A hundred Star Wars movies might get released and Marvel Studios might continue to churn out the best superhero movies, but the glory of a Hollywood classic like It’s a Wonderful Life will always live on. The Christmas classic is one of the many extraordinary works of the full life lived by American actor and military officer, James Maitland Stewart, more commonly known as Jimmy Stewart. With a career that lasted 60 years in two major paths, he died as an American icon. Here is a detailed look at Jimmy Stewart’s life from his childhood to his acting and military career.
Jimmy Stewart Biography
Born in the early years of the 20th century (20 May 1908), Jimmy Stewart made landfall in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He was born to parents who owned a hardware store. His education may have started formally at Mercersburg Academy but he was already a skilled accordion player in his early days. His acting life started back in school when he participated in school plays. Jimmy was one of those people that excelled at whatever they did; he studied architecture at Princeton University and stood out academically. His academic excellence earned him a scholarship for his graduate studies but Jimmy was a man who had his sights set on Performing arts.
There is nothing to suggest that Jimmy wouldn’t have excelled in a career as an architect, but he certainly wouldn’t have been the beloved icon as he is today. His road to life as a national icon started at Princeton University as a member of the Triangle Club. This was where he began to perform as a stage actor. After graduation, the man who had found what he loved, opted to pursue a career in acting. In the same year after his graduation, he made his Broadway debut and performed in a few more shows, but due to the depression rocking the country at the time, a lot of the shows were canceled. The few that managed to open long enough for critics to get them reviewed, received a lot of praise for Jimmy Stewart’s performances.
His growing reputation earned him a contract with the Hollywood movie production company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1935. He struggled to find love from viewers despite appearing in a number of movies. He, however, hit stardom through his performance in You Can’t Take It With You. The movie was a box office and critical hit, winning the Oscar award for Best Picture. It was this movie that made Stewart what he was destined to be, a star.
Over the course of his career, Stewart appeared in over 80 films and made multiple radio appearances. He was nominated for four Oscar awards during his lifetime and he won one.
In a career that was defined majorly by his exploits in front of the camera, Jimmy Stewart had a spell as a United States military officer during World War II. He applied to join the US Army Air Corps and became a pilot. This was something he had always wanted to do but his father never let him. Although he never saw much on the battlefront during his early days as a military officer, his national image facilitated the recruiting of many men into the army, providing enough hands to win the war. After playing mascot for the army, Stewart was finally set to be a military officer. He rose to the rank of a Colonel in the Air Force and his military awards include a Distinguished Service Medal award and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The war ended and he returned to his acting career after some hesitation triggered by the things he experienced during the war. He made It’s a Wonderful Life in 1946 and it is widely regarded as the most defining work of his career.
In 1997, Jimmy Stewart died after a brief illness.
His Net Worth
His extensive career and a ton of commercially successful projects made Jimmy a rich man. Before his death, the Pennsylvanian star was worth $30 million. Alongside his movie income were incomes from commercials and endorsements deals.
Jimmy’s Wife, Children, and Family
Known for playing your average middle-class American man, Jimmy tried to live as one; a simple life despite his fame and fortune. Even though he was reputed as a playboy, Jimmy was only ever married to one woman, Gloria Hatrick McLean. The couple got married in 1949 and were together until Gloria’s death in 1994.
They had four children, biologically sharing twin daughters (Judy and Kelly) with Stewart adopting Gloria’s children (Michael and Ronald) from a previous relationship.
Height – How Tall Was He?
Jimmy Stewart was a tall lanky shy man while he was alive, he was 6 feet 3 inches tall. The handsome actor had body features that made the ladies swoon over him and before he got married, he was quite famous with the ladies.