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How did Jimmy Stewart get to be a leading man?

He was tall, thin and gawky, he had that awful always querulous sounding voice, he was barely good-looking to begin with and his looks did not improve with age. He became downright homely. Even when he was young he always came across as crabby and irritable as an old man, and his acting (if you can call it acting) schtick never changed from movie to movie. Yet he acted opposite some of Hollywood's most glamorous stars (the vast majority of whom he had zero chemistry with), and as he got older they got younger. Of course there was a ridiculous age gap between many old Hollywood leading men as they aged and their leading ladies, but Jimmy Stewart was no prize to begin with. Did audiences really buy this bumpkin as a worthy leading man to the likes of Carole Lombard, Hedy Lamarr, Kim Novak, Grace Kelly, etc.?

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