My Jimmy Stewart Project

Ok, time to come clean.

I love James Stewart.

He is the All-American Everyman to many, but I think of him as a very versatile actor. While not classically handsome like a Cary Grant, I find him insanely attractive. He had that personality on screen of the friendly gentleman, but being Princeton educated there was a sense of high intelligence there as well. He was a war hero, having enlisted in the Army Air Corps in WWII and flying 20 combat missions in Europe.

Jimmy Stewart worked with some of the greatest actors and directors of his time. He was great friends with Henry Fonda, despite the two having opposing political views. They worked together three times on screen, the first time in the little-known On Our Merry Way (1948) and then twice in westerns: Firecreek (1966) and The Cheyenne Social Club (1970). Nominated five times for the Academy Award, he won for his comedic role in The Philadelphia Story (1940), starring alongside Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Stewart worked with Hitchcock four times, two of those times producing classics: Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). He paired with John Wayne and director John Ford for one of my favorite westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962). Some of his most famous westerns were collaborations with Anthony Mann. He did Anatomy of a Murder (1959) with Otto Preminger. So you can see just a small sampling of the directing talent he worked with.

But it is perhaps Frank Capra who defined James Stewart in the public eye, and has helped insure his longevity as a screen legend. They first paired up when Capra got MGM to loan the young actor to Columbia for You Can’t Take It With You (1938). It was the following year’s teaming that launched him into superstardom, and into film immortality as Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939).

Their final work together is the only film to have made me cry, and the one that most people would recognize. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) is the ideal Jimmy Stewart role: the small town boy, unwavering in the right, handsome and charming yet humble.

In another one of my favorite Stewart movies, Harvey (1950), his character, Elwood P. Dowd gives this advice:

“In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart, I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

I think that sums up Jimmy Stewart to me. His films, and the man, were oh so pleasant.

So, I am working through his entire life of work. It’s something around 80+feature films. I’ve seen 31, so I’m slowing getting there. I hope to share some of my favorites that I have already seen, as well as writing about some of these films as I experience them.

Jimmy and his longtime western mount, Pie

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6 Responses to My Jimmy Stewart Project

  1. Joel Burman says:

    This is a really interesting task! I bet some of his old movies are kind of hard to find?

    • Probably, but I’m sure there are ways to get them. TCM has helped a lot, and I think I’ll eventually have to go through the Warner Archives for a few titles, but I’m getting close to the point where I’ll have to sit down with the list and do some research as to possible leads for getting films.

  2. Tom says:

    Hooray! I’m working on the same goal – to see all his movies. I know all his theatrical features can be found, but it’s the TV movies and programs that are the hardest to come by. One day I’d love to see all 24 episodes of his 1970s Jimmy Stewart Show.

    • Yes, I think I stumbled upon and bookmarked your blog a few weeks ago. It’s been a really fun project for me so far, and I’ve gotten a really good sampling of classic film directors and other actors just from Jimmy’s movies.

  3. J says:

    Excellent, excellent actor! I have rarely seen him in anything where I didn’t enjoy watching him on screen! Even my husband, who is normally anti-classic movies can be won over my mentioning Jimmy as part of the cast!

    • He really is amazing, right? I don’t think I’ve seen him give a bad performance, even though there have been some bad movies of his. A lot of range as an actor, and from everything I’ve heard, as much of a gentleman in real life as he was on screen.

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