He was the first movie star to enter the service for World War II, joining a year before
Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was initially refused entry into the Air Force
because he weighed 5 pounds less than the required 148 pounds, but he talked the recruitment officer into ignoring
the test. He eventually became a Colonel, and earned the Air Medal, the
Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and 7 battle
stars. In 1959, he served in the Air Force Reserve, before retiring as a brigadier
general. (Walter Matthau was a sergeant in his unit).
The James Stewart Museum was dedicated in Indiana, Pennsylvania on 20 May
Attended Princeton University. Graduated in 1932 with a degree in architecture.
When Stewart won the Best Actor Oscar in 1940, he sent it to his father in
Indiana, Pennsylvania, who set it in his hardware shop. The trophy remained there for 25 years.
The word "Philadelphia" on the Oscar that Jimmy received in 1941
for The Philadelphia Story (1940) is misspelled. The Oscar was kept in the window of Jimmy's
father's hardware store located on Philadelphia Street in Indiana,
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Wee Kirk O' the Heathers
Churchyard , on the left side, up the huge slope, to the left of the Taylor Monument, space 2, lot 8.
He held the highest active military rank of any actor in history. During World War II, he served
in the Army Air Corps and rose to the rank of colonel; after the War, he continued in the
US Air Force Reserve becoming a brigadier general (1- star). Ed McMahon was also
commissioned a Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard in 1966 and continued to
serve after he began his acting career. Two former actors outranked him: John Ford was an actor
before becoming a director and a rear admiral (2-star) in the US Naval Reserve; President Ronald
Reagan was Commander-in-Chief, but he made his last theatrical TV appearance in 1965.
Never took an acting lesson, and felt that people could learn more when actually working rather than studying the
When he left to serve in WWII, his father gave him a letter which he kept in his pocket every day
until the war ended.
Played the accordion.
Often incorrectly noted as having achieved the highest rank in Boy Scouting, Eagle Scout, while in
his youth in Indiana, Pennsylvania; he was a scout for four years, attaining Second Class. He appeared in a series
of award-winning commercials promoting the Boy Scouts, and served as a volunteer with the Orange County and Los
Angeles Area Councils. He was awarded the Silver Beaver, the highest adult award.
Had four children - twin daughters 'Judy Stewart-Merrill' and 'Kelly
Stewart-Harcourt'. Kelly is also known as Kelly Stewart. The girls acted
with their parents in "Password" (1961). He adopted his wife's two sons from a previous marriage -
Ronald (5) and Michael (2)- when they married. Ronald was killed
in action while serving in the Vietnam War in 1969.
Was a regular on the "Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts." He was even a guest of honor in 1978.
Introduced the Cole Porter standard "Easy to Love" in 1936's Born to
Dance (1936). His undubbed, reedy tenor voice was actually not so bad. He would later say of the
experience, "the song had become such a big hit that they felt even my singing couldn't ruin it." He would later
sing a few bars of "Over the Rainbow" as part of his Oscar-winning performance in The
Philadelphia Story (1940).
Recipient of Kennedy Center Honors in 1983.
Starred in the NBC Radio series "The Six Shooter" (1953-54).
Many of his works were donated to Brigham Young University in 1983, including his personal copy of
It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
Hit #133 on the Billboard Singles Charts in 1965 with "The Legend of Shenandoah" (Decca 31795), a
narration backed up with the Charles "Bud" Dant Orchestra
Was of Northern Irish heritage from County Antrim.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western
Heritage Museum in 1972.
He once said the public was his biggest critic, and if they didn't like his performance, neither did he.
His two natural children, twin daughters Judy and Kelly Stewart, were born May 7, 1951. His wife,
Gloria Stewart (the former Gloria Hatrick McLean), a former model from Larchmount, New York, also
brought two sons to the marriage: Ronald and Michael (aged 5 and 2 at the time of the wedding in
1949), whom he adopted. Ronald later died on active service, as a Marine officer on June 8, 1969
Over 3,000 people, mostly Hollywood celebrities, attended his funeral to pay their respects.
President Harry S. Truman was an admirer of Stewart's work, and even commented
that if he'd had a son, he'd have wanted him to be "just like Jimmy Stewart."
Despite having been a decorated war hero in WWII, he declined to talk about this, in part because of the traumatic
experiences he had in killing others and watching friends die. The roles he chose after returning from the war were
generally darker, some say because he was hardened by combat.
A true "regular guy," he genuinely disliked the glamour often basked in by Hollywood stars, avoiding expensive
clothes and fancy cars.
He remained faithful to his wife Gloria Stewart throughout their marriage. While this may seem
ordinary, it was rare in Hollywood for male stars to stay devoted to their wives, with many of his colleagues, such
as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and his friend Henry Fonda, having had a series of
His mother's maiden name was Jackson. Her father, Col. Samuel Jackson, served in
the Civil War.
