James Maitland Stewart was born on May 20, 1908, in Indiana, Pennsylvania, the son of Elizabeth Ruth and Alexander Maitland Stewart, who owned a hardware store. James was the eldest of three children and was expected to continue his father’s business, which had been in the family for three generations.
James was a shy child, spending most of his after-school time in the basement working on model airplanes, mechanical drawing and chemistry—all with a dream of going into aviation. However, he abandoned visions of being a pilot when his father insisted that instead of the United States Naval Academy he attend Princeton University. He enrolled at Princeton in 1928 and excelled at studying architecture, but he gradually became attracted to the school’s drama and music clubs, including the Princeton Triangle Club. James would go on to act in many plays none of which were great successes, but than in the spring of 1935 Stewart agreed to take a screen test, after which he signed a contract with MGM for up to seven years at $350 a week.
Stewart would go on to make many classic films for MGM including; Mr. Smith goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story, Rear Window and the Christmas classic, It’s a wonderful life just to name a few. In the year 1950 James Stewart took the lead in out film of the month. A comedy about a 6 foot rabbit named Harvey.
Harvey was based on based on Mary Chase’s play of the same name and followed Elwood P. Dowd (Stewart) is a middle-aged eccentric individual whose best friend is a púca is an invisible 6′ 3.5″ tall rabbit named Harvey. Elwood drives his sister and niece, who live with him to utter distraction by introducing everyone he meets to his friend, Harvey. This is a very funny and beautiful film.
In October 1940, Stewart was drafted into the United States Army but was rejected for failing to meet height and weight requirements for new recruits—Stewart was five pounds under the standard. He sought out the help of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s muscle man and trainer Don Loomis, but still came in under the weight requirement, although he persuaded the enlistment officer to run new tests, this time passing the weigh-in, with the result that Stewart enlisted and was inducted in the Army on March 22, 1941. He became the first major American movie star to wear a military uniform in World War II.
Stewart’s first assignment was an appearance at a March of Dimes rally in Washington, D.C., but Stewart desired assignment to an operational unit rather than serve as a recruiting symbol. As he was descended from veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War. He applied for and was granted advanced training in multi-engined aircraft. Stewart was posted to nearby Mather Field to instruct in both single- and twin-engined aircraft.
After World War II, at age 41, James married former model Gloria Hatrick McLean on August 9, 1949. The couple adopted her two sons, Michael and Ronald, and with Gloria he had twin daughters, Judy and Kelly, on May 7, 1951. The couple remained married until her death from lung cancer on February 16, 1994. After over two years without the love of his life in December 1996, Stewart was due to have the battery in his pacemaker changed, but opted not to, preferring to let things happen naturally. In February 1997, Stewart was hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. On June 25, a thrombosis formed in his right leg, leading to a pulmonary embolism seven days later. Surrounded by his children on July 2, 1997, Stewart died at the age of 89 at his home in Beverly Hills, California, with his final words to his family being “I’m going to be with Gloria now!”
James Stewart made a wide range of films from Thrillers to comedy, from heart-wrenching drama to musicals, from biographies to westerns. He was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won for Best Actor in the film “The Philadelphia Story” and a Lifetime achievement award.
If you have never seen a James Stewart film I implore you to check this amazing actor. Until next time this is Jason S. Lockard reminding you, if you want to see a good movie, check out a classic.
Moral Rating: Nothing offensive
Length: 1 Hour 45 Minutes