James Maitland Stewart (1908-1997)
Born May 20, 1908, in Indiana, PA; son of Alexander Maitland
(a hardware store owner) and Elizabeth Ruth (Jackson) Stewart;
married Gloria Hatrick McLean,August 9, 1949;
children: Kelly, Judy (twin daughters);
May 20, 1908 - Indiana, Pennsylvania, United States
Date of Death
2 July 1997, Los Angeles, California, USA
(cardiac arrest and pulmonary embolism following
6' 3" (1.91 m)
His "aw shucks" demeanor has served him well as the good guy, the shy guy or the nice guy in films
like Harvey (1950) and You Can't Take It with You (1938). Alfred Hitchcock turned him into a dramatic
leading man in films like Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). Stewart also starred in his share of
westerns, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Naked Spur (1953) and The Man
from Laramie (1955).
An affable and modest performer, actor James Stewart has achieved international fame for portraying
the quintessential "ordinary man," a gawky hero whosestrengths are found amidst the throes of
adversity. In a career spanning fivedecades, Stewart has worked with many of Hollywood's finest
directors--including John Ford, Frank Capra, and Alfred Hitchcock--on numerous films that arenow
considered classics, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story, It's a Wonderful
Life, Destry Rides Again, and Vertigo. As JosephMcBride noted in his June, 1976, American Film
retrospective, Stewart's "ability to fit with ease into so many directors' worlds attests to the strength of
his personality and also to its depth; within the Stewart 'image' there aremany Stewarts, but ultimately
there is only one, underlying all of the roles." Michiko Kakutani described that one Stewart persona in
a January 9, 1985 New York Times article. Jimmy Stewart, wrote Kakutani, radiates a "quality
ofunadorned decency...that made him the ideal hero."
Stewart's off-screen life parallels those of some of his "Everyman" on screencreations. He was born in
1908 in tiny Indiana, Pennsylvania, the only childof a hardware store owner. He often recounts his
most vivid childhood memory--cleaning the stalls of his father's horses, and learning not to be afraid
of them. Stewart attended Princeton University and graduated with a degree inarchitecture in 1932.
Unable to land a job due to the Depression, he acceptedwork in summer stock theatre with a
Princeton friend, Joshua Logan. There hemet many struggling actors, including Henry Fonda,
Margaret Sullavan, and Myron McCormick, and he decided to try his hand in the theatre. In 1932,
Stewart and Fonda shared a room first in New York City and then in Hollywood, wheresuccess came
gradually for both.
As his fame increased, Stewart provided little grist for Hollywood gossip-mills. He remained a
scandal-free bachelor until the age of forty-one, then quietly married a divorced mother of two, Gloria
Hatrick McLean. The marriage, which produced twin daughters, has endured for more than thirty-five
years. Oneof the first Hollywood actors to be called for service in World War II, Stewart served
honorably as a bomber pilot. He flew twenty missions over Germany,rising from a private to a full
colonel. After the war, he continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve, eventually being promoted to
brigadier general--the highest military postion ever achieved by an American entertainer.
Conservative politically, Stewart supported the American involvement in Vietnam, remaining in favor of
the commitment even when his stepson died in that conflict. Stewart's war and family experiences, his
well-publicized devotion to pets,including Pie, the feisty horse he rode in most of his Westerns, served
to unite him with many members of his audience.
Though his bumbling persona has often been a convenient
target for mimics, Stewart has undergone considerable
evolution throughout his performing career. Kakutani
described this process in the New York Times: "The naifs and
country hicks he had become famous playing during the late
30s and 40s slowly gave way to more complicated, subtle
roles: grizzled rustlers and bounty hunters in a series of
westerns, and the clever, conflicted protagonists of such films
as Rear Window, Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder. If, in
Hitchcock's words, Mr. Stewart continued to stand for
'everyman in bizarre situations,' he had also matured into a
new kind of representative hero, still earnest and
well-meaning, but less sentimental and a good deal less
innocent than he had been in his youth." More recently,
Stewart has eschewed retirement for television and movie
roles, however small, that allow him to play "a grandfatherly
version of what he always was, the regular guy," according to
James Robert Parish and Ronald L. Bowers in The MGM
Stock Company: The Golden Era (Arlington House, 1973).
Stewart described his own reaction to his film roles in an
October 20, 1983 Christian Science Monitor interview:
"People have said, and I've felt it at times, there's a certain
vulnerability about a lot of my characters.
FILM DEBUT--The Murder Man, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 1935.
Credits; PRINCIPAL FILM APPEARANCES
Next Time We Love, Universal, 1936.
Rose Marie (retitled Indian Love Call), 1936.
Small Town Girl, MGM, 1936.
Wife Vs. Secretary, MGM, 1936.
Speed, MGM, 1936.
The Gorgeous Hussy, MGM, 1936.
Born to Dance, MGM, 1936.
The Last Gangster, MGM, 1937.
Seventh Heaven, MGM, 1937.
You Can't Take It with You, MGM, 1938.
The Shopworn Angel, MGM, 1938.
Vivacious Lady, 1938.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Columbia, 1939.
It's a Wonderful World, MGM, 1939.
Destry Rides Again, MGM, 1939.
Philadelphia Story, MGM, 1940.
The Shop Around the Corner, 1940.
Mortal Storm, 1940.
George Bailey, It's a Wonderful Life, RKO, 1946.
Magic Town, RKO, 1947.
Call Northside 777, 1948.
You Gotta Stay Happy, 1948.
Stratton Story, 1949.
Wincester 73, Universal, 1950.
Broken Arrow, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1950.
Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey, 1950.
No Highway in the Sky, 1952.
The Greatest Show on Earth, Paramount, 1952.
Carbine Williams, 1952.