One of the first (if not the first) stars to receive a percentage of the gross of his movies.
Was of Scottish and Irish heritage.
His best friend was probably Henry Fonda, whom he met while at acting camp. Early on they got into
a fistfight over politics (Stewart was a very conservative Republican, Fonda a very liberal
Democrat) that was won by Fonda, but they apparently never discussed politics again. When
Fonda moved to Hollywood he lived with Stewart and the two
gained a reputation as among Hollywood's biggest playboys. However, after each married and settled down, their
children noted that their favorite activity when not working seemed to be silently painting model airplanes
His hair began receding during World War II. By the early 1950s, he was wearing a toupee for all
his movie roles, though he often went without it in public. His baldness was made less obvious by wearing a gray
toupee for many movie roles.
According to the March 31, 1941 issue of 'Time' Magazine, Stewart was drafted into the Army. Prior
to induction, he flew in a private plane to California and the next day braved a large crowd of
female admirers to board a Los Angeles trolley car that took him and other draftees off to be inducted for a year
hitch in the Army. 'Time' said that Stewart's salary would drop to $21 a month from $6,000.
Was very good friends with Ronald Reagan, Henry Fonda, John Wayne and Gary
Accepted his friend Gary Cooper's honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1961, because
Cooper was dying of cancer.
Died one day after Robert Mitchum.
While always gracious with his fans, he was always very protective of his privacy. A notable example of this
occurred when a nervy family of tourists set up a picnic on his front lawn. Stewart came out of
his house and, without uttering a word, turned on the sprinklers.
Hosted the Academy Awards in 1946 (alongside Bob Hope), 1958 (alongside David Niven, Jack
Lemmon, Rosalind Russell, Bob Hope and "Donald Duck").
Upon accepting his Honorary Oscar in 1985, he stated, "This was the greatest award I received,
to know that, after all these years, I haven't been forgotten." The audience gave him a ten-minute standing
ovation, making the show run long. Steven Spielberg, who was in attendance, said that he was
humbled to even be in the same room as Jimmy, because he respected him so much.
While filming The Big Sleep (1978) in August 1977, Stewart appeared to be much
older than his actual age of 69 as the rich, wheelchair-bound Gen. Sternwood. The fact is that he
had a hearing impairment and was having memory problems, which caused him to keep flubbing his lines. It's believed
that these health problems brought about his retirement from movies shortly afterwards, although he was also
concerned with the violence and explicit sexual content of modern films and saw no future for himself in the movie
Upon his death in July of 1997, a small group of fans and admirers placed a few items on his
Hollywood star, not the least of which was a rather tall (although not 6' tall) plush rabbit
wearing overalls. (It was reportedly stolen later in the night.)
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian award, by his friend
President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1985.
Stewart very much wanted the role of Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest (1959)
and he was the original choice for it, but after the financial failure of Vertigo (1958), director
Alfred Hitchcock, unfairly blamed the film's box office woes on Stewart, claiming
Stewart now looked too old to still attract audiences and cast Cary Grant
instead, even though Grant was actually four years older than Stewart. Previously
one of the director's favorite collaborators, Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock never
worked together again.
Of all the movies he has done It's a Wonderful Life (1946) was his favourite.
Replaced Cary Grant as Rupert Cadell in Rope (1948). Ironically,
Grant replaced him as Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest
His jazz and blues piano-playing skills were showcased in Anatomy of a Murder (1959).
After making The Magic of Lassie (1978) Stewart went into semi- retirement from
acting. During the next few years he suffered from many health problems including heart disease, skin cancer,
deafness and senility.
Three of his films are on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time, two
of which are in the top five. They are: The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) at #69, Mr. Smith
Goes to Washington (1939) at #5 and It's a Wonderful Life (1946) at #1.
According to the curator of the James Stewart Museum, he was exactly 6'3" tall. His military
physical would have indicated he was 6'3", since he was 138 lb., five pounds under the 143 required for his draft
eligibility. The weight / height requirements for the US Air Force prior to October 1999 was 143 lb. minimum for a
man of 6'3". By the late 1950s, he reported that his weight was up to 160 lb.
Medals awarded: Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster,
Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, American
Defense Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 Service
Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, French Croix de Guerre with Palm,
PresidentialMedal of Freedom.
