Jimmy Stewart Biography
James Maitland Stewart
James Maitland Stewart was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, on May 20, 1908. The son of Elizabeth and Alexander Stewart, he achieved so much in his lifetime. Growing up in a small town with his two sisters, Virginia and Mary, instilled values that he would carry with him throughout his life.
Jimmy, as he was known by those close to him and his fans, attended Indiana Normal School, Mercersburg Academy, and Princeton University. His plans for the future entailed working at the J. M. Hardware Co. store that was started by his grandfather and passed down to his father. This never came to fruition although his father always thought that if things didn’t work out, Jimmy could come back home and take over the store.
Jimmy graduated from Princeton with a degree in Architecture. Due to the depression, Stewart thought there would not be many jobs available, so he took up an offer from a friend. He spent the next summer preparing a show for Broadway with the Falmouth Players. When the show headed to New York, Jimmy followed suit. He was enamored with it all. He started on Broadway with bit parts, moved to small parts, and those led to leading roles until he was discovered by Hollywood.
In 1935, Stewart signed a contract with MGM studios and began his impressive film career. During the 1930s, he made twenty-one feature films and continued to hone his acting skills. He starred in films with Spencer Tracy, Ginger Rogers, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Margaret Sullavan, and Edward G. Robinson.
MGM casted him in musicals, dramas, comedies, and westerns. Frank Capra took notice of him in Navy Blue and Gold and
Jimmy did win the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Philadelphia Story also starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in 1940. Stewart was riding high and MGM was expecting big things from him. What he chose to do next was bigger than anyone could have imagined. Like his ancestors before him, Stewart enlisted in the United States Army to the dismay of MGM.
Stewart continued his military career after WWII by serving in the Air Force Reserves and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. President Reagan awarded him the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest award that can be awarded to a civilian in the United States.
During the 1950s Jimmy broadened his roles and collaborated with some of the greatest directors of his time, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille, Billy Wilder, Anthony Mann, John Ford, and Otto Preminger. In 1955, Stewart was the top male at the box office and in the top five for several years. He received another Academy Award nomination for the film many considered his signature role, Harvey.
Jimmy ended his bachelor status in 1949 when he married Gloria Hatrick McLean.They had twin daughters, Kelly and Judy, and with Gloria’s two sons, Michael and Ronald, Jimmy settled down to family life. Unfortunately, they lost Ronald to the Vietnam War.
Jimmy was a popular guest on many television shows in the ’80s and was recognized as one of the great actors of the golden age of Hollywood. Stewart received his second Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He also was awarded the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille and American Film Institute Awards for Lifetime Achievement.
He accidentally started a new career as a poet when he recited his poem A Dog Named Beau on The Johnny Carson Show. Jimmy Stewart’s book of poems became a bestseller and continues to sell very well today.
James Maitland Stewart (Jimmy) died on July 2, 1997. He will be remembered as a talented actor, brave military hero, loving husband, good father, and a giant among men. He leaves a legacy of honesty, hard work, and strong values. He was a good man, a loyal citizen, and had a wonderful life. He indeed earned his wings!
Years of Service: 1941–1947 (Army) 1947–1968 (Air Force)
Wars: World War II – 20 Combat Missions; Vietnam – Bombing Mission Observer
Notable Units: 2d Bombardment Wing / Army Air Forces Reserves
Highest Rank: Brigadier General (O-7)
Notable Military Awards:
Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters
Army Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Presidential Medal of Freedom
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European, African, Middle-Eastern Campaign Medal with six Bronze Service Stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Silver Hourglass Device
1939-45 Croix de Guerre with Palm (From France)
General Stewart also earned his Command Rated Pilot Wings and “Mach 2” Pin
Total Military Service: 27 years, 2 months, 9 days
Major Film Industry Awards & Nominations
1940- Best Actor Academy Award Nomination for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
1941- WON Best Actor Academy Award for The Philadelphia Story
1946- Best Actor Academy Award Nomination for It’s A Wonderful Life
1950- Best Actor Academy Award Nomination for Harvey
1960- Best Actor Academy Award Nomination for Anatomy of a Murder
1985- WON the Lifetime Achievement Honorary Academy Award
1951- Best Actor Golden Globe in a Drama Nomination for Harvey
1963- Best Actor Golden Globe in a Musical or Comedy Nomination for Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation
1965- WON the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement
1974- WON Best TV Actor Golden Globe in a Drama for Hawkins
1955- Best Foreign Actor Nomination for The Glenn Miller Story
1960- Best Foreign Actor Nomination for Anatomy of a Murder