“This post is part of the James Stewart Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. You can view the complete blogathon schedule here.”
According to author Marc Eliot in his book, “Jimmy Stewart, a Biography,” Stewart had for some time wanted to make a movie about Glenn Miller, a man with whom he shared several things in common. They were both small town boys with music in their backgrounds and both had served in the Army Air Force. Stewart had long admired Miller’s work, and in 1953 he got his wish to play the trombonist, arranger and bandleader in the movie The Glenn Miller Story (1954).
For the making of the film, he was paired for the fourth time with director Anthony Mann, with the movie being their first non-western collaboration. Their partnership began in 1950 at Universal Pictures with the making of Winchester ’73 and ended with another western, The Far Country in 1954. Unfortunately, it was said that Mann didn’t really care for The Glenn Miller Story, but only took it on as a favor to Stewart.
Born Alton Glenn Miller on March 4, 1904, Miller and Stewart were born four years apart, which meant that Stewart was 46 years old when he played a 25-year-old Glenn Miller at the beginning of the film. In a very similar situation just a few years later, Stewart was 49 years old when he portrayed a 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh in the movie The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), a role he had to actively fight for because the producers thought that he was too old for the part.
The Glenn Miller Story (1954) traces the career of Glenn Miller from his early days as a struggling musician in the late 1920’s through his most successful years as the leader of his own band and the Army Air Force Band, and ends with his tragic death over the English Channel in 1944. Although the movie definitely took some liberties with some key facts as is often the case with many biopics, you can get a basic understanding of what the movie is about and learn more about Miller’s life by reading the biography page on his official site.
Much of the focus of the movie centers on Glenn Miller’s courtship and marriage to Helen Berger, who was played by June Allyson. Berger was his college sweetheart while they both attended the University of Colorado-Boulder. Stewart and Allyson were good friends off screen, and they played husband and wife on screen in two other films, The Stratton Story (1949) and Strategic Air Command (1955). Continue reading →