Bend of the River, Universal, 1952.
Naked Spur, MGM, 1953.
Thunder Bay, Universal, 1953.
The Glenn Miller Story, Universal, 1954.
Rear Window, Universal, 1954.
Far Country, Universal, 1955.
Strategic Air Command, Paramount, 1955.
The Man from Laramie, Columbia, 1955.
The Man Who Knew Too Much, Paramount, 1956.
Spirit of St. Louis, Warner Brothers, 1957.
Night Passage, Universal, 1957.
Vertigo, Paramount, 1958.
Anatomy of a Murder, Columbia, 1959.
Bell, Book and Candle, Columbia, 1959.
F.B.I. Story, Warner Brothers, 1959.
The Mountain Road, Columbia, 1960.
Two Rode Together, Columbia, 1961.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Paramount, 1962.
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1962.
How the West Was Won, MGM, 1962.
Take Her, She's Mine, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1963.
Cheyenne Autumn, Warner Brothers, 1964.
Dear Brigitte, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1965.
Shenandoah, Universal, 1965.
The Rare Breed, Universal, 1966.
The Flight of the Phoenix, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1966.
Firecreek, Warner Brothers/Seven Arts, 1968.
Bandolero!, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1968.
Cheyenne Social Club, National General, 1970.
Fool's Parade, Columbia, 1971.
That's Entertainment, United Artists, 1974.
The Shootist, Paramount, 1976.
Airport '77, Universal, 1977.
The Big Sleep, United Artists, 1978.
The Magic of Lassie, 1978.
Mr. Krueger's Christmas, 1980 [Mr. Krueger]
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, 1991 [Wylie Burp] (voice)
Perhaps this creeps into so many of my pictures because I've tended to select this type of character,
because of my feelings about life." Reflecting on the notion of a "typical" Stewart character, he added:
"I see nothing wrong with that. Someone asked Spencer Tracy if he got tired of playing himself all the
time. He said, 'Who do you want me to play, Humphrey Bogart?' I feel it's all right to bring your own
style to a character."
In a career of many varied roles, perhaps two performances remain representative of Jimmy Stewart's
screen and stage presence. In It's a Wonderful Life, his own favorite film, Stewart plays George
Bailey, a struggling small-town businessman whose dreams of a wider world are stymied by the
myriad small setbacks of life. On the brink of suicide, George is rescued by a guardian angel who
shows him what his town would have been like had he never been born. Though not a box-office
success at its release, It's a Wonderful Life gained fans when it began to appear on television; it was
one of the first films selected for the controversial "colorization" process in 1986. Stewart's other
favorite, and somewhat representative, role is that of Elwood P. Dowd, a kindly tippler who keeps
company with a six-foot tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey. Stewart created the lead in Harvey on
Broadway in 1947, starred in the film version in 1950, and has played in the comedy off and on ever
since. "Whenever everything else fails, I can always drag out ol' Harvey," he told the New York Daily
News on October 23, 1977. "I've played in that so many times that white rabbit has become part of my
life. Whenever I feel blue, I turn around and Harvey's always there."
Stewart's work has been honored by numerous prestigious awards, including lifetime achievement
citations from the Cannes Film Festival and the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences. On May 24, 1985, he was honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, this nation's
highest civilian award. Reluctant to talk about his craft in the press, Stewart told American Film in June
of 1976 that he looks upon acting as a skill, not an art. He concluded: "Part of the skill, I've always
thought, is to make it so the acting doesn't show. As the skill develops, the acting...shows less, and
believability come sneaking into the thing. This is the magic." Stewart brought this "magic" to more
than seventy feature films, and, nearing the age of eighty, he continues to savor cameo roles. In The
MGM Stock Company: The Golden Era, he is quoted as saying: "I am James Stewart, playing James
Stewart. I couldn't mess around doing great characterizations. I play variations of myself."
inducted into the Delta films Hall of Fame - Actor
Walk of Fame - Star on the Walk of Fame Motion Picture
At 1700 Vine Street.
Film Society of Lincoln Center - Gala Tribute
National Board of Review, USA - Career Achievement Award
ShoWest Convention, USA - Lifetime Achievement Award
Academy Awards, USA - Honorary Award - For his fifty years of memorable performances,,
for his high ideals both on and off the screen, with respect and affection of his colleagues.
Golden Boot Awards - Golden Boot
Berlin International Film Festival - Honorary Golden Berlin Bear
American Film Institute, USA - Life Achievement Award
Golden Globes, USA - Golden Globe - Best TV Actor - Drama for: "Hawkins"
Hasty Pudding Theatricals, USA - Man of the Year
Golden Apple Awards - Golden Apple - Male Star of the Year (together with Robert S. Young)
Screen Actors Guild Awards - Life Achievement Award
Golden Globes, USA - Cecil B. DeMille Award
Laurel Awards - Golden Laurel - Male Star
Western Heritage Awards -Bronze Wrangler Theatrical Motion Picture
for: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Berlin International Film Festival - Silver Berlin Bear - Best Actor
for: Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
Laurel Awards - Golden Laurel - Top Male Dramatic Performance for: Anatomy of a Murder
New York Film Critics Circle Awards - NYFCC Award Best Actor for: Anatomy of a Murder
Venice Film Festival - Volpi Cup Best Actor for: Anatomy of a Murder
San Sebastián International Film Festival - Zulueta Prize Best Actor for: Vertigo
Tied with Kirk Douglas for The Vikings
Photoplay Awards - Most Popular Male Star for: The Stratton Story
Academy Awards, USA - Oscar - Best Actor in a Leading Role for: The Philadelphia Story
New York Film Critics Circle Awards - NYFCC Award - Best Actor
for: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington