JIMMY STEWART: A Life in Film by Roy Pickard


Email this review


Largely scissors-and-paste celebio of Stewart, spiced with two interviews that Pickard, a British film scholar, conducted with the actor over the years. Stewart biographies (e.g., Allen Eyles's James Stewart, 1984, and the two on film--one for PBS's Great Performances, the other for the American Film Institute) all seem to give off the same warm glow, as if each biographer has just been kissed by Kim Novak and Donna Reed while Katharine Hepburn served oolong tea and gingersnaps. But Pickard drives home the thought that, aside from Stewart's humanity and idealism--not to mention his genuine courage as a bomber-group commander leading nearly 20 missions over Germany during WW II-the actor's main qualities, seldom understood by his fans, are his versatility and artistry. Suicidal George Bailey of It's a Wonderful Life is not filibustering Jefferson Smith of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, who is not Charles Lindbergh of The Spirit of St. Louis or the voyeur of Rear window, and so on. After the war, the honeymoon of Stewart's return to film lasted only a few years before a string of flops told him he'd played out all his rope and needed a new line in acting. Luckily, his first Western (Winchester '73, 1950) was a smash, toughening him up and reviving his career. The great tragedy in Stewart's life, Pickard reminds us, was the death of one of his twin sons in Vietnam. That war also ended Stewart's type of Western, forcing him to turn to two TV series, The Jimmy Stewart Show and Hawkins, that were no better than they had to be. Slim pickings on a tasty bird.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1993
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: St. Martin's