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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.?

by Anonymousreply 5308/07/2013

He was the quintessential every day American guy. Actually, there are a few photos of him done by some famous Hollywood photographer to the stars where he looks almost handsome. Black and white photography is always flattering.

by Anonymousreply 101/07/2013

Watch [italic]You Can't Take It with You[/italic]. He was adorable. Stay away from movies in which he takes off his shirt.

by Anonymousreply 201/07/2013

He has the quality that fangirls on Tumblr refer to as "adorkable."

by Anonymousreply 301/07/2013

Watching Philadelphia Story... as if there is any doubt who should Kate Hepburn pick, Stewart or Grant.

BTW, Hepburn had a 20" waist.

by Anonymousreply 401/07/2013

he was a good-looking cowboy - very sexy.

by Anonymousreply 501/07/2013

The Philadelphia Story is one of my three favorite movies, ever! Philadelphia Story, Sound of Music, Empire Strikes Back -- my favorite depends which day you ask me. But without a doubt, Stewart was awesome in The Philadelphia Story!

by Anonymousreply 601/07/2013

He was cuuuuuuuute when he was young, OP. Not strictly handsome but very appealing. His voice and mannerisms - particularly in films like Mr Smith goes to Washington, where he has a funny bit with a hat when confronted by an artractive woman - are part of it.

by Anonymousreply 701/07/2013

I liked him in Harvey.

by Anonymousreply 801/07/2013

He was charming and handsome in the 40's. And I love his films with Hitchcock in the 50's.

by Anonymousreply 901/07/2013

Charming and handsome? I find him somewhat repellent. I agree that he almost always played the same character, a befuddled cantankerous square. Anyone know what he was like IRL?

by Anonymousreply 1001/07/2013

I agree with OP. I have never understood the appeal of Mr. Stewart. His speech impediment, which only became stronger as he aged, really annoys me at times he almost seems mentally defective. But different times, different tastes. Give me Cary Grant anyday.

by Anonymousreply 1101/07/2013

[quote]Anyone know what he was like IRL?

He was best friends with Henry Fonda, and they would sit in the basement building model airplanes together. Politically they were exact opposites, so after a few epic fights they sat for hours building the models without saying a word.

He apparently became very right wing after his time in the Air Force and his association with people like General LeMay.

He also had a hearing problem after WWII, and (since someone will mention it soon enough) there are stories about him being a real racist.

by Anonymousreply 1201/07/2013

"Did audiences really buy this bumpkin as a worthy leading man to the likes of Carole Lombard, Hedy Lamarr, Kim Novak, Grace Kelly, etc.?"

Well, OP, since he was a top box office draw for 20 years or so, I guess they did now, didn't they?

by Anonymousreply 1301/07/2013

When did he adopt that defining speech pattern? It wasn't his natural speaking voice, at least not in his early years.

by Anonymousreply 1401/07/2013

He's very idiosyncratic, like a lot of big stars of the golden era.

by Anonymousreply 1501/07/2013

I can see it.

by Anonymousreply 1601/07/2013

The answer is and always has been: the standards for men are so LOW.

by Anonymousreply 1701/07/2013

[quote]Did audiences really buy this bumpkin as a worthy leading man to the likes of Carole Lombard, Hedy Lamarr, Kim Novak, Grace Kelly, etc.?

No, OP. That's why he was banned from Hollywood following his first picture.

by Anonymousreply 1801/07/2013

He never actually costarred opposite Hedy Lamarr, did he? They were both in Ziegfeld Girl together but weren't paired romantically in it IIRC.

by Anonymousreply 1901/07/2013

Considering Stewart was one of MGM's biggest stars in the 1930s/40s, it always surprises me that LB Mayer so generously loaned him out to Columbia, Paramount and Capra for many films which turned out to be some of his best, including Destry, You Can't Take It with You, Mr. Smith, It's a Wonderful Life, etc.

by Anonymousreply 2001/07/2013

Not exactly a bumpkin...went to Princeton, was tall, rangy and read "intelligent." I can see why he was a much-loved star.

by Anonymousreply 2101/07/2013

That hesitant drawl made his casual acting style very believeable.

by Anonymousreply 2201/07/2013

He gave his father his Oscar so that it could be proudly displayed in the family's hardware shop in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Indiana was the name of the town in PA where Stewart grew up.

