had co-starring role in "How the West Was Won"
1962:
Starred with John Wayne in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"
1964:
Last film with Ford, "Cheyenne Autumn"
1968:
Retired from military reserve service with the rank of brigadier general
1970:
Returned to Broadway in revival of "Harvey"
:
Starred in NBC series, "The Jimmy Stewart Show"
:
Returned to series TV as a detective in the CBS drama "Hawkins"
1975:
London stage debut, "Harvey"
1978:
Final feature acting role, the grandfather in "The Magic of Lassie"
1983:
Teamed with Bette Davis in the HBO original "Right to Die"
1986:
Had last TV acting role in the ABC miniseries "North and South: Book II"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Mercersburg Academy: Mercersburg , Pennsylvania -
Princeton University: Princeton , New Jersey - 1932

Notes

"I am James Stewart, playing James Stewart. I couldn't mess around doing great characterization. I play variations of myself. Audiences have come to expect certain things from me and are disappointed if they don't get them." --James Stewart in "The MGM Stock Company"

James Stewart on Frank Capra: "Without any doubt he was the greatest director I ever knew. He was able to do things like no one else. He had a very solid sense of values, real values like family and friends and community and God, and because of his remarkable gift for humor he was able to get all of those values into his pictures without ever appearing to preach".

Became brigadier general in Air Force Reserves from 1959 until he retired in 1968. (Highest-ranking Hollywood entertainer in the US military.)

Voted one of Top Ten Money-Making Stars (Motion Picture Herald-Fame Poll) in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1957 and Top Money-Making star in 1955

"In the Fifties, Stewart was the first of the big-league stars to make a modern percentage deal on his filmmaking but it was with Universal and not MGM." --From "The MGM Stock Company"

He received the Croix de guerre with the Palm Award in 1985.

Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in 1985.

He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Monterey Film Festival (1988).

Given Palm Springs International Film Festival's Desert Palm Achievement Award in 1992.

He was decorated with Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Stewart was posthumously honored by a resolution that was passed by the US House of Representatives.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Norma Shearer. Actor. Had relationship after death of her husband Irving Thalberg.
companion:
Olivia de Havilland. Actor. Dated in the early 1940s.
wife:
Gloria Stewart. Married on August 9, 1949; had been previously married (with two sons from that marriage); died in February 1994 from cancer at the age of 75.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Alexander Maitland Stewart. Hardware store owner.
mother:
Elizabeth Stewart.
step-son:
Michael McLean.
step-son:
Ronald McLean. Killed in Vietnam in June 1969.
daughter:
Judy Stewart. Born in 1951; twin of Kelly.
daughter:
Kelly Stewart. Born in 1951; twin of Judy; holds a PhD and teaches zoology at the University of California.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Jimmy Stewart and His Poems"
"The Films of James Stewart" Castle Books
"James Stewart: A Biography" Turner Publishing
"James Stewart: Behind the Scenes of a Wonderful Life"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Contributions

Pat222 ( 2008-04-04 )

Source: not available

Jimmy Stewart: A Biography, by Marc Eliot. 2006. Harmony Books

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