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Jimmy Stewart Turns 100

Even though he’s been dead for nearly 11 years, today would be Jimmy Stewart’s 100th birthday if he were still alive. It seems a date worth commemorating, and when I realized that it was approaching, I cast around a bit to see what I might watch in honor of one of the greatest actors ever. I had several things on hand . . . the heart-warming and hilarious Harvey, edgy, hard-boiled Anatomy of a Murder, the magnificent collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock: Rope, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo. In the end, though, I turned to Netflix and found a couple of instantly-available choices that I hadn’t actually seen.

The first was Frank Capra’s classic political diatribe: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (which I have seen, but not since I was very young). It was made fairly early in Stewart’s career (in 1939, just a year after his first collaboration with Capra in You Can’t Take It with You, see below). The second was the 1950 western Broken Arrow, in which Stewart plays a crusty cowboy who helps broker a lasting peace treaty between the Americans and the Apache Indians. 1950 wasn’t late in Stewart’s career by any means, but many believe that the tone of the actor’s roles changed after his participation in World War II. I wouldn’t call either film a great favorite, but I enjoyed watching both.

My favorite Stewart role is probably still his performance as the ultra-cynical lawyer Paul Biegler in Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959). It’s a fantastic film with some fantastic work by Stewart (and the supporting cast). What’s your favorite?

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~ by Jared on May 20, 2008.

2 Responses to “Jimmy Stewart Turns 100”

  1. It’s hardly fair to ask for a favorite, I think ….

    I like Stewart’s early roles best, I think, because it is so hard to believe that anyone could pull them off without turning them into variations on Forrest Gump — yet I see continuity between those roles and the later, darker characters. Jefferson Smith or George Bailey could easily become L.B. Jefferies or Paul Biegler, it seems to me.

  2. Too many movies to name. He was such a great talent. I loved watching him in almost anything.

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