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 James “Jimmy” Stewart

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James “Jimmy” Stewart

  • Birth 20 May 1908 Indiana, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Death 2 Jul 1997 Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Burial Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Plot Wee Kirk Churchyard, Space 2, Lot 8, near the statue of a man holding an arrow. To the left of the Wee Kirk of the Heather Church on the hill.
  • GPS
  • Memorial ID 1816

Academy Award Winning Actor, Film Icon. Known for his distinctive drawl voice and down-to-earth persona, he is often considered to be one of the most influential actors in the history of American cinema. His career spanned almost 60 years and he appeared in over 90 films, television programs, shorts, and Broadway performances. Five of his movies were included on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest American films, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940, for which he won an Academy Award for best actor), "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), "Rear Window" (1954), and "Vertigo " (1958). Born James Maitland Stewart the oldest of three children, his father owned a hardware store. He attended Mercersburg Academy prep school in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1926. He played on the football and track teams, was art editor of the yearbook, and a member of the choir club, glee club, and John Marshall Literary Society. During his first summer break, he returned to his hometown to work as a brick loader for a local construction company and on highway and road construction jobs where he painted lines on the roads. Over the following two summers, he worked as an assistant with a professional magician. He spent much of his after-school time in the basement working on model airplanes, mechanical drawing and chemistry, all with a dream of going into aviation. He abandoned his dreams of being a pilot when his father insisted that instead of the US Naval Academy he attended Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. He enrolled in 1928 and graduated in 1932. He became attracted to the school's drama and music clubs, including the Princeton Triangle Club. His acting talents at Princeton led him to be invited to the University Players, an intercollegiate summer stock company in West Falmouth, Massachusetts, where he performed in bit parts in the Players' productions in Cape Cod during the summer of 1932. While there, he met and became friends with Henry Fonda and they went to New York City, New York where he made his Broadway debut as 'Constable Gano' in "Carry Nation" (October 1932), followed by a chauffeur in the comedy "Goodbye Again" (December 1932 to July 1933). By 1934 he was given more substantial stage roles, including the modest hit "Page Miss Glory" (November 1934 to March 1935) and his first dramatic stage role in Sidney Howard's "Yellow Jack" (May 1934), which convinced him to continue his acting career. He attracted the interest of MGM scout Bill Grady who saw him on the opening night of "Divided by Three" (October 1934) and in April 1935 he signed a seven-year contract with MGM. His first film was the poorly received "The Murder Man" (1935) and his next film "Rose Marie" (1936) was more successful. An early interest in flying led him to gain his Private Pilot certificate in 1935 followed by his Commercial Pilot certificate three years later. In 1936 he received his first intensely dramatic role in "After the Thin Man," and played Jean Harlow's character's frustrated boyfriend in "Wife vs. Secretary." In 1938 he began a successful partnership with director Frank Capra when he was loaned out to Columbia Pictures to star in "You Can't Take It With You" (with Jean Arthur). The following year he starred in the political comedy-drama "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (with Jean Arthur), for which he was nominated for the first of his five Academy Award for Best Actor. He followed it with his first western film "Destry Rides Again" (1939, with Marlene Dietrich), "Made for Each Other" (1939, with Carole Lombard), "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940, with Margaret Sullavan), "The Mortal Storm" (1940, with Margaret Sullavan), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940, with Katharine Hepburn, for which he won his only Academy Award for Best Actor), "No Time for Comedy" (1940, with Rosalind Russell), "Come Live with Me" (1941, with Heddy Lamarr). "Ziegfield Girl" (1941, with Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr, and Lana Turner), and "Pot o' Gold (1941, with Paulette Goddard). In October 1940 he was drafted into the US Army but was rejected for failing to meet height and weight requirements. He subsequently attempted to enlist in the US Army Air Corps but still came in under the weight requirement. He persuaded the enlistment officer to run new tests and he passed the weigh-in, resulting in his induction in the Army in March 1941, after the US entered World War II. He became the first major American movie star to wear a military uniform in World War II. He enlisted as a private but as a college graduate and a licensed commercial pilot, he applied for an Air Corps commission and