I do not think there is another Hollywood actor more liked than James Stewart. Not only was he a brilliant entertainer, he was an American patriot who served alongside thousands to preserve our freedom. From all accounts he was as soft spoken and kind in his personal life as he was in the characters he portrayed in his films.
James Maitland Stewart was born May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania into a traditional family with small town values. His parents had hoped he would take over the family hardware store after college.
Although Stewart had dreams of a career in aviation, his father insisted he attend his Alma Mater, Princeton. He participated in sports, music, and art activities but especially enjoyed performing in summer stock theater. After graduation in 1932, he moved to New York.
Stewart met and roomed with his friend Henry Fonda while both were working on Broadway in New York City. By 1936 he had joined Fonda in Hollywood with offers arriving for co-starring roles in motion pictures with Katherine Hepburn, Carol Lombard, and Ginger Rogers.
Stewart was drafted into the United States Army in 1940 but was rejected because he was just under the minimum weight limit. With the assistance of MGM trainers, he was able to gain enough weight to be accepted into the U.S. Army Air Corp. Read More James Stewart’s Military Service
His first western, “Destry Rides Again”, was followed closely by the Frank Capra film, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. His next success was in “The Philadelphia Story” in which he did receive a Best Actor Academy Award. His friend, Henry Fonda had also been nominated for his role in “The Grapes of Wrath”
It was 1950 that Jimmy began a five film collaboration with director Anthony Mann in “Winchester 73.” This was his first western since “Destry Rides Again.” The Winchester rifle made in 1873 is called the “Gun That Won the West.” Read More On Winchester Rifle Here.
Another 1950 western “Broken Arrow” is said to be the first film since WWII to portray the Native Americans sympathetically. Based on historical figures, Stewart plays an ex-soldier and Indian agent trying to make peace with the Apache.
Completing his five Westerns collaboration with the director Anthony Mann during the fifties were Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954), and The Man From Laramie (1955). This style of film making and acting is responsible for the fifties cowboy’s more realistic portrayal of the Old West.
In 1949, Stewart married a former model, adopted her two sons, and in 1951 had twin daughters with his beloved Gloria. They remained married until her death in 1994.
It is said the advise he gave his daughters as they left for college was, “Be nice to people.”
James Stewart lived this motto until his death on July 2, 1997 at the age of 89.