He was seduced by Marlene Dietrich when they costarred in Destry in 1939. Apparently, she couldn't get enough of him.

by Anonymousreply 2301/07/2013

fwiw i was on a hollywood homes tour years ago with my parents. the tour guide said many of the celebs hated the tour busses and would be nasty to fans but stewart was always pleasant. would wave, sometimes come over to the vans, talk to people, take pictures.

by Anonymousreply 2401/07/2013

He was a great actor. I can't think of anyone who played desperation better. See Vertigo, It's a Wonderful Life, Anatomy of a Murder, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Shop Around the Corner, and the westerns he made with Anthony Mann. In each movie he has a scene where he'll scare you with the intensity of his fear or hopelessness or anger. There's a moment in The Philadelphia Story when Hepburn goads him into a kiss by calling him "professor" over and over; the combination of resentment and longing he manages is completely distinctive -- and sexy. Margaret Sullavan always brought out something authentically tender in him. They were the movies' best unknown team.

The racist stories about him have been somewhat discredited. His son was killed in the Vietnam War, and the experience embittered him for a couple of years and turned his politics ever farther to the right than it had been. Still, almost everyone who worked with him loved him. Even Bette Davis, as liberal a Democrat as any Hollywood star, said that their collaboration was a capstone to her career. She also said that he was one of the handsomest men in the business and she'd waited most of her working life for him to kiss her.

by Anonymousreply 2501/07/2013

He was the 50's answer to Tom Hanks.

Likable and the everyday man.

by Anonymousreply 2601/07/2013

If you don't get misty from Mr. Smith goes to Washington,or It's a wonderful life,you are heartless.

by Anonymousreply 2701/07/2013

TCM (a.k.a. The Eldergay Channel) ran a couple of his '60s comedies last night: [italic]Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation[/italic] and [italic]Take Her, She's Mine[/italic] (the latter co-starring Sandra Dee and the gorgeous Philippe Forquet).

by Anonymousreply 2801/07/2013

Well said, r25. You made me think of the scene in Rear Window where Grace Kelly's over in the killer's apartment and the killer comes back and he's attacking her in the dark apartment while Jimmy can only watch - even thinking about the way Stewart projects utter terrified helplessness at that moment is giving me goosebumps right now.

by Anonymousreply 2901/07/2013

Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart (past 35), Van Johnson, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye - some stars of his era. It wasn't as looks-oriented as it is now.

by Anonymousreply 3001/07/2013

R30 is right. Depth of character and personality along with acting skills were more important- and rightly so. Now all we care about is who's good looking and gay.

by Anonymousreply 3101/07/2013

[quote]Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart (past 35), Van Johnson, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye - some stars of his era. It wasn't as looks-oriented as it is now.

Right, but the PR machine has always worked it's magic. For every name on your list I can match it with a Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, Ben Stiller, or even Tom Hanks.

by Anonymousreply 3201/07/2013

R32, maybe only Hanks. Penn, Cage and Stiller do not have the range that Tracy, Stewart, et al had.

by Anonymousreply 3301/07/2013

this doesn't even bear discussion.....all you need to do is watch "Its a Wonderful Life" to see how he got to be a leading man. There is no other actor who could've done George Bailey justice.

by Anonymousreply 3401/07/2013

maybe he had a huge cock?

by Anonymousreply 3501/07/2013

I watched Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation for the first time yesterday and loved him as the cantankerous but loving father.

by Anonymousreply 3601/07/2013

was he a racist?

by Anonymousreply 3701/07/2013

I guess he was ok.....I guess.

by Anonymousreply 3801/07/2013

Even though he had the same voice and mannerisms in each role, he actually had a huge emotional range.

