Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jimmy Stewart: We Love You!

I don't have the ruggedness of John Wayne, the sophistication of Cary Grant, the voice of Frank Sinatra (although I've been told by several women that I have beautiful blue eyes), or the machismo of Clint Eastwood.

But I do relate to Montgomery Clift, Gary Cooper mostly because he played a certain Tennessee farm boy and last, but not least James Stewart. Why? Because he was just...well, average with a heart that weighed a ton, with the sincerity of his beliefs, the strengths of his convictions and the people behind him.

I won't waste space on the obvious about James Stewart, like his many classic movies, his image, or his life in general. It speaks for itself.

The best story I ever read about Jimmy Stewart was that during November of 1932 in the midst of the Great Depression, he was cast in his first major stage production as a chauffeur in the Broadway comedy Goodbye Again, in which he had two lines. The New Yorker noted, "Mr. James Stewart's chauffeur... comes on for three minutes and walks off to a round of spontaneous applause."

People have been applauding him ever since even though he passed on almost 11 years ago on July 2. Interestingly enough, another classic actor Robert Mitchum died the day before, but Stewart's eclipsed his. While Mitchum was yet another fantastic actor, it is easy to see why this would have happened.

There is the scene towards the end of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington when he says: 'I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them; because of just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor.'... And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any other. Yes, you even die for them.'

Stewart represents the common man (and woman), the idealist who has a vision of the world that although will never be perfect, he will do his very best to make it a better place to live for those around him and for his own offspring even after he passes away by passing on those same bedrock values to them.

Of all the relationship archetypes throughout movie history, whether it was Scarlet O'Hara - Rhett Butler, Humphrey Bogart - Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn - Spencer Tracy and countless others fiction and non-fiction alike, the one that I relate to the most are the roles of L.B. Jefferies and Lisa Freemont in Rear Window.

Grace Kelly's character was according to Jefferies, "...too perfect, she's too talented, she's too beautiful, she's too sophisticated, she's too everything but what I want."

He didn't feel he would ever be good enough for her, but she felt he was perfect for her if only he would take an interest in her. This relationship although fiction is very much rooted in reality and can serve as an important lesson to us all.

So to Jimmy Stewart (and all others like him):

Happy Birthday!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

James Stewart, you were a class act if ever there was one. Mr. Steward will live on for generations to come.