pilot rating and in January 1942 he became a 2nd lieutenant while stationed at Moffett Field, California. He then applied for and was granted advanced training in multi-engined aircraft and was assigned to nearby Mather Field (now closed), California to instruct in both single- and twin-engine aircraft. Upon being promoted to the rank of 1st lieutenant in July 1942 he was stationed at Kirtland Army Airfield (now Kirtland Air Force Base) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, piloting AT-ll Kansans used in training bombardiers. In early 1943 he was assigned to the 29th Bombardment Group at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, as an instructor and was promoted to the rank of captain the following July and became a squadron commander. In August 1943 he was assigned to the 445th Bomb Group at Sioux City Army Air Base, Iowa (now Sioux Gateway Airport) as operations officer of the 703d Bombardment Squadron, becoming its commander shortly afterwards. The following October he left with his unit to RAF Tibenham in Norfolk, England where he flew bombing missions over Germany. In January 1944 he was promoted to the rank of major and two months later he flew his 12th combat mission, leading the 2nd Bomb Wing in an attack on Berlin, Germany. He was then assigned to RAF Old Buckenham, England to become group operations officer of the 453rd Bombardment Group. In June 1944 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and reassignment the following month to the 2nd Bomb Wing, as executive officer to Brigadier General Edward J. Timberlake. His official tally of mission credits while assigned to the 445th and 453rd Bomb Groups totaled 20 sorties. He served in a number of staff positions in the 2nd and 20th Bomb Wings between July 1944 and the end of the war in Europe, and was promoted to the rank of colonel in March 1945. In May 1945 he became commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing, a position he held until June. He was one of the few Americans to rise from private to colonel in just four years. After the end of the war in Europe he returned to the US and remained in the US Air Force Reserve. He received permanent promotion to colonel in 1953 and served as Air Force Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base. He was also one of the 12 founders and a charter member of the Air Force Association in October 1945. In the fall of 1945 he returned to Hollywood and signed with the MCA talent agency. He appeared in his third and final Frank Capra production, "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946, with Donna Reed) and he received his 3rd nomination for Best Actor Academy Award. This was followed by the comedy film "Magic Town" (1947, with Jane Wyman), but it was poorly received. He completed Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope" (1948, with Farley Granger) and "Call Northside 777" (1948, with Lee J. Cobb), and survived two box-office disappointments with "On Our Merry Way" (1948, with Henry Fonda), "You Gotta Stay Happy" (1949, with Joan Fontaine), "Malaya" (1949, with Spencer Tracy), and "The Stratton Story" (1949, with June Allyson). In August 1949 he married former model Gloria Hatrick McLean and they remained married until her death in February 1994. He then returned to Broadway to star in Mary Coyle Chase's "Harvey," that was adapted into the 1950 film by the same name which he starred, along with Josephine Hull, which earned him his 4th Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. His other notable performances during this time include the critically acclaimed 1950 Delmer Daves western "Broken Arrow" (with Jeff Chandler), Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952, with Charlton Heston and Betty Hutton), and his role as 'Charles Lindbergh' in Billy Wilder's 1957 film "The Spirit of St. Louis." He also starred in the western radio show "The Six Shooter" for its one-season run from 1953 until 1954. In the early 1950s he collaborated with director Anthony Mann in the western films "Winchester '73" (1950, with Shelly Winters and Dan Duryea), "Bend of the River" (1952, with Arthur Kennedy and Rock Hudson), "The Naked Spur" (1953, with Janet Leigh and Robert Ryan), "The Far Country" (1954, with Walter Brennan), and "The Man from Laramie" (1955, with Arthur Kennedy). He and Mann also collaborated on other films outside the western genre, including "Thunder Bay" (1953, with Joanne Dru and Dan Duryea), "The Glenn Miller Story" (1954, with June Allyson) which garnered him a BAFTA Award nomination, and "Strategic Air Command" (1955, with June Allyson). He collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock in "Rear Window" (1954, with Grace Kelly), and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956, with Doris Day), "Vertigo" (1958, with Kim Novak). In July 1959 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the US Air Force Reserves. The same year he starred in the Otto Preminger film "Anatomy of a Murder" (with Lee Remick, George C. Scott, and Ben Gazzara), for which he obtained his 5th and final Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and was awarded the New York Critics Circle Award for Best Actor. In the early 1960s he took leading roles in John Ford films, beginning with "Two Rode Together" (1961, with Richard