- Stewart, James Maitland
▪ 1998American actor (b. May 20, 1908, Indiana, Pa.—d. July 2, 1997, Beverly Hills, Calif.), performed in some 80 motion pictures during a 57-year-long career and became one of Hollywood's most beloved stars. With an unpretentious manner, he came to personify a decent everyman, struggling to overcome difficult circumstances while rising to heroic stature in the process. After graduating (1932) from Princeton University with a degree in architecture, Stewart joined the University Players, a summer stock company in Falmouth, Mass. There he met Henry Fonda, and the two became lifelong best friends. Stewart made his Broadway debut in Carrie Nation (1932), and by 1935 he was in Hollywood under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Over the next five years, he made about two dozen movies, including Born to Dance (1936), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and two of the three he made for director Frank Capra, You Can't Take It with You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), in which he played a young idealist fighting corruption. He portrayed a likable reporter in The Philadelphia Story (1940), a role for which he won an Academy Award. Early in 1941 Stewart enlisted in the army—gaining weight in order to meet minimum requirements. He became a pilot and led more than 20 bombing missions; for this he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Croix de Guerre. Stewart rose to colonel by the end of the war, remained in the reserves, and in 1959 was promoted to brigadier general. He retired from the service in 1968. After the war Stewart starred in his third Capra film, It's a Wonderful Life (1946), memorably as George Bailey, an honest banker beset by personal and financial woes. Although the movie was a disappointment at the box office, it went on to become an enduring classic. Other quintessential Stewart roles were Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey—in which he starred on Broadway (1947), in the motion picture (1950), and in the stage revival (1970)—and Charles Lindbergh in The Spirit of St. Louis (1957). The 1950s also found him in a number of westerns directed by Anthony Mann, the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958), and Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder (1959). Later films include The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Flight of the Phoenix (1966), and The Shootist (1976). Among Stewart's honours were an honorary Oscar and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, both presented in 1985.
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