The James Stewart Blogathon – The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

“This post is part of the James Stewart Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. You can view the complete blogathon schedule here.”

The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

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.

Glenn Miller

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 →

Edgewater Beach Hotel Chicago: A Magnet for Hollywood Celebrities

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I have a fascination with hotels that started at a very young age. Growing up, we didn’t have the money to take expensive trips to places like Disneyland, but my sisters and I were perfectly happy going on smaller trips to places nearby. Often times we would just stay at a hotel to enjoy all its amenities, which for us kids meant mostly the swimming pool!

I grew to love staying in hotels during our trips, and my favorite hotel which we stayed at several times was the Leilani Hotel in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Sadly it is no longer there and it’s hard to find information about it, but I did find an article that shows an illustrated picture of the hotel’s layout, which was quite unique. The article mentions that Frank Sinatra may have even entertained there at one time, which would have been cool to see.

Anyway, to this day I love staying in hotels, looking at pictures of hotels, and reading about hotels old and new. So when I read an article about the former Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago and found out it had strong ties to the classic film community, I was intrigued!

I immediately headed to eBay to see if I could find a postcard of the hotel, which I love to do on occasion when the inspiration strikes. I purchased the following postcard, which shows an actual picture of the hotel, but there were many illustrated postcards that I thought were really cool and would like to buy someday.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Chicago

In researching the history of the hotel, I discovered that it was once an extremely popular destination for classic movie stars, which I never would have guessed about a hotel in Chicago, far from the bright lights of Hollywood. The more I read about it, the more I wish I were alive when it was in its heydey, just like I do when I hear about the Copa Room in the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Well, it did still exist for a few decades after I was born, but the exciting days of the Rat Pack performing there were over.

Here are few facts about the history of The Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago:

  • Built in 1916 and designed by famed architects Benjamin H. Marshall and Charles E. Fox, the hotel was built in the form of a Maltese Cross so that as many rooms as possible would have a view of Lake Michigan.
  • The hotel boasted a 1,200 foot private beach where guests could sunbathe during the day and dance at night. It also had its own barbershop, beauty parlor, drugstore, liquor store, photographer’s studio, and gift shop along with many other amenities. Continue reading →