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James Stewart

James Stewart

James "Jimmy" Maitland Stewart (May 20, 1908 – July 2, 1997) was an American actor and military officer who is among the most honored and popular stars in film history. Known for his distinctive drawl, down-to-earth authentic personas and everyman acting style, Stewart had a film career that spanned over 55 years and 80 films. With the strong morality he portrayed both on and off the screen, Stewart epitomized the "American ideal" in the 20th-century United States. The roles he played spanned a wide range of characters and appealed to large audiences. His emotional film performances contributed to his cinematic acclaim. Stewart began his career as a performer on Broadway; his work there earned him a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). He first established himself as a star working with Frank Capra, playing idealized and virtuous characters in You Can't Take It with You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). His performance in the latter earned him the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor. The following year, he won the Academy Award for his work in the screwball comedy The Philadelphia Story, which also starred Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Already a licensed pilot, Stewart enlisted as a Private in the Army Air Corps as soon as he could after the United States entered the Second World War. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of Colonel and had received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, The Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. He remained in the United States Air Force Reserve and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1959. He flew as a pilot on one combat mission in Vietnam. At his mandated retirement at age 60, in 1968, he received the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan awarded Stewart the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1946, Stewart starred as George Bailey in Capra's Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life. Although it earned him an Oscar nomination, the film was not a big success at first. Eventually it brought him worldwide recognition which has lasted to this day. Stewart expanded his acting range during his later career to include more flawed and disillusioned characters in films directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Mann. His nine films with Mann include Winchester '73 (1950) and The Naked Spur (1953). He made four films with Hitchcock: Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958). Vertigo was ignored by critics at its time of release, but has since been reevaluated and recognized as an American cinematic masterpiece. Stewart's later films include the comedy-drama Harvey (1950) and the courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder (1959), both of which landed him Academy Award nominations. Stewart’s later Westerns included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964), both directed by John Ford. In 1949 Stewart married former model Gloria Hatrick McLean. They had twin daughters. He adopted her two children from her previous marriage. Many of the films in which he starred have become enduring classics. In 1985, Stewart received an Academy Honorary Award for his achievements. In 1999, the American Film Institutenamed Stewart the third-greatest male screen legend of the Golden Age of Hollywood, behind Humphrey Bogart (first place) and Cary Grant (second place).
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