8 Things You Didn’t Know About Rear Window’s James Stewart

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Rear Window’s James Stewart

Few actors can claim to be the biggest star of American popular culture in the twentieth century. James Stewart is one of them. He enjoyed a long-standing career where he reached stardom status in two different periods of Hollywood history, worked with some of the best directors of his time, and even served the US Army during World War II.

His everyman American Hero persona made him an endearing icon in people’s hearts, and many of his films are considered classics. His most famous roles include Macaulay “Mike” Connor in The Philadelphia Story, LB Jeffries in Rear Window, and George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life. Let’s learn some interesting facts about his life and career.

1. He Was Named The Third Greatest American Actor

Rear Window

The American Film Institute named Stewart as the third greatest American male screen legend in 1999. The list included Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant at the 1st and 2nd positions, respectively. The three greatest female screen legends are Katherine Hepbum, Bette Davis, and Audrey Hepbum.

The list was unveiled in 1999 through a CBS special hosted by Shirley Temple. In order to appear in this list, actors needed to have had a screen debut before 1950. Jurors selected the members from a pool of 250 female and 250 male nominees.

2. You Can’t Take It With You Was His Breakthough Performance

James Stewart

After appearing in some films in 1936 and 1937, Stewart had his big break when he appeared in 1938’s You Can’t Take It With You. This film brought widespread recognition to Stewart and made him a household name. This was the start of his first successful run in Hollywood.

The film was direct by Frank Capra’s which was one of the most renowned directors of the time. Capra was nominated for six Oscars of which he won three. Capra cast Stewart after being impressed by his acting in 1937’s Navy Blue and Gold. However. Both Capra and Stewart would abandon the industry three years later because of the Second World War.

3. He Had A Great Friendship With Henry Fonda

Fonda and Stewart were both rising stars at the same time in Hollywood. The couple of friends were known as lady killers and as the biggest heartbreakers in Hollywood. And were even nominated to an Oscar in the same year, with Stewart winning the award.

They were at opposite spectrums politically as James Stewart was a lifelong Republican and Fonda a Democrat. But despite their differences, they managed to continue their friendship until Fonda’s death in 1982.

4. Stewart Won An Oscar For The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story

After the success of You Can’t Take It With You, Stewart would continue to get starring roles, although not all of them were as successful. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1940 for his role in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He won the Oscar the following year for his role as Macaulay “Mike” Connor in The Philadelphia Story. The adaptation of a Broadway Play led by Katherine Hepbum.

He would again be nominated for three more Oscars and won an Honorary award in 1985 for his contribution to film and 50 years of memorable performances.

5. Stewart Served in World War II

Stewart’s put a pause in his career when he became the first major American movie star to enlist in the US Army. He made no commercial films during this time, and he only appeared in some network radio programs. He returned to the US after the end of the war, but continued serving for a total of 27 years, receiving the United States Air Force Distinguished Service Medal when he retired from the army.

6. His career had a resurgence in the 50s

James Stewart in Night Passage

Stewart returned to the industry with the now classic It’s A Wonderful Life, but he didn’t find the success he would hope for as new stars started to rise in the industry. At this point, he reinvented himself through appearances in several westerns, playing more complex characters.

He also appeared in several Hitchcock films in the 50s, starting with Rope, and then followed up by Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo.

7. His Final Words Were Deeply Romantic

Stewart didn’t marry until he was 41, which led to his bachelor persona. His friendship to Henry Fonda didn’t help either. However, in 1947 Stewart met Gloria Hatrick, to whom he would remain married until her death in 1994.

After her death, many reported that he felt depressed. In 1997, three years after his wife’s passing, he would die of a heart attack. His final words were: “I’m going to be with Gloria now

8. There Is A James Stewart Boy Scout Award

James Stewart was a very active child. He had many extracurricular activities like being a member of the track team, the art editor of the school yearbook, member of the glee club, and member of the John Marshall Literary Society. He also was a lifelong supporter of scouting, winning a Silver Buffalo award.

In 2003, the James M. Stewart Museum Foundation and the Boy Scouts of America established the award that carries his name. To win the award, a scout needs to do a good citizenship project in their community, read through the Jimmy Stewart workbook, and complete the Jimmy Stewart Museum quiz.

Read next: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Rear Window


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