Widmark) "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' (1962, his first film with John Wayne), and "How the West Was Won" (1962), and "Cheyenne Autumn" (1964, with Richard Widmark). After signing a multi-movie contract with 20th Century Fox, he starred in "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" (1962, with Maureen O'Hara), "Take Her, She's Mine" (1963, with Sandra Dee) and" Dear Brigitte" (1965), which featured French model Brigitte Bardot, the Civil War film "Shenandoah" (1965, with Doug McClure) and the western family film "The Rare Breed" (1966, with Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith). In May 1968 he retired from the Air Force with 27 years of continuous military service in the US Army Air Force and the US Air Force Reserves and was promoted to the rank of to major general on the retired list by President Ronald Reagan. During his active duty periods in the US Air Force, he remained current as a pilot of Convair B-36 Peacemaker, the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, and the B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental bombers of the Strategic Air Command. Among his military and foreign decorations and awards include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross (with one Oak leaf cluster), the Air Medal (with 3 oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with 3 service stars), the World War II Victory Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal the Air Force Presidential Unit Citation, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. He then transitioned into television, starring in the NBC comedy "The Jimmy Stewart Show" that aired from 1971 until 1972, on which he played a college professor, and was the only time in his career in which he was formally billed in the credits as "Jimmy" instead of "James". He followed it with the CBS mystery "Hawkins' (1973 to 1974), in which he played a small town lawyer investigating cases, similar to his character in "Anatomy of a Murder." It earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Dramatic TV Series, but failed to gain a wide audience. During this time he periodically appeared on Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show," sharing poems he had written at different times in his life. His poems were later compiled into a short collection, "Jimmy Stewart and His Poems" (1989). After a five-year absence he returned to films, with a major supporting role in John Wayne's final film, "The Shootist" (1976). He also appeared in supporting roles in "Airport '77" (1977), the 1978 remake of "The Big Sleep" (with Robert Mitchum), and "The Magic of Lassie" (1978). All three movies received poor reviews, and "The Magic of Lassie" flopped at the box office. He then went into semi-retirement and in 1983 he donated his papers, films, and other records to Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library in Provo, Utah. He appeared in television movies during this time, including "Mr. Krueger's Christmas" (1980) which allowed him to fulfill a lifelong dream to conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and "Right of Way" (1983, with Bette Davis). In the 1980s/1990s,he did voice-over work for commercials for Campbell's Soups. In 1985 he was presented with an Academy Honorary Award by Cary Grant. In 1989 he, along with other actors and directors, made an impassioned plea in Congressional hearings against media mogul Ted Turner's decision to 'colorize' classic black and white films. In 1985 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Ronald Reagan. In 1989 he founded the American Spirit Foundation to apply entertainment industry resources to developing innovative approaches to public education and to assist the emerging democracy movements in the former Iron Curtain countries. In 1991 he voiced the character of 'Sheriff Wylie Burp' in the movie "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West," which was his last film role. In May 1995 The James M. Stewart Foundation was created in his honor. He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Golden Globes (1965, Cecil B. DeMille Award), the Screen Actors Guild Awards (1968), the American Film Institute (1980), the Kennedy Center Honors (1983), the National Board of Review (1990), the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (1990), the National Association of Theatre Owners (1990), and the Palm Springs International Film Festival (1992). He died at his home of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 89. His stepson, Ronald Walsh McLean, was killed in combat during the Vietnam War in June 1969. In 1999 he was named the third greatest screen legend actor in American film history by the American Film Institute as part of their 100 Years Series. The Boy Scouts award, "The James M. Stewart Good Citizenship Award" has been presented since May 2003. In August 2007 the US Postal Service issued a 41-cent commemorative postage stamp in his honor. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to films.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1816
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for James “Jimmy” Stewart (20 May 1908–2 Jul 1997), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1816, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .