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Jimmy Stewart in the military: Highest ranking actor of all time
Episode 1118th July 2024 • Talk With History: Discover Your History Road Trip • Scott and Jenn of Walk with History
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Dive into the incredible journey of Jimmy Stewart with hosts Scott and Jenn as they explore his early years in Hollywood, his transition from actor to decorated World War II pilot, and his return to cinematic acclaim.

This episode uncovers lesser-known stories about his life, his military service, and his legendary performances, including his famous role in It's a Wonderful Life.

Listeners will also discover personal anecdotes and historical insights, making this an engaging tribute to one of America's most beloved icons.

Links:

🔗 Pin-ups for vets

🎥 How to Visit Jimmy Stewart's Grave

🚕 Grave of Jimmy Stewart

00:00 A quiz

00:45 A fresh face in Hollywood

03:56 Introduction

04:52 Pin-ups for Vets charity

07:07 Jimmy Stewart's gravesite

10:33 Early acting career

13:27 Jimmy joins the War effort

19:15 Jimmy the B24 pilot

21:33 Life after the War

24:55 Jimmy's first movie after the War

30:09 Our family tie to movie history

32:17 Jimmy and John Wayne

33:24 His wife Gloria

34:33 Honoring Jimmy Stewart's Service

35:47 A Silver Screen Dims

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Transcripts

Scott:

Okay, so before we start this podcast, I have, I have a

Scott:

quiz for you on Jimmy Stewart.

Scott:

No looking at your computer, no cheating.

Scott:

What was his last film that he appeared in?

Scott:

Now, was, I'll say was in,

Jenn:

cause wasn't he in like an American Tale?

Scott:

Ah, I knew I should have known You would get, I should

Scott:

have known you would get it.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

He was in his very last

Jenn:

But he was like in it as a person.

Scott:

he's a voiceover.

Scott:

Okay.

Scott:

Yeah, I mean it is a, it is a animated movie.

Scott:

You got it.

Scott:

1991 American Tale five Goes West.

Scott:

I didn't know that until I was kind of doing the little bits and pieces of

Scott:

this, and of course you would know it.

Scott:

Dang it.

Scott:

Alright.

Scott:

Onto the show.

Scott:

The year was 1939.

Scott:

In Hollywood shimmered with a magic energy, I was a fresh faced

Scott:

twenty something, junior executive at MGM, drowning in scripts and

Scott:

desperately trying to stay afloat.

Scott:

Back then, stars were born, not made.

Scott:

Or at least that's what the suits upstairs believed.

Scott:

He waltzed into my office one afternoon, a gangly figure with

Scott:

a nervous twitch to his lip.

Scott:

He wasn't the cocksure Clark Gable type, more all American grin and awkward charm.

Scott:

tested for a Western, and I, a lonely nobody, drew the short

Scott:

straw of running his session.

Scott:

He told me that James always felt too formal and just to call him Jimmy.

Scott:

He wasn't bad.

Scott:

Nowhere near the charisma of Spencer Tracy, but there was a

Scott:

genuine earnestness about him.

Scott:

A boyishness that resonated on screen, I wrote a glowing report

Scott:

highlighting his potential.

Scott:

My boss, a man fueled by cigars and cynicism, scoffed.

Scott:

Too skinny.

Scott:

Needs some polish.

Scott:

Fast forward a year, the Philadelphia story was in pre production.

Scott:

Hepburn was a lock.

Scott:

Cary Grant at Given.

Scott:

But for the reporter role, a debate raged.

Scott:

My forgotten report resurfaced.

Scott:

Jimmy got the call.

Scott:

The buzz around him started subtly.

Scott:

A few stolen glances on set.

Scott:

Whispers about his chemistry with Hepburn.

Scott:

Then came the premiere.

Scott:

Dressed in a rumbled suit, Jimmy seemed out of place.

Scott:

amidst the towering egos.

Scott:

But as the film rolled, the theater erupted.

Scott:

His portrayal of the wisecracking reporter, a touch cynical yet

Scott:

ultimately decent, stole the show.

Scott:

The night of the Oscars arrived, I watched from the bleachers, heart

Scott:

pounding for the underdog I'd championed.

Scott:

When his name was called, a collective gasp went through the room.

Scott:

Jimmy, his face flushed with disbelief, navigated the stage with the same awkward

Scott:

charm I'd remembered from his test.

Scott:

It gives me enormous pleasure to be able to present this trophy to you, Mr.

Scott:

Stewart, for the best acting in the picture for 1940.

Scott:

That picture was the Philadelphia story.

Scott:

Thank you very much, sir.

Scott:

It's a great thrill to me to receive.

Scott:

In his acceptance speech, he stumbled a bit, his voice cracking with emotion,

Scott:

but instead of diminishing him, it made him more human, more relatable.

Scott:

The next morning, the headlines screamed, Jimmy Stewart, America's New Hope.

Scott:

Years later, Jimmy became a Hollywood legend, but for me, his greatest

Scott:

performance wasn't on screen.

Scott:

It was the quiet confidence he exuded that Oscar night, a testament to the power

Scott:

of believing in the potential you see in someone, even when nobody else does.

Scott:

Welcome to Talk With History.

Scott:

I'm your host, Scott, here with my wife and historian, Jen.

Jenn:

Hello.

Scott:

On this podcast, we give you insights to our history inspired

Scott:

world travels, YouTube channel journey, and examine history

Scott:

through deeper conversations with the curious, the explorers, and

Scott:

the history lovers out there.

Scott:

Jim, we're just gonna jump right into it.

Scott:

You are a massive Jimmy Stewart fan.

Scott:

Your favorite movie of all time is It's a Wonderful Life.

Scott:

You watch it every year.

Scott:

You cry every time.

Scott:

And you're, and we've done a couple Jimmy Stewart videos.

Scott:

We've actually visited his hometown.

Scott:

We've made videos from there.

Scott:

We've made guides on kind of how to visit there.

Scott:

So we've, we've covered him a fair amount on the channel.

Scott:

Now, if folks listening to this, they listened to our John Wayne podcast from

Scott:

last week, they'll know that you got the chance to go out to Los Angeles.

Scott:

Now remind our listeners kind of what that was for.

Jenn:

So there is a nonprofit called pinup for vets and they have a

Jenn:

calendar they do every year where all the women in the calendar all the

Jenn:

pinups are veterans and I was selected this year for the 2025 calendar.

Jenn:

I'm the only Navy veteran.

Jenn:

I'm going to be miss October 2025 because that's the birth month of

Jenn:

the United States Navy and they I got to fly out to California to LA.

Jenn:

We did the photo shoot in Manhattan beach.

Jenn:

I got to look like a pinup.

Jenn:

They brought a 1947 town and country Chrysler in for me, the wood panels

Jenn:

the woody for my photo shoot.

Jenn:

And it was just so amazing to be a part of it all and to get

Jenn:

to be a part of this nonprofit.

Jenn:

These calendars, Support veteran VA hospitals and veteran medical expenses.

Jenn:

You'll see if you follow me at all on social media, I will go to VA

Jenn:

hospitals in the area and deliver these calendars as well, addressed as a pinup.

Jenn:

And I will talk to veterans in the VA hospitals in that capacity as well.

Jenn:

But it's just awesome that every woman in the calendar is a veteran and it's a

Jenn:

nonprofit to support veteran healthcare.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

So I, if I, and correct me if I'm wrong, but you're going to

Scott:

kind of be one of the Tennessee representatives for, for this nonprofit,

Jenn:

So I'm a pinup.

Jenn:

Ambassador, and I've also done some of that capacity when I went to Normandy

Jenn:

and the 80th anniversary of D Day.

Jenn:

I dressed as a pinup and I was a pinup ambassador there as well.

Jenn:

But yes, I will be representative here in the Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas area.

Scott:

I will leave a link in the show notes at, at Penn.

Scott:

I think it's pin-ups for vets.

Scott:

com.

Scott:

That you can either pre order the calendar or depending on when you're

Scott:

listening to this, you can go to the site and you can order the calendar.

Scott:

So I'll make sure that I, I put that link in the show notes

Scott:

While you were out there, it was Memorial Day weekend.

Scott:

We had some friends that you were able to stay with out there.

Scott:

So you had visited John Wayne's grave site.

Scott:

Cause you had a day and this was like, you had to hit like the top of your

Scott:

list of, if you had one day in Los Angeles, this was one of the grave

Scott:

sites you were going to go, go visit.

Scott:

And that was Jimmy Stewart.

Jenn:

Yeah, at Walk with history, you can always write us with

Jenn:

historical stuff you're interested in.

