Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Happy 100 Jimmy Stewart!

posted by Nell Minow

Jimmy Stewart, number 3 on the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 male movie stars of all time, was born 100 years ago today in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The Oscar he won for The Philadelphia Story was on display at his father’s hardware store there for 25 years. While he did not always play the good guy, he is best remembered for the way he exemplified the American ideal of decency, integrity, and unpretentious authenticity. And he was a genuine hero, enlisting in the Air Force (the skinny actor had to gain five pounds to meet the minimum weight requirement) and serving on active duty. He became a colonel and earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and seven battle stars. In 1959, serving in the Air Force Reserve, he became a brigadier general.Stewart300dpi.jpg

It is easy to underestimate his skill as an actor because he made each performance look effortless. But if you watch these classics carefully you will see the brilliant subtlety of his steady gaze. These films show the range of his work, from light comedy to romantic drama, from all-American guy-you-wish-lived-next-door to menace and obsession. Every one of them is well worth watching and re-watching. Happy birthday, Jimmy!

1. The Philadelphia Story Since I was in high school, this incomparable romantic comedy with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant has been my all-time favorite movie. Stewart’s performance as cynical reporter Mike Connor won him his only Oscar.

2. You Can’t Take it With You This Best Picture Oscar-winner about the delightfully nutty Sycamore family stars Stewart as the boss’s son. Watch for the scene in the restaurant.

3. Harvey In this gentle comedy Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, who explains his philosophy of life: “Years ago my mother used to say to me… She’d say ‘In this world Elwood, you must be oh-so smart or oh-so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart…. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” Dowd has an invisible friend, an enormous rabbit-looking creature named Harvey, and Stewart’s interactions with Harvey (who is never shown) are so charming and convincing you may think you see him, too. You will certainly want to.

4. It’s a Wonderful Life Stewart’s favorite of his own films (and also the favorite of director Frank Capra) is this Christmas classic about a man who thinks he has nothing until he finds out what the world would have been like if he had never existed.

5. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Stewart and Capra again — this time Stewart plays an idealistic young man who is appointed to fill out a term in the U.S. Senate by corrupt politicians.

6. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Not as well remembered as some of Stewart’s classics, but this is one of my own favorites because it is the quintessential story of a multi-generational family vacation at the beach. Impossible relatives, sulky teenagers, and an even sulkier hot water heater in the rental house, this is an affectionate salute to the American family at play.

7. Anatomy of a Murder This fact-based murder trial has Stewart as a former prosecutor turned defense attorney, defending a solider who killed a man for allegedly raping his wife. Brilliant performances by the whole cast, including Ben Gazarra, Lee Remick, Eve Arden, and Arthur O’Connell, but especially real-life American hero Joseph Welch as the canny judge. Fans of “Law and Order” will love this one.

8. Bell, Book and Candle The other Stewart pairing with Kim Novak, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” may be better remembered, but I think Stewart’s performance in this romantic comedy is often overlooked. Stewart is a publisher who falls for a sultry witch. Watch his eyes when he drinks the potion to break the love spell.

9. The Shop Around the Corner“You’ve Got Mail” was based on this charming romantic comedy about co-workers who think they are enemies because they do not realize that they have fallen in love with each other by letter.

10. Destry Rides AgainStewart plays a young deputy sheriff who does everything he can to avoid using a gun in this classic Western.

Other great Stewart classics: “Rear Window,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “The Spirit of St. Louis,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Magic Town,” “Call Northside 777,” “Next Time We Love,” and many, many more.



  • Alicia

    I oscillate between choosing Stewart and Cary Grant as my favorite actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age (with Bogie a close third)- favorite Stewart performances – “Rear Window,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Philadelphia Story.” No actor ever played a drunk scene more convincingly, in my opinion.
    I happen to live in Washington, D.C. so I’m going to see “Destry Rides Again” at the AFI Silver Theatre next week. I’ve never seen it before. Also, dragging people to see “Vertigo” which I have seen before.
    I have the stamps (and lots of 1 cent stamps) too.
    Thanks for posting this.

  • Big_Dave_T

    Though Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors as well, what I remember him best for is not one of his movies, but a poem he read about his dog on Johnny Carson one night. Here’s a link in case you haven’t seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUNJjIwlHk8

Previous Posts

Should Movie Audiences Text to the Screen?
It is annoying enough when someone near you in a movie theater takes out a cell phone to text. Imagine how it would be if you then saw the text on the screen. That's what a Chinese theater is experimenting with in what they are calling "bullet screens." The idea is that what you are there to enjo

posted 3:59:17pm Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Back to School Guidelines for Parents on Kids and Media
Screen time is a treat, not a right. It’s a good idea to make sure that it comes only after homework, chores, other kinds of play, and family time. Make sure there is some quiet time each day as well. The spirit is nourished by silence. All too often, we try to drown out our unsettled or lonely fe

posted 8:00:27am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

After the Ice Bucket Challenge: Two Upcoming Movies About People With ALS
The Ice Bucket Challenge has brought a lot of money and attention to a devastating illness, ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease for the the New York Yankee who had to leave baseball when he was afflicted with ALS. Two upcoming films about people with ALS

posted 7:00:17am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Thursdays in September on Turner Classic Movies: The Jewish Experience on Film
This month, TCM has an excellent series of films about the Jewish experience, every Thursday. TCM proudly presents The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film, a weekly showcase of movies focusing on Jewish history and heritage as portrayed onscreen. Co-hosting the films each Thursday is D

posted 9:21:56pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Start the School Year With a No-Screen Week
A new study shows another good reason to detox from all screen time now and then, especially for kids.  Children who take a five-day break from all screens are better at reading real-life facial expressions to understand the emotions of the people around them.  Psyblog described the study, which s

posted 3:56:33pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.