Jimmy Stewart's all-American good looks, boyish charm, and deceptively easygoing style of acting made him one of Hollywood's greatest and most enduring stars. Despite the indelible image he projected of innocence and quiet self-assurance, Stewart's life was more complex and sophisticated than most of the characters he played. With fresh insight and unprecedented access, bestselling biographer Marc Eliot finally tells the previously untold story of one of our greatest screen and real-life heroes. Born into a family of high military honor and economic success dominated by a powerful father, Stewart developed an interest in theater while attending Princeton University. Upon graduation, he roomed with the then-unknown Henry Fonda, and the two began a friendship that lasted a lifetime. While he harbored a secret unrequited love for Margaret Sullavan, Stewart was paired with many of Hollywood's most famous, most beautiful, and most alluring leading ladies during his extended bachelorhood, among them Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland, Loretta Young, and the notorious Marlene Dietrich.
Eliot, a seasoned leading-man biographer (Cary Grant), turns in an exhaustive report on Stewart, throwing open new windows on America's boy-next-door with archival research, new photographs and anecdotes from Stewart's daughter, Kelly. Born to reserved parents in Pennsylvania, Stewart dipped his feet into theater at Princeton, joining the University Players troupe and cementing a fateful friendship with Henry Fonda. In the lean years of the Depression, Stewart won acclaim for Broadway roles, striking out West in 1935 to star in Capra films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Stewart, whose grandfather was a Civil War hero, obligingly joined the air force to lead bombing raids in Europe during World War II. Upon a safe return, he took on diverse genre roles from westerns to thrillers, shading his characters with depth and dimension. Alfred Hitchcock played deftly on Stewart's Boy Scout likability by giving him vaguely sinister roles in Rear Window and Vertigo. Stewart's heyday came in 1955, when the media anointed him king of Hollywood, knocking John Wayne to second banana. As Eliot chronicles Stewart's films and friendships, he entertains the usual speculation of illicit starlet affairs and brooding disillusionment, but he can't find much to tarnish this Golden Age icon. Photos. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Good and Bad (Bad First..I like to leave on a high note)
Posted February 14, 2009 by Dale , Santa RitaBad
When I read about a person, the last thing I care about is the subject's adolescent sex life. I especially do not care about his 'private' habits! The author is WAY to concerned with Mr. Stewart's sex life, almost to obsession. (At one point, he even compared the rifle in "Winchester 73" to a phallic symbol!! In certain cases, to get a complete picture, a subjects sexual escapades are necessary, but we don't need details!! Also, the author's political views were very prevalent in the entire book. Again, I could care less if Mr. Eliot is liberal or conservative, but it was interesting to note Mr. Stewart's preferences. This book makes me hesitant to but the biography on Cary Grant.
Despite my misgivings (I did if fact nearly delete it when I read about the rifle), I continued on. And I'm glad I did. Mr. Singer obviously did a lot of research, and it shows. I was also pleasantly surprised when, at various places in the book he actually pointed out excellent performances by actors whom he had previously all but dissed. So he does know quality when he sees it. This bio was so detailed, that I felt I knew Mr. Stewart better than ever before.
Overall, nice job. I'm still not sure if I will get the bio on Cary Grant though. That said, I would have to say that this book is worth the read.
October 09, 2006
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Excerpt from Jimmy Stewart by Marc Eliot
His mother, Elizabeth Ruth Jackson Stewart, whom everyone knew as Bessie, called her only son Jimsy. It was a rare sign of warmth and affection to the boy in the otherwise rigid, turn-of-the-century middle-class American Presbyterian household in which James Maitland Stewart grew up, a household with a proud lineage tinted with vivid reds, whites, and blues. Elizabeth was descended from a long line of Jacksons, the first having arrived in the Colonies in 1773. From their homes in Pennsylvania, every male first-generation Jackson eagerly signed on to fight in the Revolution. This call to arms soon became a family tradition as generation after generation of Jacksons unhesitatingly fought whenever freedom demanded it, including the War of 1812 and then the American Civil War.
In June 1863, Bessie's father, Colonel Samuel Jackson, heroically led the charge of his troops onto the infamous battlefield at Gettysburg, survived the bloody carnage, and was duly rewarded for his valor. His proud family in attendance, Jackson was promoted personally by General Grant to the northern army's elite rank of brigadier general.
After the war, Jackson moved his family farther west, to the burgeoning industrial town of Apollo, just outside of Indiana, Pennsylvania, and about fifty-five miles east of Pittsburgh, in the foothills of the Appalachian plateau. Once settled, Jackson agreed to allow investors to capitalize on his military fame as a way to help raise money to form the Apollo Trust Company. In return, he was made president of the Trust and given a permanent seat on its corporate board. Using Apollo money, Jackson supervised the financial reorganization and massive physical reconstruction of P.H. Kaufman Steel, which helped rejuvenate Pittsburgh's then war-weary industry and gave the entire state a much-needed economic boost. Not long after, the appreciative citizens of Pennsylvania elected him to several state and federal offices.
Along with social prominence and political power, Jackson accumulated a significant personal fortune, and at the ripe old age of thirty-four, decided it was time to start a family of his own. He met and married Mary E. Wilson, eleven years his junior, who, everyone agreed, was the most attractive unmarried woman in town.
Their union produced five children, the third of which was Elizabeth Ruth Bessie a popular child despite the fact that her looks were far from what the rakish Jackson had imagined a daughter of his and Mary's would be like. In truth, Bessie was rather plain, with a circular face accented by drooping eyebrows and a down-curved mouth, nothing at all like the long line of tall, lean aristocratic Jacksons. What she lacked in traditional beauty, however, she made up for in social skills.
For one thing, Bessie was an expert musician with a special affinity for the piano, good enough as a teenager to be asked to play the organ every Sunday at the Apollo Presbyterian Church services, which she did for nearly fifteen years. Her playing charmed everyone, but no one more than the thirty-four-year-old war veteran and prominent Apollo businessman Alexander M. Stewart.
His father was James Maitland Stewart the first, or J.M. as he was universally referred to, the tenth child of John Kerr Stewart, who had come to America from County Antrim, Ireland, in 1784, eager to make his mark in the New World.