Shane Riggs-Managing Editor
Johnstown Magazine -December 2022
I have a question to ask that I think I actually already know the answer to.
Who doesn’t like Jimmy Stewart?
You must be some kind of “Mr. Potter Angel-Wing-Clippin’- Rope Tyin’- Poetry Hatin’ – Invisible Rabbit Killer” not to have a smile inducing expression on your face when the very mention of this beloved actor’s name is mentioned.
In and even after his lifetime, Jimmy Stewart represented “everybody.” He was the leading man, yes, but he was also “every man.” In his George Bailey we can see ourselves – struggling with the big questions of life. What kind of legacy am I leaving? Has my life even mattered? What kind of impact have I made on the world? His portrayal of a man on a literal bridge doubting his worth is something we can all probably see in ourselves. Who among us has not been on our metaphorical bridge questioning our choices and our influence? By contrast, how many of us can say that in our moments of great isolation we have not wished for our own Harvey? Who has not attended an engagement party and found the notion of an entire formal evening devoted to the devoted a little absurb? Who has not wanted to put on a ten-gallon cowboy hat and ride off into the sunset?
Yes. I thought as much.
You see, Mr. James Stewart was so much more than an actor, than a celebrity. He was all of us. In more than 80 movies, he was not acting as much as he was mirroring what we all think and feel. At different points in his life, his characters evolved – just like the actions and experiences we go through in our own lives change and mature us – and sometimes sway our opinion and our self-identity. For probably that reason, I have never met anyone who opened a conversation with “You know what I don’t like about Jimmy Stewart?”
It seems a common sense notion then that a monument to this “Every Man” should be located in his hometown – just a short trip north of Johnstown – in Indiana, Pennsylvania. And it seems a no-brainer that this magazine should spend some time there – especially this time of year – when It’s a Wonderful Life permeates our very existence. There’s a reason this movie remains a perennial favorite. Yes, it’s the feel-good message of redemption and a perfectly flawed human being coming to terms with his spiritual self. But let’s face it, the longevity of this film also speaks to the often understated magnetism of its leading actor.
Through his movies, his television appearances, his service to country, his friendships with political influencers, and even his poetry, Jimmy Stewart was a man – and a personality – who was always admired and continues to be celebrated. Think about this – he would socialize with the likes of Fonda and Hepburn and yet at his father’s request, his Oscar statue was on display in a downtown Indiana hardware store for decades!
If you ask me, I think the world would be a much better place – more united, more hopeful and happier — if we had more examples like him guiding our culture. Yes, what the world needs now is “love sweet love” but we sure could use another Jimmy Stewart. Don’t you think?