Nationality: American. Born: James Maitland Stewart in Indiana, Pennsylvania, 20 May 1908. Education: Attended Model School; Mercersburg Academy; Princeton University, New Jersey, B.S. in architecture 1932. Military Service: U.S. Air Force, 1942–45: colonel (remained in the reserves: brigadier general, 1959). Family: Married Gloria Hatrick McLean, 1949 (died 1994), twins: Kelly and Judy. Career: 1932—joined Joshua Logan's University Players in West Falmouth, Massachusetts: Broadway debut in the company's production of Carrie Nation ; 1935—in short Important News , then in feature Murder Man ; contract with MGM; 1947—on Broadway in Harvey (reprised in film version, 1951, and on stage later in his
This Side of Heaven (William K. Howard) (as Hal); Art Trouble (short)
Important News (Lawrence—short); Murder Man (Whelan) (as Shorty)
Rose Marie (Van Dyke) (as John Flower); Next Time We Love (Edward H. Griffith) (as Christopher); Wife versus Secretary (Brown) (as Dave); Small Town Girl (Wellman) (as Elmer); Speed (Marin) (as Terry Martin); The Gorgeous Hussy (Brown) (as "Rowdy" Roderick Dow); Born to Dance (Del Ruth) (as Ted Barker); After the Thin Man (Van Dyke) (as David Graham)
Seventh Heaven (Henry King) (as Chico); The Last Gangster (Wellman) (as Paul North Sr.); Navy Blue and Gold (Wood) (as "Truck" Cross)
Of Human Hearts (Brown) (as Jason Wilkins); Vivacious Lady (Stevens) (as Peter Morgan); The Shopworn Angel (Potter) (as Bill Pettigrew); You Can't Take It with You (Capra) (as Tony Kirby)
Made for Each Other (Cromwell) (as Johnny Mason); Ice Follies of 1939 (Schunzel) (as Larry Hall); It's a Wonderful World (Van Dyke) (as Guy Johnson); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Capra) (title role); Destry Rides Again (George Marshall) (as Tom Destry)
The Shop around the Corner (Lubitsch) (as Alfred Kralik); The Mortal Storm (Borzage) (as Martin Brietner); No Time for Comedy (Keighley) (as Gaylord Easterbrook); The Philadelphia Story (Cukor) (as Mike Connor)
Come Live with Me (Brown) (as Bill Smith); Pot o' Gold (George Marshall) (as Jimmy Kaskell); Ziegfeld Girl (Leonard) (as Gilbert Young)
Fellow Americans (short); Winning Your Wings (short)
It's a Wonderful Life (Capra) (as George Bailey)
Magic Town (Wellman) (as Lawrence "Rip" Smith)
Call Northside 777 (Hathaway) (as McNeal); 10,000 Kids and a Cop (doc); On Our Merry Way ( A Miracle Can Happen ) (King Vidor and Fenton) (as Slim); Rope (Hitchcock) (as Rupert Cadell); You Gotta Stay Happy (Potter) (as Marvin Payne)
The Stratton Story (Wood) (as Monty Stratton); Malaya (Thorpe) (as John Royer)
Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann) (as Lin McAdam); Broken Arrow (Daves) (as Tom Jeffords); Jackpot ( How Much Do You Owe? ) (Walter Lang) (as Bill Lawrence)
Harvey (Koster) (as Elwood Dowd); No Highway in the Sky ( No Highway ) (Koster) (as Theodore Honey)
The Greatest Show on Earth (Cecil B. DeMille) (as Buttons); Bend of the River (Anthony Mann) (as Glyn McLyntock); Carbine Williams (Thorpe) (as Marsh Williams)
The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann) (as Howard Kemp); Thunder Bay (Anthony Mann) (as Steve Martin)
The Glenn Miller Story (Anthony Mann) (title role); Rear Window (Hitchcock) (as L. B. Jeffries)
The Far Country (Anthony Mann) (as Jeff Webster); Strategic Air Command (Anthony Mann) (as Lt. Colonel Robert "Dutch" Holland); The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann) (as Will Lockhart)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock) (as Ben McKenna)
The Spirit of St. Louis (Wilder) (as Charles Lindbergh); Night Passage (Neilson) (as Grant McLaine)
Vertigo (Hitchcock) (as John "Scottie" Ferguson); Bell, Book and Candle (Quine) (as Shepherd Henderson)
Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger) (as Paul Biegler); The FBI Story (LeRoy) (as Chip Hardesty)
The Mountain Road (Daniel Mann) (as Major Baldwin)
Two Rode Together (Ford) (as Guthrie McCabe); X-15 (Richard Donner) (as narrator)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford) (as Ranson Stoddard); Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (Koster) (title role); Flashing Spikes (Ford—for TV) (as Slim Conway)
"The Rivers" ep. of How the West Was Won (Hathaway) (as Linus Rawlings); Take Her, She's Mine (Koster) (as Frank Michaelson)
Cheyenne Autumn (Ford) (as Wyatt Earp)
Dear Brigitte (Koster) (as Professor Robert Leaf); Shenandoah (McLaglen) (as Charlie); The Flight of the Phoenix (Aldrich) (as Frank Towns)
The Rare Breed (McLaglen) (as Sam Burnett)
Firecreek (McEveety) (as Johnny Cobb); Bandolero! (McLaglen) (as Mace Bishop)
The Cheyenne Social Club (Kelly) (as John O'Hanlan)
Fools' Parade (McLaglen) (as Mattie Appleyard); Directed by John Ford (Bogdanovich—doc) (as himself); The American West of John Ford (doc—for TV)
Harvey (Cook—for TV) (as Elwood P. Dowd)
Hawkins on Murder (Taylor—for TV) (as Billy Jim Hawkins)
That's Entertainment! (Haley—compilation) (as narrator)
The Shootist (Siegel) (as Dr. Hostetler)
Airport '77 (Jameson) (as Philip Stevens)
The Magic of Lassie (Chaffey) (as Clovis Mitchell); The Big Sleep (Winner) (as General Sternwood)
Mr. Krueger's Christmas (Merrill)
Afurika Monogatari ( A Tale of Africa ) (Hani) (as old man)
Right of Way (Schaefer—for TV)
An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West (Nibbelink and Wells—animation) (as voice of Wylie Burp)
A Century of Cinema (Thomas) (as himself)
Marlene Dietrich: Shadow and Light (Hurt—for TV) (as himself)
Jimmy Stewart and His Poems , New York, 1989.
"That's Enough for Me," interview in Films and Filming (London), April 1966.
Interview with N. P. Hurlez, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1984.
Interview with R. Comiskey, in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), January 1986.
Interview with David Denicolo, in Interview (New York), April 1990.
Interview with R. Neilsen, in Classic Images (Muscatine), August 1992.
Jones, Ken D., The Films of James Stewart , New York, 1970.
Thompson, Howard, James Stewart , New York, 1974.
Parish, James, and Don Stanke, The All-American , New Rochelle, New York, 1977.
Eyles, Allen, James Stewart , New York, 1984.
Hunter, Allan, James Stewart , New York, 1985.
Robbins, Jhan, Everybody's Man: A Biography of Jimmy Stewart , New York, 1985.
Le Hanaff, Ronan, James Stewart , Paris, 1986.
Thomas, Tony, A Wonderful Life: The Films and Career of James Stewart , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1988.
Headine, Doug, James Stewart , Paris, 1991.
Molyneaux, Gerard, James Stewart: A Bio-Bibliography , Westport, Connecticut, 1992.
Pickard, Roy, Jimmy Stewart: A Life in Film , New York, 1993.
Bingham, Dennis, Acting Male: Masculinities in the Films of James Stewart, Jack Nicholson, and Clint Eastwood , New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1994.
Coe, Jonathan, Jimmy Stewart, A Wonderful Life , New York, 1994.
Dewey, Donald , James Stewart: A Biography , 1996.
Sanello, Frank, Jimmy Stewart, A Wonderful Life, New York, 1997.
Fishgall, Gary, Pieces of Time: The Life of James Stewart , 1997.
Von Karajan, Ellen, Jimmy Stewart , New York, 1999.
Current Biography 1960 , New York, 1960.
Sweigart, William R., "James Stewart," in Films in Review (New York), December 1964.
Hall, D. J., "Box Office Drawl," and "Portrait of Human Frailty," in Films and Filming (London), December 1972, and January/February 1973.
Beaver, Jim, "James Stewart," in Films in Review (New York), October 1980.
Sarris, Andrew, "James Stewart," in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Cieutat, Michel, "James Stewart ou le bienfondé de l'Amérique," in Positif (Paris), October 1984.
Wolfe, C., "The Return of Jimmy Stewart: The Publicity Photograph as Text," in Wide Angle (Baltimore, Maryland), vol. 6, no. 4, 1985.
Larvor, M., "Capra et James Stewart: le mariage de l'Europe et du rêve américain," in Positif (Paris), July/August 1987.
Baxter, Brian, "James Stewart: A Wonderful Life," in Films and Filming (London), June 1988.
Denby, David, "Everybody's All-American," in Premiere (New York), February 1990.
Horton, Robert, "Mann & Stewart: Two Rode Together," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1990.
Hendrickson, Paul, "It's Been a Wonderful Life," in Life (New York), July 1991.
Stewart, J.B., "Endgame," in New Yorker , 25 November 1996.
Alter, J., "It's a Wonderful Legacy," obituary in Newsweek , 14 July 1997.
Ansen, D. "The All-American Hero," obituary in Newsweek , 14 July 1997.
Rubin, J., "Memories of Jimmy Stewart," in Classic Images (Muscatine), August 1997.
Kock, I. de, "No More Mister Nice Guy," obituary in Film & TV (Stockholm), September 1997.
Stedman, R. "An Officer and Two Gentlemen," obituary in Audience (Simi Valley), August/September 1997.
* * *
James Stewart has come a long way since his boyhood days in Pennsylvania. Starting out as an amateur magician and accordionist, he made his acting debut in a Boy Scout play and later performed in shows for the Princeton Triangle Club. He was graduated from Princeton in 1932 with a degree in architecture, but eventually joined the University Players at Falmouth, Massachusetts. It was here he befriended future stars Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan. Years later Sullavan would prove to be instrumental to Stewart's career by insisting that he be given parts in her films. In the years since his motion picture debut, James Stewart has earned a place in the hearts of moviegoing audiences as one of Hollywood's best-loved actors. His laconic style and boyish manner seem the embodiment of an uncomplicated honesty that also marked the career of his longtime friend, Henry Fonda (Stewart and Fonda were roommates in New York while working in the theater and also when they first arrived in Hollywood in 1935). Both men came to exemplify a uniquely American style of acting that takes simplicity and directness as its foundation.
Stewart's early screen appearances often found him playing rapidly forgettable callow youths. It was director Frank Capra who first recognized his special blend of bashful humor and underlying strength, and put it to use in several films that cast Stewart as the personification of American idealism. Capra's populist comedies, including You Can't Take It with You , Mr. Smith Goes to Washington , and It's a Wonderful Life , conveyed the director's belief in the fundamental decency of the common man, and Stewart's skill at combining warmth, humor, and pathos in his performances made him the perfect Capra hero. George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story demonstrated his flair for sophisticated comedy alongside Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.
Stewart received critical acclaim for It's a Wonderful Life , perhaps the quintessential Capra film, in which he gives a moving performance as a man on the verge of suicide whose faith in humanity is restored by a visit from a guardian angel. This movie has since become a holiday staple—being broadcast on television numerous times during the Christmas season. Stewart's air of earnest innocence lent itself naturally to stories of whimsical appeal, as his portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey confirmed. As the gentle alcoholic who believes himself befriended by an invisible six-foot white rabbit, Stewart displays an easy and engaging charm.
Stewart's work in a number of Westerns, including several with director Anthony Mann, drew on his image as a man of honor and with an unswerving sense of duty. Again, Stewart's deliberate manner and tall, lean form made him an effective presence in this uniquely American film genre. John Ford used Stewart's image to examine the truth behind the Western myth in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance , in which Stewart's character wins fame for an act that his friend, John Wayne, has performed.
Alfred Hitchcock also played on Stewart's familiar persona in four films that reveal a very different side to the actor's talents. In Rope he is cast as an intellectual gamesman whose musings on the "perfect crime" lead two young friends to commit a murder. Rear Window stars Stewart as a photographer ready to risk his fiancée's safety to satisfy his own voyeuristic curiosity, while in The Man Who Knew Too Much he is the desperate father of a kidnapped son. Vertigo , one of Hitchcock's finest films, features the actor as an emotionally tormented man obsessed with recreating the image of the woman he has lost. In all four films, there is an underlying edge to Stewart's characters, from his mildly paternalistic treatment of his wife in The Man Who Knew Too Much to his overtly disturbed behavior in Vertigo . The clash of these qualities with the image of Stewart we have come to expect makes his work for Hitchcock among his most challenging.
Stewart's long career was certainly one of Hollywood's most rewarding, and the actor's occasional interviews and television appearances only strengthed the warm regard in which he was held. With the continuing popularity of many of his best films, he remains a much-loved and much-admired figure in American cinema.
—Janet E. Lorenz, updated by Linda J. Stewart