2015 February Executive Director’s Blog

On February 29th, seventy-five years ago, in 1939, James Stewart was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Jefferson Smith in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, at the Academy’s ceremony in Hollywood.  Let’s take a look at the other nominations for that year and give some thought to durability and continued relevance of the actors and the films.  Clark Gable was nominated for his role as Rhett Butler, in “Gone with the Wind.”   Mickey Rooney was nominated for his role in “Babes in Arms”, Lawrence Olivier for his role in “Wuthering Heights” and Robert Donat for “Goodbye Mr. Chips.” Now that’s quite a slate of contenders!  Well, if you are not aware of the winner, it may surprise you.  Robert Donat won for his role in “Goodbye Mr. Chips.”  I guess most surprising to me is that Gable and Olivier, in two, perhaps better known films did not secure that Oscar!  With “Gone with the Wind” often being credited as the greatest American film ever.

“Mr. Smith” was another Frank Capra vehicle for Stewart and really brought our hero into “stardom.”  This was a controversial film and a great box office success, being nominated for 11 Academy Awards.  In this story, written by Lewis R. Foster, I think the name chosen for the lead character is particularly interesting and apropos, combining the name of one of America’s most notable Presidents and perhaps the most common surname in America.  Again, Stewart as the everyman, with boundless potential.  I think it also quite interesting to note that this was the last English language film shown in a free France, just prior to the Nazi occupation.

As for durability and relevance, well, I am a subscriber to a service called – Google Alerts- , essentially what we used to call a clipping service.  Anyone who thinks that James Stewart might be passing from relevance and public interest: subscribe.  As one might suspect, during the Christmas Holidays, Stewart’s film and role as George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” gets a great amount of attention.  Once the political activity is in action (or is that: inaction!) regardless if we are talking on the state or national level, the references to Stewart as Jefferson Smith, in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” abound!  His character inspires much thought as to current state of affairs in contemporary political life and is well worth reading.

Friends, I also, in our current blog, want to share a letter which I have just penned to Museum friend and benefactor, Rich Little—- it pretty much in concise form tells why we value and cherish this dear friend.

Letter follows.

As ever, thanks for listening—- see you here soon!


27 January 2015

Dear Rich,

We understand that last Sunday was your closing performance of your very touching tribute to our hero, Jimmy Stewart. We all want to thank you for putting together such a wonderful, fun and moving piece about your dear friend.

We know that long before your acceptance of the 2003 Harvey Award that you and Mr. Stewart had become great friends, and the show will remain a fitting reminder of that friendship.

Your devotion and promotion of this museum has been an invaluable service to the continuation of our efforts here in Indiana.  Your visits with us, the family and our supporters are truly legendary in the lore of Indiana, PA.  The gift of your time and talent has been key in keeping us in the public eye.  The donation of the entrance canopy from you and Marie gave us a presence in the community that we were lacking and continues to serve as the identifying element for our museum.

Your performance of “Jimmy Stewart and Friends” at the KCAC was fantastic and the donation of those proceeds were very meaningful at a difficult time in our history.

For your friendship and support and all the fun we have when you are with us, we are forever indebted.

Hope to see you here, at your “second home” soon!

Timothy F. Harley, Executive Director                                               Jeffrey Tobin, Board President