A Birthday Tribute to My Favorite Actor, Jimmy Stewart

 
Today marks the 104th anniversary of the birth of my favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart. I am such a big fan of his that I made him the subject of the very first blog post I ever wrote when I reviewed the movie Born to Dance (1936).

In honor of his birthday, I thought I would tell the story of how I became such a big fan of his and how he helped contribute to my love of old movies. I’ll also share some information on how you can help support a wonderful organization that is helping to keep his memory alive.

The first old movie that I ever watched and the one that was instrumental in turning me into a fan of old movies was The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. While I can’t say Jimmy was the main reason I loved that movie; it was mostly Katharine Hepburn (and her clothes!) that stole the show for me, his wonderful performance did endear him to me.

Watching that movie made me realize that I loved seeing how things looked back then; the houses, furniture, clothes, cars, etc. so I couldn’t wait to watch more old movies. One day when I was craving a movie that had scenes set in places such as on Main Street, and in stores, restaurants, etc. and where men still dressed in suits and hats, I set out for a local video rental store (this was back before the days of Netflix) in the hopes that I could find one that fit the bill.

The only decent movie in the store’s very small classic movie section was Harvey (1950) starring none other than Jimmy Stewart. Not only did the movie contain many of the things I was hoping to find, Jimmy’s warm and charming performance caused me to like him even more. How can you not love a man who has an invisible 6′ 8″ white rabbit for a friend? :-)

Since I wasn’t familiar with many other actors yet, I sought out more of his movies such as The Shop Around the Corner, Rear Window, The Glenn Miller Story, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But I don’t think it was until I watched the beloved classic It’s a Wonderful Life that I fully realized that he was indeed my favorite actor. I have now watched the majority of his movies except for his westerns.

Help Support The Jimmy Stewart Museum

I have a list of classic movie related places that I hope to visit in my lifetime, and tops on that list is the Jimmy Stewart Museum located in his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Located on the third floor of the Indiana Public Library, the museum contains displays of items from his childhood, military career, and acting career, and it also has a 1930s vintage theater where you can view some of his movies. How cool is that? :-)

A few years ago, it was revealed that the museum was facing financial hardship, and it appeared that it might have to close. I’m not sure where that stands now, but my hope is that it will still be going strong when I’m ready to make the trip.

I tried to do my small part today by making a donation to the museum in honor of Jimmy Stewart’s birthday. If you would like to help in the effort, you can do so by visiting their website and making a donation or by purchasing items from their online store. On behalf of all Jimmy Stewart fans who hope to one day visit his museum, thank you in advance for your generosity! :-)

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7 comments

  1. Le says:

    Hi! It’s amazing, because you just described the way I met Jimmy Stewart!
    First I watched The Philadelphia Story because I was becoming a huge Hepburn fan (and I still am a huge fan of hers) and then I watched Havey as part of The Essentials. Jimmy was for sure an amazing actor. Recently I watched After the Thin Man, and his performance was great.
    And, to add to my fan love, in Mr Smith goes to Washington he says my name (Leticia) in the only time I’ve heard it in a classic movie.
    Greetings!
    Le

    • Ginny says:

      Hi Le. Wow, that is quite an amazing coincidence! :-) I’m still a big fan of Katharine Hepburn, too and am grateful that she helped start my love for classic movies. I love all the Thin Man movies, but to have one with Jimmy it in made it extra special. That is so cool that you got to hear him speak your name in a movie. I would love that! :-) Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. John says:

    I must admit I am not a huge Kate Hepburn fan but have seen about 30 or so of her films. Although I do respect her as an actress very much. To me the great thing about The Philadelphia Story is the scene where Cary Grant grabs Hepburn by the face and shoves her backwards. I always laugh when I see it. I always wondered what cushioning they had in back of that doorway. I am in the middle of watching The Sea Of Grass with Hepburn and Tracy. Last week I saw Hepburn in Undercurrent with Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum. Taylor is really creepy and crazy in this film and Mitchum who plays his brother winds up being the cool guy.

    As for Jimmy Stewart, I always liked him and have seen about 40 of his films. The usual standouts, Mr.Smith Goes To Washington, It’s A Wonderful Life and Harvey are must sees.

    I really love the film Harvey and understand Stewart really enjoyed this film as well. There is something so warm about the character of Elwoood P. Dowd. Dowd to me is the person who just got disgusted with life but stood true to his soul. Or did he really have a tall rabbit as a best friend as well :)?

    The scene at the end of this film is the best to me. The cab driver telling Dowd’s sister(Josephine Hull/Arsenic And Old Lace) all about the nasty people he took for rides in his life and all the complaints he has heard. Then saying Elwood was not like that. I kind of hope there are still people like Elwood around, innocent and pure in heart and soul. I didn’t think Elwood was crazy at all, rabbit or not. I felt he was a genuine human being who really wanted to just do good in life and make everybody around him happy. If everybody lived life like this we would be so much better for it. I am glad his sister realized how good a brother she had at the end. I loved everything about Elwood aside from his drinking. Sometimes we just take life too serious and seeing this film although a fantasy just makes one feel good. I know it was just a movie but the film really touches your heart. I really enjoyed it the couple of times I have viewed it.

    I will get off my soapbox and talk about a four movie western pack I just bought and saw recently featuring James Stewart. Night Passage showcases Stew and Audie Murphy as brothers on opposite sides of the law who come together at the end. Stew sings and plays the accordion here, a nice bonus. Bend of The River and The Far Country basically deal with the greed of gold and miners with a little adventure along the way. Stew gives two nice performances here as the honest guy who tries to make things right. The last film in the set, The Rare Breed is a little silly at times focusing on a prize bull. Maureen O’Hara and Jimmy Stewart are the only reason I made it all the way through. I can’t believe that was Brian Keith behind that beard. This four movie set was well worth the price to me, only $7.99. It just shows Stew was a very versatile actor, westerns, comedy and drama. He could do it all!

    Anyways, Happy Birthday Jimmy Stewart. I am very grateful you have left us all these classic films we can enjoy forever.

    • Ginny says:

      Hi John. I loved Harvey, too and enjoyed reading your thoughts on the movie. I feel much the same way about the character of Elwood. I don’t think anyone else could have played him with such warmth quite the way Jimmy did. And I do really think he had a tall white rabbit for a friend. :-)

  3. Karen says:

    Loved your post, Ginny — I share your fondness for Jimmy Stewart — even the westerns! (If you haven’t seen Winchester ’73, you must give it a try. I’m no fan of westerns, but a co-worker lent me his copy of this film, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.) I will definitely check out the Jimmy Stewart museum and store — thanks for shining the spotlight on this worthwhile venture.

    • Ginny says:

      Thanks Karen! I’m always happy to find out that others love him as much as I do. Just like with food, I can be so stubborn with refusing to try things just because I assume I won’t like them. :-) I was like that with silent movies for so long until I watched one just last week (I really liked it!), and I’ve also been that way with westerns.

      It’s funny, someone recommended that I start with Jimmy Stewart/Anthony Mann westerns so I did start watching Winchester ’73 on Netflix once. But I got distracted and never finished it. I’ll have to go back and watch it now. I know you have good taste so I’m sure I’ll like it. :-)

  4. […] like, I love to travel, and as I mentioned in my recent tribute to Jimmy Stewart regarding the Jimmy Stewart Museum, there are several classic movie related places I’d love to visit […]