Jimmy Stewart was born May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He was of Northern Irish heritage. His full name is James Maitland Stewart and he was the first movie star to ever enter World War II.
He joined the military one year before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Stewart had initially been rejected from the Air Force because he weighed 5 pounds less than the requirement. However, he was allowed in. Stewart’s military awards are impressive aside from his acting, including an Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and 7 battle stars. He also served in the Air Force Reserve before retiring as a brigadier general.
Some of Stewart’s other awards include the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, and the Best Actor Oscar in 1940. Stewart sent his Oscar to his father, who displayed it in his hardware shop for the next 25 years.
Stewart attended Princeton and graduated with a degree in Architecture.
Stewart is also unique because he never took an acting class. He believed that people could learn more by doing than learning and working than studying. Another unique trait of Stewart was his musical abilities. He played the accordian and was on the cheer squad at Princeton. He was also involved with the University Players.
Shortly after college, Stewart did some stock and stage work and then went to Hollywood where he signed a contract with MGM.
Stewart’s first big film came in 1938 with “Vivacious Lady” and “You Can’t Take it With You.”
The next year, Stewart appeared in five films, including: “Destry Rides Again”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “The Philadelphia Story.”
In 1940, Stewart won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “The Philadelphia Story.”
1946 was also an exceptional year for Stewart. His performance in “Its a Wonderful Life”, earned three nominations. His performance in “Harvey”, and “Anatomy of Murder” in the 1950’s also earned nominations.
Interestingly enough, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a boxoffice disappointment. Due to the lack of attention, Stewart changed his style and image through the films “Call Northside 777” and “Rope”. Other films that Stewart starred in after his military commitment included a number of Western films and “The Greatest Show on Earth” with Charlton Heston. Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and Novak’s “Rear Window” were also thrillers that Stewart stared in in the 1950’s.
Stewart was in three films with Hollywood cowboy, John Wayne. “The Man Who Shot LIberty Valance”, “How the West Was Won”, and “The Shootist.”
In 1984, Stewart was awarded with an honorary statute by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his high ideals both on and off the screen.
Stewart had four children and a wife, Gloria. Twin daughters named Kelly and Judy acted with Jimmy and Gloria in the 1961 film, “Password.” Gloria also had two sons prior to marrying Stewart who also appeared in the film. Her sons were later adopted by James Stewart.
Stewart and Gloria were married for almost forty-five years, ending with her death in 1994. Stewart’s last major performance included a vocal part in the 1991 animated classic, “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.”
Stewart died in 1997 in California.
Jimmy Stewart was well loved for his small town demeanor, and honest and polite attitude. Stewart said the public was his biggest critic and if they didn’t like his performance, he didn’t either.