- born: 20/May/1908 (Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA)
- died: 02/Jul/1997 (Los Angeles, California, USA)
James Maitland "Jimmy" Stewart was a highly acclaimed Academy Award-winning American film and stage actor, best known for his homebred screen persona. Over the course of his career, he starred in many films widely considered classics and was nominated for five Oscars, winning one in competition and one life achievement.
Along with fellow screen icon James Cagney, Stewart became so familiar to American audiences that he was most often referred to by them as "Jimmy" Stewart -- a billing never found on the credits of any of his films. While technically incorrect, the public's use of the 'nickname' was a testimony to Stewart's popularity.
Born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, he first pursued a career as an architect before being drawn to the theater in college. His first success came as an actor on Broadway, before making his Hollywood debut in 1935. Stewart's career gained momentum after his well-received Frank Capra films, including his Academy Award nominated role in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". Throughout his seven decades in Hollywood, Stewart cultivated a versatile career and recognized screen image in such classics as "The Philadelphia Story", "Harvey", and "Vertigo".
Stewart left his mark on a wide range of film genres, including screwball comedy, westerns, and suspense thrillers. He worked for a number of renowned directors later in his career, including Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, and Anthony Mann. He was awarded many of the industry's highest honors, including Lifetime Achievement awards from every major film organization. He died in 1997, leaving behind a legacy of classic performance and is considered one of the finest actors of the "Golden Age of Hollywood."
Collaborations with Hitchcock
After his work with director Anthony Mann, the second collaboration to define Stewart's career in the 1950s was with acclaimed mystery and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock. Stewart had previously appeared in Hitchcock's technologically innovative 1948 film "Rope", and the two collaborated for the second of four times on the 1954 hit "Rear Window". Photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, the central character of the film, portrayed by Stewart, projects his fantasies and fears onto the people he observes out his apartment window while on hiatus due to a broken leg. Jeffries gets into more than he can handle, however, when he believes he has witnessed a salesman murder his wife.
After starring in Hitchcock's remake of the director's own production, "The Man Who Knew Too Much", Stewart starred in what many consider Hitchcock's most personal film, "Vertigo". The film starred Stewart as Scottie, a former police investigator suffering from acrophobia, who develops an obsession with a woman he is shadowing. Scottie's obsession inevitably leads to the destruction of everything he once had and believed in. Though the film is widely considered a classic today, it was met with negative reviews and poor box office receipts upon its release, and marked the last collaboration between Stewart and Hitchcock. The director blamed the film's failure on Stewart looking too old to still attract audiences, and replaced him with Cary Grant for "North by Northwest" (1959). In reality, Grant was four years older than Stewart.
Later career and death
After filming several television movies in the 1980s, including the popular "Mr. Krueger's Christmas", James Stewart retired from acting to spend time with his family. He returned only to voice Sheriff Wylie Burp in the successful 1991 animated film "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West".
Stewart died on July 2, 1997 of cardiac arrest and a pulmonary embolism following a long illness from respiratory problems. His death came just one day after fellow screen legend and "The Big Sleep" co-star Robert Mitchum had died of lung cancer and emphysema. Stewart is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Jimmy Stewart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1708 Vine Street. In 1972, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was awarded various lifetime achievement awards from the Academy Awards (1985), American Film Institute (1980), Lincoln Center (1990), Golden Globe Awards (1965), National Board of Review (1990), and the Screen Actors Guild (1969).
A statue of Stewart was erected on the lawn of the Indiana County Courthouse in his hometown, Indiana, Pennsylvania, on May 20, 1983 to celebrate Stewart's 75th birthday. In 1995, a museum dedicated to his life and career, The Jimmy Stewart Museum, opened as well.
- Rope (1948) - cast: Rupert Cadell
- Rear Window (1954) - cast: L.B. 'Jeff' Jefferies
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) - cast: Dr. Benjamin McKenna
- Vertigo (1958) - cast: John 'Scottie' Ferguson
He has appeared in the following Hitchcockian documentaries...
Selection of film frames: James Stewart (click image to view larger version or refresh thumbnails)...