Jenn:

And we make a lot ongoing lists.

Jenn:

Especially geographically of areas we're in in case we ever get to visit

Jenn:

we have huge lists for California and definitely based on time and I only had

Jenn:

one day and for one day there were just two huge stars, two huge influences

Jenn:

in my life that I really wanted to see John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

Jenn:

Unfortunately they're not at the same cemetery.

Jenn:

I thought they were.

Jenn:

They are not.

Jenn:

They're.

Jenn:

Their cemeteries are about an hour away from each other.

Jenn:

One is 30 minutes north of LA, one is 30 minutes south of LA.

Jenn:

So Mr.

Jenn:

Stewart is the one who is north of LA.

Scott:

Now he.

Scott:

Is actually in a cemetery with lots of famous movie actors and

Scott:

actresses from all different eras.

Scott:

I mean, you called out a couple on the video and that was like

Scott:

Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable.

Scott:

Obviously, you went to go specifically see Jimmy Stewart, but this was a a

Scott:

cemetery that has quite a few folks in

Jenn:

So Forest Lawn Memorial Park has six cemeteries in

Jenn:

the Southern California area.

Jenn:

And because they have six cemeteries, they do have in a mass number of celebrities.

Jenn:

Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, just We were just looking up the Nelsons,

Jenn:

Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, like I think Matt Perry from Friends, he's

Jenn:

just been buried in Forest Lawn.

Jenn:

Like it's just very famous.

Jenn:

Even John Wayne's father and one of his sons is buried in Forest Lawn.

Jenn:

So it's just one of those like celebrity graveyards because there's one of

Jenn:

six Jimmy Stewart is in the Glendale.

Jenn:

one.

Jenn:

And what's interesting about going there is, is as you pull in, they

Jenn:

have a, basically a cemetery watch person or, someone who greets

Jenn:

you and they give you a map.

Jenn:

And then if you ask for a specific celebrity, they don't

Jenn:

tell you about any celebrities.

Jenn:

Even though that's why people are visiting their cemetery, more or

Jenn:

less, that's not what they are

Scott:

they don't, they don't promote

Jenn:

They don't promote that.

Scott:

of tout it as like a

Jenn:

They don't have a list of them on a map for you.

Jenn:

It's nothing like that.

Jenn:

If you find all that stuff, it has to be kind of like aftermarket.

Jenn:

And we, we show you in our video where Jimmy Stewart is but they are there to

Jenn:

talk about the history of Forest Lawn.

Jenn:

There's a museum of Forest Lawn.

Jenn:

Forest Lawn does have some amazing architecture buildings there.

Jenn:

They do have some recreation, very Christian mementos like the Last

Jenn:

Supper and the the David and the Pieta.

Jenn:

So they have some recreations of some very famous Christian sculptures

Jenn:

and they're beautiful stained glass.

Jenn:

And so that's the kind of things that they will give you information

Jenn:

about and tell you where to go.

Jenn:

So just some advice.

Jenn:

If you're pulling into Forest Lawn and you're asking where Marilyn

Jenn:

Monroe is, they will not tell

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

So look it up on find a grave or something like that ahead of time.

Scott:

Now, Jimmy Stewart, you mentioned he kind of.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

Okay.

Scott:

He was born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Scott:

We, we, so we got to go there.

Scott:

Now he got his start in movies pretty young as, as well.

Scott:

Okay.

Scott:

Similar to John Wayne,

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

So he started acting at Princeton.

Jenn:

So it's so funny.

Jenn:

We have John Wayne at USC.

Jenn:

We have Jimmy Stewart at Princeton.

Jenn:

Coast to coast, right?

Jenn:

Princeton's in New Jersey.

Jenn:

And so he's born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Jenn:

It's a small town in Pennsylvania Kind of like where I what I grew

Jenn:

up in just like your quintessential Small Pennsylvania town, which is

Jenn:

really reminiscent of It's a Wonderful

Scott:

It really does look like it.

Scott:

I'll link that our video from there.

Scott:

If people are curious to kind of, kind of what the downtown Indiana PA,

Scott:

looks but it really does look like.

Scott:

It's a wonderful life like Bedford,

Jenn:

Bedford Falls.

Jenn:

It looks just like it.

Jenn:

So I think it wasn't a stretch for him to play that character because it

Jenn:

looked just like Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Jenn:

So he's, he's at Princeton.

