Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jimmy Stewart Biography

While on our trip to the Oregon Coast last week I stopped at a used bookstore and bought an excellent biography of Jimmy Stewart that I can't put down written by Marc Eliot in 2006.The following is from the Introduction of the book:

The foundation of Jimmy's sanity...lay in his abject refusal to ever let go of his unwavering faith in the curative, redemptive liberation of love as the reflection of the moral righteousness of Western Christian ideology. These beliefs, in turn, helped him realize the power of his continual on-screen persona, that of a spiritually based romantic all-American beacon of enlightenment to millions of Americans for more than half a century of turmoil and upheaval, from the depths of the Great Depression, through World War Two, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam and up to and including America's early involvement in the ongoing conflicts of the Middle East.... Fortunately, today, because of modern technology, we have the legend of James Stewart at our fingertips, easily accessible via DVD....

I own 28 of his movies on DVD and next to John Wayne he is my favorite star of the silver screen past or present. It's hard to beat 'Mr Smith Goes to Washington" or "It's a Wonderful Life" which I never tire of watching. The scene where he reads the telegram of his sons death in the South Pacific during World War II in "The FBI Story" still brings tears to my eyes. He made this movie in 1959 and did not know that in real life he would relive that scene when he was notified that his son, A United States Marine, was killed in action in Vietnam. He was twenty four years old. It was fitting that Jimmy Stewart played the Doctor who informs John Wayne that he has incurable cancer in Wayne's last movie "The Shootest" in 1976. Wayne, in real life, died a short time later of cancer.In 1976 Stewart went to North Carolina with his friend Ronald Reagan to campaign for Reagan in that states presidential primary. Reagan was running against a sitting President, Gerald Ford. Reagan had lost a number of primaries and the press and Republican establishment were urging him to withdraw from the race. Reagan with Stewart's help turned it around, won North Carolina and took his campaign all the way to the Kansas City Convention and almost won the nomination.. Jimmy Stewart was a frequent guest at the Reagan White House four years later.