He could be charming and funny in comedies, descend into madness in "Vertigo", be a narcissistic snob in "Rope", fight for his life in "Flight of the Phoenix", etc. He could play the lightest and darkest roles while still "playing himself", and I don't think there's an actor today who can do the same.

by Anonymousreply 3901/08/2013

r19, he was paired with Hedy Lamarr in a movie called "Come Live with Me" It is shown on TCM from time to time.

by Anonymousreply 4001/08/2013

R25, you nailed it. Because of the intensity and truth with which he plays George Bailey's descent into despair, IAWL is very difficult viewing for me despite the uplifting finale. And no matter how many times I see it, VERTIGO never fails to be engrossing. And I always hope Stewart will reach out and grab Kim Novak before that fatal moment.

by Anonymousreply 4101/08/2013

Here's his fumbling with the hat. Love it.

by Anonymousreply 4201/08/2013

Besides Margaret Sullavan, I would say that his best leading lady was Jean Arthur.

Jean was like the female version of Jimmy.

by Anonymousreply 4301/08/2013

R43, I love Jean Arthur, too, but it turns out that she didn't love Jimmy Stewart, at least not as a co-star. I think that she liked him okay but said she preferred Gary Cooper, whom she found more "solid." I'm not sure why she would be comparing them -- probably in response to a question. Besides Cooper she spoke enthusiastically about only one other actor: Brandon de Wilde.

by Anonymousreply 4401/10/2013

I guess I must be heartless then r27 because I have made several attempts to watch both It's A Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and found them both very boring and changed the channel. My father was from the Indiana area and I went to IUP there with neither forming a very positive estimation. His accent is real but he worked even so to get rid of some of it; I never cared very much for Jimmy Stewart, there are worse actors but there were also numerous others who were better.

by Anonymousreply 4501/10/2013

It was just on again on TCM. Didn't want to create a new thread this time. Jimmy Stewart did NOT deserve an Oscar for this performance which manages to be both bland and overwrought at the same time. I also hate the way that Tracy Lord is humbled by her father - he practically blames her for his philandering? What a crock of shit, but hey, it was 1940. Hepburn and Grant are great in this - too bad that they only made three films together. Kate also looked gorgeous in this. She looked beautiful on film from around 1940 to maybe 1944 - then she hit a wall.

by Anonymousreply 4604/17/2013

What r17 said.

by Anonymousreply 4704/17/2013

He's heaven in The Shop Around the Corner, but everybody is.

by Anonymousreply 4804/17/2013

I find him attractive and he could act. It's not like he was some hideous beast.

by Anonymousreply 4904/17/2013

Now, I guess you are jealous. Being handsome isn't everything man. He had the 'everyday guy' or 'the-guy-next-door' looks, which made him easy to be accepted in his roles of a common man. Whenever Cary Grant or Gregory Peck played the role of a common man like those in "Bringing Up Baby' or "Roman Holiday", it looked quite inappropriate. But James could do any role beautifully for his average and somewhat handsome looks, like Audrey Hepburn. And he couldn't act? Look who's talking, like you can. James Stewart could act better than most of the actor in his days. Yes it is true his personality remained the same, but you have to look at how he was so flexible with his personality that he could fit in any character. Starting from the comedy role of 'You can't take it with you' and to the role of a faithful lawyer in 'Anatomy of a murder', he showed off his talents and fit into every character with his own personality. How many could do that?

So, think before you talk.

by Anonymousreply 5008/07/2013

I barfed when he took his shirt off. Think Mr. Burns.

by Anonymousreply 5108/07/2013

He's great in Harvey.

by Anonymousreply 5208/07/2013

R46, what Jimmy Stewart movie are you watching? Yes, the father is nuts, blaming his daughter for his diddling. But Stewart's character is great. Watching him deal with both the Hepburn character plus the great character played by Ruth Hussey (who fascinates and intimidates him) is wonderful to watch. And his midnight drunken talk with Cary Grant is a highlight of the movie.

by Anonymousreply 5308/07/2013
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