Jenn:

And after graduating, he began a career as a stage actor on Broadway.

Jenn:

So he doesn't go far.

Jenn:

He goes up to New

Scott:

I didn't know

Jenn:

starts on Broadway, and he lands his first supporting role in The Murder Man.

Jenn:

But he had a breakthrough in Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You, 1938.

Jenn:

Frank Capra.

Jenn:

Don't forget that name, right?

Jenn:

It's a wonderful life.

Jenn:

And Frank Capra's gonna give him a lot of different, Mr.

Jenn:

Smith Goes to Washington.

Jenn:

He gives him a lot of these, Jumpstart movies that really influence him.

Jenn:

He's really good friends with Henry Fonda.

Jenn:

They're roommates and then they decide to go out to California together and

Jenn:

that's when it, it's pretty early on.

Jenn:

Like he, he, his breakthrough role, and you can't take it with you, is 1938.

Jenn:

He makes a Philadelphia story in 1940

Scott:

what he won his Oscar

Jenn:

and he went to Oscar.

Jenn:

So if you see a Philadelphia story, it's a very young Jimmy Stewart,

Jenn:

Katherine Heparin, cary Grant.

Jenn:

And so it's kind of like this you always hate these kind of

Jenn:

movies, but they, no one's getting the full story from each other.

Jenn:

And everyone's

Scott:

he play like a reporter or

Jenn:

a reporter.

Jenn:

Exactly.

Jenn:

And he wins an Oscar.

Jenn:

And one of my favorite stories is like his parents call and

Jenn:

we heard you won some award.

Jenn:

You should probably send it home and we'll put it in his father owned the

Jenn:

big hardware store in the small town.

Jenn:

And he goes, we'll put it in the mid in the main window.

Jenn:

And the Oscar stays 40 years.

Jenn:

So anybody who visited Indiana PA could see Jimmy Stewart's Oscar in the

Jenn:

front window of the hardware store.

Scott:

well You know One of the things has be kind of transitioned to kind

Scott:

of hit his midlife that I found very interesting was the Academy I looked

Scott:

this up the Academy Awards for that year was in February of 1941 So not too

Scott:

many months later, Pearl Harbor happens.

Scott:

And then Jimmy Stewart is one of the, I think you mentioned in the

Scott:

video, he is one of the first actors in Hollywood to, to go and sign

Scott:

right up and join the war effort.

Jenn:

Yeah, he becomes the first major American movie star to list in the United

Jenn:

States Army to fight in World War Two.

Jenn:

I, this is one of the reasons I love Jimmy Stewart so much.

Jenn:

His family has deep military roots.

Jenn:

And if you go to the museum, you're going to see a list of all his

Jenn:

family members who both of his grandfathers were in the civil war.

Jenn:

His father served in the Spanish American war and World War One.

Jenn:

And Jimmy Stewart believed it was his duty to serve his country.

Jenn:

Before any movies, before any money or notoriety or anything

Jenn:

with the movies, he believed his duty was to serve his country.

Jenn:

And one of the reasons I love him so much, he was rejected in November

Jenn:

of 1940 for being low weight.

Scott:

Really?

Jenn:

So he enlists in February of 1941.

Jenn:

So he's rejected in November 1940, goes home and eats a ton of pancakes and

Jenn:

he is accepted in February of 1941.

Scott:

So that was, are you sure it was February of 1941?

Jenn:

even before,

Scott:

So it's even before.

Jenn:

yeah Pearl Harbor.

Scott:

So that was like, literally he had just won his

Jenn:

Yes, he had literally just won the Oscar.

Scott:

crazy.

Jenn:

And then as an experienced pilot, he reported for induction as

Jenn:

a private in the Air Corps, March 22nd, 1941, soon to be 33 years old.

Jenn:

He was over the age limit for aviation cadet training, but he applied for

Jenn:

the Air Corps Corps Commission as a college graduate and a licensed pilot.

Scott:

so he had his private pilot's license.

Scott:

Oh, interesting.

Jenn:

so he receives his commission as a second lieutenant on January 4th.

Jenn:

First 1942.

Jenn:

So all these gears were in motion when Pearl Harbor happens and he's

Jenn:

commissioned a second lieutenant January the next month after Pearl Harbor

Jenn:

because his again, we talked about age limits and stuff because with.

Jenn:

John Wayne, because he's such a high age, the only way he was able to get

Jenn:

those waivers is he already had a college degree is what you need to be an officer

Jenn:

and he already had his pilot's license.

Jenn:

Most men who are coming in to be pilots in the United States Navy have no flight

Scott:

And he didn't have a family.

Scott:

Well,

Jenn:

No, he's not married at

Scott:

he wasn't, he wasn't married and no injuries, right?

Scott:

And so that's, that's so interesting because there are Jimmy Stewart kind of

Scott:

like, join the war effort videos, right?

Scott:

And you commented when we were making this video, you're like,

Scott:

Oh, look, he's so young, he's still wearing butter bars, right?

Scott:

And now if so, he's a second lieutenant.

Scott:

And so that was probably right when he was commissioned.

Scott:

And he even says in that video,

Jimmy:

Now, it isn't as if it was a chore for me to talk to you, because

Jimmy:

I want to speak on my favorite subject, the Army Air Forces.

Jimmy:

I can't speak from long experience.

Jimmy:

I've only been in the service a year, but I've learned a lot about

Jimmy:

what the Air Forces have to offer.

Jimmy:

That's what I want to talk to you about.

Jimmy:

. Scott: So he's making a promotional video as kind of part of his his early

Jimmy:

service, because he's so well known.

Jimmy:

Cause he had just won an Oscar like a year ago and makes this videos

Jimmy:

kind of, again, more propaganda, the good kind, getting the word out.

Jimmy:

And then he goes on to continue to serve, I mean, I think flying B 24s or

Jenn:

B 20 fours.

Jenn:

So the issue was he's still under contract with MGM.

Jenn:

So after enlisting, he made no commercial films, but he's

Jenn:

still under contract with MGM.

Jenn:

MGM limits his public appearances to doing these, these war effort films.

Jenn:

Because MGM is still Frank Capra and Ford.

Jenn:

They're still trying to make films during the time.

Jenn:

And so it's called Winning Your Wings and it's to help to recruit airmen.

Jenn:

That's what you see him in.

Jenn:

And that was nominated for Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1942,

Scott:

Oh, really?

Jenn:

and it appeared in movie theaters nationwide.

Jenn:

It actually, they say it recruited about over 150, 000 new

Jenn:

recruits just that video alone.

Jenn:

And.

Jenn:

he was very concerned that his celebrity status would regulate

Jenn:

him to do these behind enemy lines, which has happened to people like

Jenn:

Clark Gable and things like that.

Jenn:

Like they didn't put them on the front because they're celebrity.

Jenn:

And if something would happen to them, it could be terrible, which did happen.

Jenn:

Glenn Miller.

Jenn:

And the actor, I always forget his name, but he was Ashley Wilkes in Goh Wind.

Jenn:

He was a pilot and he was lost over the English channel.

Jenn:

Never do be seen again.

Jenn:

So

Scott:

But that didn't happen to Jimmy

Jenn:

did not happen.

Jenn:

But he pushed his commander to let him go to England and

Jenn:

in November of 1943 they did.

Jenn:

And so as he was part of the 300, the 703rd bomb squadron, and he flew the

Jenn:

B 24 liberator, like you said before.

Jenn:

And he was promoted to major.

Jenn:

in Germany in 1944 and he was awarded the Distinguished Cross for actions taken

Jenn:

as the with the second bombardment wing.

Jenn:

He won an air medal with three oak leaf clusters as well.

Scott:

Can you, can you imagine being like an air crew on his aircraft and

Scott:

hearing his voice or Oh, hello there.

Scott:

I can't do a Jimmy Stewart impression, but imagine hearing him say, calling,

Scott:

what, what he's doing and how he's flying that message has been, I would

Scott:

love to hear a secondhand account from some, from somebody that was his air

Scott:

crew about how he was, as a pilot, as, cause as an officer, because he's

Scott:

always, embodied that personality of, of service, of, he was, when he eventually

Scott:

got married, he was married for a very long time and stayed with her.

Scott:

And he was very, that kind of all that whole kind of all American persona.

Scott:

In, as we'll kind of talk a little bit more about, he ends

Scott:

up after the war staying in.

Scott:

The world was a different place.

Scott:

In 1943, Hollywood was no longer a carefree bubble.

Scott:

Now, I found myself working for the OSS Field Photographic Branch, a

Scott:

far cry from greenlighting scripts.

Scott:

John Ford, the gruff director we all knew, was now our unlikely leader, overseeing

Scott:

a team capturing vital events on film.

Scott:

One day, a familiar name popped up on a briefing sheet.

Scott:

James Stewart.

Scott:

My heart lurched.

Scott:

Jimmy.

Scott:

America's sweetheart had become one of the first Hollywood actors

Scott:

to enlist in the Army Air Corps.

Scott:

He was flying B 24s over Europe, a stark contrast to the staged

Scott:

dogfights he'd once filmed.

Scott:

A pang of guilt washed over me, safe in my dimly lit office amidst

Scott:

a mountain of photographs, while Jimmy faced unimaginable danger.

Scott:

John Ford, ever perceptive, noticed my reaction.

Scott:

You know him?

Scott:

He rumbled.

Scott:

His voice paled.

Scott:

Betraying a flicker of respect.

Scott:

I poured him a cup of coffee, the memory of Jimmy's earnest face, a stark contrast

Scott:

to the grim realities of war on our desks.

Scott:

He tested for a Western at MGM years ago, I confessed.

Scott:

One of my first reports ever.

Scott:

Ford grunted, the closest he ever got to a smile.

Scott:

Good head on his shoulders, that one.

Scott:

They say he's a damn good pilot too.

Scott:

Every successful bombing run photograph we received felt like a personal victory.

Scott:

Every downed bomber a punch to the gut.

Scott:

Jimmy's youthful confidence on screen had morphed into a different kind

Scott:

of heroism, one far more dangerous.

Scott:

The war ended, a bittersweet victory.

Scott:

Hollywood started churning out war films again, but they felt hollow compared

Scott:

to the real stories we'd documented.

Scott:

Jimmy returned a decorated hero, the boyish charm tempered by

Scott:

the weight of his experience.

Scott:

He continued to shine on screen, but for me, he would always

Scott:

be more than a movie star.

Scott:

He was a reminder of the courage that lies beneath an easy smile,

Scott:

a testament to the war fought.

Scott:

Not just on the silver screens, but in the vast expanse of the sky.

Scott:

To my big brother George, the richest man in town.

Jenn:

And so if you visit Jimmy Stewart's hometown like we did in Indiana and you

Jenn:

have to make this hike up to his house called vinegar Hill, halfway up they have

Jenn:

a plaque that commemorates his service and talks about all of the war missions

Jenn:

he flew and it's well into the twenties.

Jenn:

He did 24 war missions, like over enemy lines.

Jenn:

And like I said, he, he's promoted to full Colonel in March of 1945.

Jenn:

So he's.

Jenn:

He's one of the few people who rises from private to colonel in only four years.

Jenn:

And like you said, if you asked anybody who served with

Jenn:

him, it's my understanding.

Jenn:

He was just a very humble guy, but did his job and did it well.

Jenn:

He didn't want any favoritism.

Jenn:

He didn't want any special treatment.

Jenn:

He wanted to do the job just like everybody else.

Jenn:

And he didn't want any.

Jenn:

People to think he was getting any Favoritism because

Jenn:

of his celebrity status.

Jenn:

So he wasn't good at what he did.

Jenn:

So he made sure he did everything everybody else had to do and Like you said

Jenn:

he doesn't get out of the service when the war is over he actually will stay in

Scott:

Now he stays in as a reservist.

Jenn:

a reservist but because of that he will be Come the highest ranking

Jenn:

actor in the military of all time.

Jenn:

He becomes a brigadier general.

Scott:

we do get a lot of comments and these are people who just

Scott:

kind of don't realize how the military, military structure works.

Scott:

Some people will jump in and say well, what about Ronald Reagan?

Scott:

Like he was the commander in chief.

Scott:

I was like, Okay, fair point.

Scott:

However, comma, the President, the Commander in Chief, is not

Scott:

technically in the military.

Scott:

They are still a civilian.

Scott:

They don't swear an oath into office.

Scott:

They don't do any of that stuff.

Scott:

So while they are overall in charge of, the military as the head of, of

Scott:

the government They are, the president is not technically in the military,

Scott:

so there has never been another higher ranking kind of Hollywood actor than

Scott:

Jimmy Stewart because he finished his time as, I think, a one star.

Scott:

And people will say, well, what about, John Ford?

