Jimmy Stewart: Was He Born to Dance and Sing?

When it comes to naming my favorite old movie star, no one else even comes close to Jimmy Stewart. I think he was a wonderful and diverse actor, a true gentleman in real life, and even though it’s not usually the first thing people think about him, at least not compared to actors like Clark Gable and Cary Grant, I find him to be extremely handsome and charming. I haven’t watched any of his westerns, but I have seen the majority of his most well-known or easy to find movies.

One of the movies that I had not yet seen until yesterday was the MGM musical Born to Dance (1936) starring Eleanor Powell. Jimmy Stewart’s profile on imdb.com mentioned that his undubbed singing voice was showcased in that movie, and I had been hoping to find a copy of it so I could hear him sing. While doing a search at my local library last week, I discovered that they had gotten a DVD collection of musicals called Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory, Volume 3 and was happy to find that it contained Born to Dance.

In that movie, Jimmy Stewart sings a few lines in the opening song, “Rolling Home”, but the song he’s most known for singing is “Easy to Love”, which he sang to his on screen love Nora Paige, played by Eleanor Powell. His singing ability has been debated by many who have watched this movie with the opinions ranging all the way from awful to excellent. I would say it is somewhere in between although his voice is definitely more pleasant than I thought it would be. I’m glad his voice was not dubbed, because I thought it added a certain charm to the song that might have been missing otherwise.

The Songs of Cole Porter

If you are a fan of Cole Porter, then this movie is definitely one you need to watch. In addition to the two songs mentioned above, he wrote both the music and the lyrics for the other songs featured in this movie. Another of those songs is the well known classic, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” which was sung in this movie by Virginia Bruce and also used as the music for a beautiful dance routine starring the dancers Georges and Jalna. I have to admit that I was not all that familiar with the songs written by Cole Porter before I watched this movie so the version I was most  familiar with was by Frank Sinatra. Learning that it was written by Cole Porter and performed by others many years before being sung by Sinatra was very interesting and provided the motivation to learn more about Porter’s music.

Jimmy Stewart doesn’t do much dancing in this movie as that is mostly left up to the fabulous Eleanor Powell and co-stars Buddy Ebsen and Frances Langford. Anyone who loves tap dancing should see this movie and experience Powell’s amazing talent, especially in the movie’s last scene set to Porter’s song “Swingin’ the Jinx Away”.

Born to Dance can be found on DVD as a double feature along with another Eleanor Powell movie, Lady Be Good.

Have you watched Born to Dance and if so, what did you think of Jimmy Stewart’s singing ability?


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7 Responses
  1. Scott says:

    I haven’t seen Born to Dance, but I love Jimmie Stewart in a lot of his movies. Just watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington earlier this year, we watch It’s a Wonderful Life almost every Christmas, and I love him in the Hitchcock movies, like The Man Who Rear Window. To me, those are all classics! I don’t remember him singing or dancing in any of those movies, though…

  2. Karen says:

    Hi! I just stumbled across your site because at this moment I am watching Born To Dance right now and was amazed to hear Jimmy Stewart singing! First I wrote my sister-we both grew up watching these old movies on tv and they inspired us both to go into musical theatre. I ended up doing it professionally for over a decade…anyway, Jimmy was always a favourite and I /we agree: he beats out all the other leading men, with exception of Gene Kelly. My sister and I had him crowned king in our hearts – but Jimmy is delish in his own way. Cary Grant wasn’t bad either. I feel like you do…just born in the wrong era. But you asked about Jimmy’s voice-i think it’s perfect and sweet, just like him. And that’s a professional’s opinion! Kelly had a similar singing voice- not a lot of power, couldn’t have been heard on stage. But perfect for an intimate movie moment.

    I’m proud of myself because I guessed the score was Cole Porter and I was right! :)

    Thanks for this site, I’ll probably be back!

  3. Ginny says:

    Hi Karen! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment. I absolutely love Gene Kelly, could watch him dance all day actually, so you’ll get no arguments from me there! :-) I agree about his voice as well. The scene where he sings “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the greatest movie moments of all time in my opinion.

  4. John says:

    I enjoy Jimmy Stewart as an actor. He always represented honesty and integrity in every character he portrayed. Well, there was that one Thin Man film he played a villain.

    I like all the films that are obvious with his body of work. But I must say the movie Harvey stands out to me. I hear Stewart loved this film and watched it often. The way this man goes through life sorta trumps the comedy here. I guess all of us feel like Elwood P. Dowd sometimes. But I believe Elwood never lost his soul. He stood true to himself no mattter what the world tried to do to him, “to thine self be true” is so valid, especially in today’s world.

    Thank You for keeping these old actor’s memories alive Ginny. Somebody has to. It is much appreciated. I find classic film lovers do have good souls.

    Two Stewart films I think you would enjoy maybe you haven’t already seen are: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence and The Last Gangster Story. One wih Duke Wayne the latter with Edward G. Robinson. In Liberty Valence the two screen legends combine comedy with great drama. In the Robinson film Jimmy appears late in the movie with a moustache and does a fine job.

  5. John says:

    I loved Born To Dance and I love Eleanor Powell movies. I watch them mainlty to see her dance. Her athleticism is quie unbelieveable. She is by far in my opinion the greatest dancer ever to live. Married to the greart actor Glen Ford for many years, I remember her fondly.

    The Glen Ford bio just came out about 6 months ago written by his son Peter Ford. Glen Ford like Jimmy Stewart was one of the good guys on screen and off.

  6. John says:

    I just bought a four movie western set feauturing James Stewart. I have seen three of the films so far and give the set a thumbs up. I really enjoyed Bend Of The River and The Far Country. The Rare Breed was a little on the silly side but I made it through the film thanks mostly to Stew and Maureen Ohara’s star power.

    I have only watched the first half hour of Night Passage but it started out okay. Believe it or not we have Jimmy playing the accordion here. Seems to be about the railroad in the old west. I hope he plays the accordion more in it as I pick it up in the next day or so. Stewart was a very versatile actor. Experiencing him in Westerns is a great pleasure. To boot this movie four pack was only $7.99….

  7. [...] his that I made him the subject of the very first blog post I ever wrote when I reviewed the movie Born to Dance [...]

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