Thursday, October 26, 2006
I am very pleased to announce that Alfred Kralik is being honored by our nation, as are Ted Barker, ‘Truck’ Cross, Bill Pettigrew, Johnny Mason, Guy Johnson, Tom Destry, and Gaylord Esterbrook.
No matter the name, they were all James Maitland Stewart, and the man who was said to be “unusually usual” is being honored with his likeness on a postage stamp. That’s only fair, as he put his stamp, his mark on America. If John Wayne was the American Cowboy and Soldier, Jimmy Stewart was the American Everyone Else. He played reporters so often-The Philadelphia Story, Murder Man, Next Time We Love, The Last Gangster, No Time For Comedy, etc as many screenwriters had once been newspapermen. Jimmy Stewart also wore many uniforms, from Navy Cadet (Navy Blue and Gold) to Union Army officer (Of Human Hearts) Baseball Player (The Stratton Story) to, hilariously, a Boy Scout leader in “It’s a Wonderful World”. If you haven’t seen “It’s a Wonderful World”, Jimmy plays a detective who gets mixed up with a poetess, played by Claudette Colbert, and ‘screwball antics’ ensue.
He’s only a Boy Scout leader in disguise, you see, as the scouts are enlisted in finding Stewart and Colbert, who is mistakenly thought to be a murderer and the plot doesn’t really matter in this type of comedy, it’s just fun.
Jimmy Stewart wasn’t a comedian, but an actor who excelled at both drama and comedy, whatever the script called for. He even sang and danced in “Born To Dance”, played harmonica in “Pot O’ Gold”, the accordion in “Night Passage” and “Dear Brigitte”.
Many regard “Harvey” as his best movie, and it is wonderful. I think one of his best performances-which is a foolish statement, as he was great in everything, it was the movies which went from great “The Philadelphia Story”, “Rear Window”, to downright awful: “The Ice Follies of 1939”, “You Gotta Stay Happy”-one of his best performances was in “Anatomy of a Murder” where he played an attorney defending a soldier who had killed the man who had raped his wife.
Captain James Maitland Stewart, as part of the Second Air Division of the Eighth Air Command, flew in 20 major bombing missions over Germany during WWII. He had been drafted, made the weight requirements for his height by ounces, and went from earning $21,000 per month to $21. He sent his agent, Leyland Hayward, a check for $2.10. That was Jimmy Stewart.
As you can tell, I have long been a fan of his movies, and I am glad that he is being honored with a stamp by our Postal Service. I encourage everyone to check out his movies-a personal favorite is “Pot O’ Gold” with Paulette Goddard. Pure fun. Which of his films do you like?