Stewart never recovered from his wife's death in February 1994, and vowed to make no further public appearances
after her funeral service. Thereafter he spent most of his time in his bedroom, coming out only at the insistence
of his housekeeper for meals. Newspaper reports suggested Stewart had Alzheimer's
disease. Over the Christmas holiday season in 1995 he failed to negotiate a rise leading to a dining area
and fell, cracking his head on the bill of a wooden duck that his daughter Judy had given him as a
gift some years previously. In December 1996, when he was due to have his battery changed in his pacemaker, he told
his children that he'd rather not have that done. He wanted to let things take their natural course. On 31 January
1997, Stewart tripped over a potted plant in his bedroom, and cut open his forehead. He was taken
to St John's Hospital, in Santa Monica, where he was given twelve stitches. A few
weeks later, he was hospitalized for a blood clot and irregular heartbeat. He had a blood clot in his right knee,
and the swelling soon spread through his entire leg. At 11:05 am on 2 July 1997, James Stewart
died of cardiac arrest at the age of eighty-nine.
Stewart nearly declined to support his friend Ronald Reagan's campaign for the
governorship of California in 1966, since Reagan had been a Democrat until 1962.
In 1976 Stewart campaigned extensively in California for Reagan
in the presidential primaries, especially visiting shopping malls and airports.
Campaigned for Richard Nixon in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections.
Fell out with Anthony Mann during the shooting of Night Passage (1957), resulting
in Mann being replaced by James Neilson. A year later Mann shot
Man of the West (1958), regarded by many as his greatest western of all and totally suited to
Stewart, but with Gary Cooper in the lead role.
His mother Bessie died on 2 August 1953, a week after suffering a severe heart attack at the age
His father Alexander died of stomach cancer on 28 December 1961, at the age of eighty-nine.
During the 1980s he was one of the most prominent critics of the colorization of old movies, even testifying before
a congressional committee about what he called the "denaturing" of It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
"If these color-happy folks are so concerned about the audience," he said, "let them put their millions of
dollars into new films, or let them remake old stories if they see fit, but let our great film artists and films
live in peace. I urge everyone in the creative community to join in our efforts to discourage this terrible
Had a dislike of Hollywood's war movies, explaining that they were hardly ever accurate. During his career he only
starred in two war films - Strategic Air Command (1955) and The Mountain Road
In 1980 he was hospitalized for five days with an irregular heartbeat. Three years later the condition resurfaced
and doctors at St John's Hospital in Santa Monica installed a pacemaker.
Stewart agreed to play a cameo role in The Shootist (1976) only after
John Wayne specifically requested him. His short time on the film proved to be trying. The bad
acoustics of the huge, hollow sound stages worsened his hearing difficulties, and he stayed by himself most of the
time. He and Wayne muffed their lines so often in the main scene between them that director
Don Siegel accused them of not trying hard enough. Wayne's reply was a variation
on an old John Ford line, advising the director that "if you'd like the scene done better,
you'd better get a couple of better actors." Later on, the star told friends that Stewart had
known his lines, but hadn't been able to hear his cues, and that in turn had caused his own fumbling.
Stewart and Richard Widmark both wore toupees and had hearing problems. On the
set of Two Rode Together (1961) director John Ford became frustrated with the two
stars being unable to hear his instructions and exclaimed, "Fifty years in this goddamn business, and what do I
end up doing? Directing two deaf hairpieces!"
Underwent surgery for skin cancer in 1983.
He considered himself to be miscast in Rope (1948) and Bell Book and Candle
Deliberately exaggerated his accent in films after he returned from World War II, because several
directors told him he needed to create a persona in order to sell his films to the public, particularly with the
rising popularity of television.
He never had any cosmetic surgery, unlike his friends Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda and John
In association with politicians and celebrities that included President Ronald Reagan, Supreme
Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, California Governor George Deukmejian,
Bob Hope and Charlton Heston, Stewart worked from 1987 to 1993
on projects that enhanced the public appreciation and understanding of the U.S. Constitution and
Bill of Rights.
Stewart was sometimes amused when critics would always compare him with Henry Fonda, in particular his one marriage
versus Fonda's five marriages. Stewart was dismayed that people forgot he had been romantically linked with
numerous actresses before finally marrying at the age of 41.
Stewart wanted to make Night Passage (1957) because he believed it would give him
a chance to show off his accordion playing. However, all of his playing in the film was re-recorded by a
professional accordion player.
He wore the same hat in all of his westerns. John Ford complained on the set of Two Rode
Together (1961): "Great, now I have actors with hat approval!".
Actively supported the presidential campaign of Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964, after Goldwater
had voted against the Civil Rights Act.
His favorite movies were westerns, he said, "because they're told against the background of a very dramatic
period in our history" and "give people a feeling of hope, an affirmative statement of living.".
Pictured on a 41¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, issued 17
Originally intended to make On Golden Pond (1981), but Jane Fonda bought the
rights before he could.
He was a frequent guest at the White House throughout the 1980s, addressing the inauguration of President
Ronald Reagan on 20 January 1981.
