Stewart, James, 1908-1997

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James Maitland Stewart (May 20, 1908 – July 2, 1997) was an American actor and military officer. Known for his distinctive drawl and everyman screen persona, Stewart had a film career that spanned over 55 years and 80 films. With the strong morality he portrayed both on and off the screen, Stewart epitomized the "American ideal" in twentieth-century United States. In 1999, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked him third on its list of the greatest American male actors.

Born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Stewart started acting while studying at Princeton University. After graduating in 1932, he began a career as a stage actor, appearing on Broadway and in summer stock productions. In 1935, he signed a film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The studio did not see leading man material in Stewart, but after three years of supporting roles and being loaned out to other studios, he had his big breakthrough in Frank Capra's ensemble comedy You Can't Take It with You (1938). The following year, Stewart garnered his first of five Academy Award nominations for his portrayal of an idealized and virtuous man who becomes a senator in Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). He won his only Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in the screwball comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940), which also starred Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

A licensed amateur pilot, Stewart enlisted as a private in the Army Air Corps as soon as he could after the United States entered the Second World War in 1941. Although still an MGM star, his only public and film appearances from 1941 to 1945 were scheduled by the Air Corps. After fighting in the European theater of war, he had attained the rank of colonel and had received several awards for his service. He remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and was promoted to brigadier general in 1959. He retired in 1968, and was awarded the United States Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.

After the war, Stewart had difficulties in adapting to changing Hollywood and even thought about ending his acting career. He became a freelancer, and had his first postwar role as George Bailey in Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Although it earned him an Oscar nomination, the film was not a big success at first. It has increased in popularity in the decades since its release, and is considered a Christmas classic and one of Stewart's most famous performances. In the 1950s, Stewart experienced a career revival by playing darker, more morally ambiguous characters in Westerns and thrillers. Some of his most important collaborations during this period were with directors Anthony Mann, with whom he made eight films including Winchester '73 (1950), The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and The Naked Spur (1953), and Alfred Hitchcock, with whom he collaborated on Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958). Vertigo was ignored by critics at its time of release, but has since been reevaluated and recognized as an American cinematic masterpiece. His other films in the 1950s included the Broadway adaptation Harvey (1950) and the courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder (1959), both of which landed him Academy Award nominations. He was one of the most popular film stars of the decade, with most of his films becoming box office successes.

Stewart's later Westerns included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964), both directed by John Ford. He signed a lucrative multi-movie deal with 20th Century-Fox in 1962, and appeared in many popular family comedies during the decade. After a brief venture into television acting, Stewart semi-retired by the 1980s, although he remained a public figure due to the renewed interest in his films with Capra and Hitchcock and his appearances at President Reagan's White House. He received many honorary awards, including an Academy Honorary Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, both in 1985.

Stewart remained unmarried until his 40s, and was dubbed "The Great American Bachelor" by the press. In 1949, he married former model Gloria Hatrick McLean. They had twin daughters, and he adopted her two sons from her previous marriage. The marriage lasted until McLean's death in 1994; Stewart died of a pulmonary embolism three years later.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Collection. 1937 - 1937. Motion Picture Film. 1937 - 1937. THE ROMANCE OF CELLULOID National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Logan, Joshua. Papers of Joshua Logan, 1723-1992 (bulk 1940-1980). Library of Congress
creatorOf Capra, Frank, 1897-1991. La vie est belle / Frank Capra, réal., scénario ; Philip Van Doren Stern, aut. adapté ; Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, scénario ; Dimitri Tiomkin, comp. ; James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore... [et al.], act. Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF
referencedIn Reigle, Pearl J. Scrap book, 1893,1944. Clarke Historical Library
referencedIn Jackson, John D., 1921-1943. Papers and photographs, 1942-1954. Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center
referencedIn Joshua Logan Papers, 1723-1992, (bulk 1940-1980) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Jackson, Felix. Destry rides again : screenplay : mimeographed copy of typescript / by Felix Jackson, Gertrude Purcell, and Henry Myers, 1939 Nov 25. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Bandler, Michael J. Papers, ca. 1970. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Cohen, Harold V. Harold V. Cohen photographs 1910-1969. Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Heinz History Center Detre Library and Archives
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MARCH 6] National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [NOV. 25] National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. AEROSPACE FORCE COMMUNICATIONS ELECTRONICS (OUTTAKES OF SFP-1031) National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Millenial Entertainment, Inc. Millenial Entertainment, Inc. videocassettes, circa 1976 [videorecording]. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Gypsy Rose Lee papers, 1910-1970 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Howard, Jean, 1910-2000. Jean Howard papers, 1930-1990. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [Apr. 22] National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Streeter, Edward, 1891-. Papers, 1905-1976 (inclusive). 1950-1970 (bulk). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Mateja, Harold M., 1925-. Harold M. Mateja papers, 1942-2008. Montana Historical Society Library
creatorOf Capra, Frank, 1897-1991. La vie est belle / Frank Capra, réal., scénario ; Philip Van Doren Stern, aut. adapté ; Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, scénario ; Dimitri Tiomkin, comp. ; James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore... [et al.], act. Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF
creatorOf Strauss, John, 1912-. James Stewart publicity files, 1981-1998. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Jean Howard Papers, 1930s-1990s University of Wyoming. American Heritage Center.
referencedIn Fox Movietone News Collection. 1957 - 1963. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 1957 - 1963. Movietone News, Vol. 45, No. 5 National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Records of the Office of War Information. 1926 - 1951. Propaganda, Information, and Documentary Motion Pictures. 1942 - 1945. WINNING YOUR WINGS National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Theatre Intime Records, 1919-2011 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections.Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Princeton University Archives.
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MARCH 24] National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Johnston, Francis R., 1922-2000. Oral history interview with Francis R. Johnston, [sound recording], 1997. Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. BIG SLAM/PUERTO PINE, MARCH 1960 National Archives at College Park
contributorOf Hollywood Star-Spangled Revue: Saluting 25 Years of U.S. Savings Bonds United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Kotcka, Joseph. Letters, 1920-1954. University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library
referencedIn Angell, Hughes T. Papers of Hughes Angell [manuscript], 1929, 1943-1981. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Princeton University. Theatre Intime. Theatre Intime Records, 1919-1996. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations, 1900 - 2003. Official Military Personnel Files, 1947 - 1998. Official Military Personnel File of James M. Stewart. National Archives at St. Louis
referencedIn McBride, Joseph. Papers, 1960-1983. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 30] National Archives at College Park
referencedIn WNET transcripts for James Stewart : A Wonderful Life, 1986 L. Tom Perry Special Collections20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts
referencedIn Beckley, Naomi,. Photograph collection, 1936-1941. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn The Radio Entertainers and Announcers Collection, 1937-1945 (Bulk 1942-1943) © 2011 New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [MAR. 3] National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Orme, Charles H., 1918-. Charles H. Orme Jr. collection, 1950-1998. Arizona State University Libraries
referencedIn Phyllis Merrill papers, 1933-1956 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. VISITING DIGNITARIES AT TAN SON NHUT AB, BIEN HOA AB AND DA NANG AB, VIETNAM National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Robert Benney original drawings, 1926-1947 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf James Stewart Collection, 1936-1959 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
referencedIn John Eldon Thayer collection of motion picture memorabilia, 1916-1979. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Ford, J. mss., 1906-1976 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Brooke Hayward collection of noncommercial recordings The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
creatorOf John Strauss files on publicity for James Stewart, 1981-1998 L. Tom Perry Special CollectionsArts & Communications Archives
referencedIn The Benny Goodman Papers, 1910-1992, inclusive Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [APR. 17] National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Stewart, James, 1908-1997. Interview transcripts, video cassette interviews, publicity papers, and biographical video "Hometown Hero," 1986-1993. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Daves, Delmer, 1904-1977. Delmer Daves papers, 1930-1965. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Hitchcock, Alfred, 1899-1980. Sueurs froides / d'Alfred Hitchcock ; Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, aut. adaptés ; avec James Stewart et Kim Novak. Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF
creatorOf Stewart, James, 1908-1997. James Stewart collection: screenplays, 1936-1959. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Michael J. Bandler papers, approximately 1970 L. Tom Perry Special CollectionsArts & Communications Archives
referencedIn Movie stills and maps from Cheyenne Autumn, 1964. Museum of the Great Plains
creatorOf Stewart, James, 1908-1997. Letter, 1956. Denver Public Library, Central Library
referencedIn Ambassador Auditorium Collection, 1974-1995 Archive of Recorded Sound, Stanford University Libraries
creatorOf Jackson, Felix. Destry rides again, 1939 Aug. 19. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn University Communications records, 1921-2009 L. Tom Perry Special CollectionsUniversity Archives
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. 1860 - 1985. Documentary Films. 1914 - 1944. SCREEN SNAPSHOTS [VOL. 21, NO. 7] National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Osborn, Paul, 1901-. Papers, 1926-1964. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES STEWART TOURS BASES National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Edward Streeter Papers, 1909-1976 Fales Library & Special Collections
creatorOf Jimmy Stewart Collection, 1930-1979 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
referencedIn Princeton University. Theatre Intime. Theatre Intime archives, 1919-1988. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Newman, Edwin H. Papers, 1944-1978. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Lovell, Tom, 1909-1997. Tom Lovell papers, circa 1845-1997. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
referencedIn Rolfe, Sam. The naked spur 1953. The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [AUG. 25] National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Strauss, John, 1912-. James Stewart publicity files, 1981-1998. Harold B. Lee Library
Relation Name
associatedWith Alpert, Herb person
associatedWith Angell, Hughes T. person
associatedWith Bandler, Michael J. person
associatedWith Bandler, Michael J. person
associatedWith Beckley, Naomi, person
associatedWith Benney, Robert, 1904-2001 person
associatedWith Brigham Young University. News Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith Cohen, Harold V. person
associatedWith Daves, Delmer, 1904-1977. person
associatedWith Diller, Phyllis person
associatedWith Ford, John, 1895-1973 person
associatedWith Goodman, Benny, 1909- person
associatedWith Hayward, Brooke, 1937- person
associatedWith Howard, Jean, 1910-2000 corporateBody
associatedWith Howard, Jean, 1910-2000. person
associatedWith Jackson, Felix. person
associatedWith Jackson, John D., 1921-1943. person
associatedWith Johnston, Francis R., 1922-2000 person
associatedWith Jones, Carolyn, 1930-1983 person
associatedWith Kotcka, Joseph. person
associatedWith Lee, Gypsy Rose, 1914-1970 person
correspondedWith Logan, Joshua. person
correspondedWith Logan, Joshua. person
associatedWith Lovell, Tom, 1909-1997. person
associatedWith Mateja, Harold M., 1925- person
associatedWith McBride, Joseph. person
associatedWith Merrill, Phyllis, 1908- person
associatedWith Millenial Entertainment, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Newman, Edwin H. person
associatedWith Orme, Charles H., 1918- person
associatedWith Osborn, Paul, 1901- person
associatedWith Princeton University. Theatre Intime. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Theatre Intime. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Theatre Intime. corporateBody
associatedWith Reigle, Pearl J. person
associatedWith Rockettes (Dance company) corporateBody
associatedWith Rolfe, Sam. person
associatedWith Strauss, John, 1912- person
associatedWith Strauss, John, 1913-2001 person
associatedWith Streeter, Edward, 1891- person
associatedWith Thayer, John Eldon, 1899-1980 person
memberOf United States. Air Force corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army. Air Corps corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Department of the Treasury. Office of the Secretary corporateBody
associatedWith WNET (Television station : New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Pennsylvania PA US
Beverly Hills CA US
Subject
World War II, 1939-1945
Military officers--American
Theater/Film
Motion picture plays
Pilots, Military
Actors--American
Motion pictures
Media and Communication
United States. Air Force
Motion picture actors and actresses--United States--Biography
Motion pictures--United States
Actors--United States
Motion picture plays--United States
Occupation
Actors, American
Actors--United States
Actors
Officers (military officers)--United States
Actors and actresses
Function

Person

Birth 1908-05-20

Death 1997-07-02

Male

Americans

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 84360898