He actively sought the role of Charles Lindbergh in The Spirit of St. Louis
(1957), even though the producers felt he was far too old for the part, simply because he admired
Lindbergh so much.
Profiled in "Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors", Gary Yoggy, ed.
He stopped playing the romantic lead when he was 50 because he felt embarrassed playing Kim
Novak's lover in Vertigo (1958) and Bell Book and Candle (1958), since
she was half his age.
In March 2008 a proposal was submitted to award Stewart the Congressional Gold
Medal in recognition of his services to the nation.
Joined the Army eight months before Pearl Harbor. Served overseas for 21 months, where, as a pilot
with the 445th Bomb Group, 703rd squadron, he flew 20 combat missions.
After Boris Yeltsin seized power in Russia in December 1991, Stewart was involved
in arranging for It's a Wonderful Life (1946) to be screened on Russian
Made London stage debut in 1975 with "Harvey".
Following the release of Winchester '73 (1950), he appeared on the list of Top 10 Stars at the US
box office for the first time, a position he retained until the end of the decade.
Wearing his air force uniform, he presented Gary Cooper with his Best Actor Oscar
for Sergeant York (1941).
Along with Robert De Niro and Harrison Ford, Stewart has 8 films
in the Imdb's Top 250 movie list.
African-American actor 'Woody Strode (I)' (Stewart's co-star in Two Rode Together
(1961) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)) praised Stewart as "one of the nicest men
you'll ever meet anywhere in the world".
Daughter Kelly and her husband teach at the University of California, Davis.
Daughter Kelly married Cambridge professor Alexander "Sandy" Harcourt in London in 1977.
Daughter Kelly graduated from Stanford and got a PhD from Cambridge University.
His daughter Judy married banker Steven Merritt in 1979 and they later
He has two grandsons, John and David Merritt.
As of the 5th edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (edited by Steven Jay Schneider),
Stewart is runner-up as the most represented actor, by 13 films, behind Robert De
Niro. Included are the Stewart films Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Destry
Rides Again (1939), The Mortal Storm (1940), The Philadelphia Story
(1940), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Rope (1948), Winchester
'73 (1950), The Naked Spur (1953), Rear Window (1954), The Man
from Laramie (1955), Vertigo (1958), Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
Gary Cooper considered him to be his closest friend.
Some sources state that Stewart was considered to play James Bond in Dr.
No (1962). However, it was in fact Stewart Granger, whose real name was James
Stewart, who was considered - but ultimately rejected as being too old.
Allegedly hated the nickname "Jimmy".
The Jimmy Stewart Museum and the Boy Scouts of America teamed together to have a
new award available to Boy Scouts across America--The James M. Stewart Good Citizenship Award. The
first awards were presented to scouts on May 11, 2003.
During World War II, James flew over 20 bombing raids in Europe, and ended up a
Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve.
In 1985, James received an Honorary Award from the Academy for his 50 years of work on film, and his high ideals
In response to Stewart's death in 1997, President Bill Clinton said that
"America lost a national treasure. Jimmy Stewart was a great actor, a gentleman and a
When Stewart was first sent to Europe to fly bombing missions, his father gave him a letter in
which he wrote, "Jim, I'm banking on the enclosed copy of the 91st Psalm. The thing that takes the place of
fear and worry is the promise of these words. I am staking my faith in these words. I feel sure that God will lead
you through this mad experience. God bless you and keep you. I love you more than I can tell you. Dad."Stewart carried the letter with him for the rest of his life, and the words from the Psalm that
his father gave him are written on his grave marker: "For He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep
thee in all thy ways."
There is a small airport called Jimmy Stewart Airport located in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
While in his junior year at Princeton University, Stewart joined the
cheerleading squad, and he became head cheerleader in his senior year.
When President Harding's funeral train passed through a nearby town, Stewart's
father took him to watch it pass. They put two pennies on the track to be flattened by the train, and they kept
these pennies for many years.
James was the firstborn son of Alexander and Elizabeth
Stewart and had two sisters, Mary and Virginia.
There is a museum dedicated to James Stewart, located on the main street in the town of
Indiana, PA. In front of the museum is a statue of the actor.
The sign that welcomes people to Indiana, Pennsylvania also declares the town the "Birthplace of Jimmy
Ranked #10 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time"
list. [October 1997
James was named Best Classic Actor of the 20th Century in an
Entertainment Weekly on-line poll. [September 1999]
He was voted the 9th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
Was named #3 on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends Actor list by the American Film
His performance as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) is ranked
#8 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as James "Scottie" Ferguson in Vertigo (1958) is ranked
#30 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) is ranked
#60 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
In 1999 the American Film Institute named him the third greatest male star of all