Scott:

John Ford, I mean, he finishes as a Navy captain, right?

Scott:

There's, there's lots of folks that finishes 06s but Jimmy Stewart

Scott:

is, is the highest ranking of all

Jenn:

Yeah, he has a star and it's, and I'm not going to say that John

Jenn:

Ford, it's not real military service when you're making propaganda movies

Jenn:

or when you're making movies, but Jimmy Stewart is operating in a combat role.

Jenn:

So he's actually a pilot in the United

Scott:

Yeah, and I do believe some people will bring up John Ford

Scott:

because he finished as an 06 and was eventually awarded kind of like

Scott:

an honorary rank of Rear Admiral in the Navy, but that was honorary.

Scott:

He never actually held the rank while he was commissioned in military service.

Scott:

So people will, I think, point him out as

Jenn:

yes, yes.

Jenn:

So what I love about Jimmy Stewart.

Jenn:

And again, we, we cover this and with our videos from his hometown,

Jenn:

his first movie after he comes back from the war is It's a Wonderful

Scott:

And I was, I didn't realize that.

Scott:

And that kind of gives that movie.

Scott:

Now that I know that a little bit more weight and you can kind of talk about

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

So if you watch It's a Wonderful Life, first of all, Jimmy Stewart didn't know if

Jenn:

he would be accepted back into the movies.

Jenn:

He didn't know if he still had it.

Jenn:

He'd been gone for a while and hadn't made any movies.

Jenn:

So he was kind of nervous about it.

Jenn:

So it's Frank Capra who kind of gave him his.

Jenn:

start and let him back in.

Jenn:

Frank Capra's also has just served in, in the war.

Jenn:

And so that's why it's a wonderful life kind of has a war undertone.

Jenn:

to it.

Jenn:

And, but Jimmy Stewart's character is not a service member.

Jenn:

Jimmy Stewart's character is a support, someone who stays home, someone who

Jenn:

never gets to serve, someone who never gets the glory of combat or surviving

Jenn:

combat or coming home to victory.

Jenn:

His brother does.

Jenn:

So bit who his brother is in It's a Wonderful Life is actually

Jenn:

who Jimmy Stewart actually was.

Jenn:

But Jimmy Stewart plays the character of the brother who stays home and supports

Jenn:

everybody else and keeps everything safe and normal back home in America.

Jenn:

And I really appreciate that so much because he didn't have to play that part.

Jenn:

That really wasn't who he was.

Jenn:

He was the other guy.

Jenn:

But he wanted to show, and I appreciate this, the appreciation for everybody

Jenn:

who stays back home and supports you.

Scott:

What, and I think you, you call out in the video that I loved was that

Scott:

the hero of this movie was the person who stayed home, was the person who was a 4F,

Scott:

was the person that didn't get to follow what they thought their dreams were, but

Scott:

they supported everybody else's dreams.

Scott:

They were there lifting everybody else up through the effort, through this

Scott:

little town and made everything better.

Scott:

by being that person who stayed home, by being that foundation, even though

Scott:

they didn't get to follow their dreams.

Scott:

And you call it out at the end when his brother gives him the toast, to my big

Scott:

brother, George, the richest man in town.

Scott:

And that is Jimmy Stewart kind of that nod to everybody else in the war effort that

Scott:

that stayed home That didn't get the quote unquote glory of going to war and coming

Scott:

back and so when you when you pointed that out in the video, I just absolutely

Scott:

loved that perspective of This movie that is such an all time classic that is it's

Scott:

a wonderful life your favorite movie of all time So I thought you did a great job

Scott:

You Pointing that out in the video right and I cut over some it's wonderful life

Scott:

kind of video footage and stuff like that So I encourage people to watch it after

Scott:

this but it was so neat That that was his first movie back coming from coming back

Scott:

from the war coming back from all this and he makes this This just instant ultra

Scott:

classic And then continues on from there.

Jenn:

Sure, and I think it's another testament to how humble he is.

Jenn:

He's not looking to get that accolade.

Jenn:

He's looking to thank everybody else for what they did during that time.

Jenn:

And he also had some PTSD, and they, he felt like maybe making this

Jenn:

movie would help him to process it, because it is a look back at World

Jenn:

War II, and it really did help him.

Jenn:

kind of process that PTSD and understand, all the loss of life of World War II,

Jenn:

but understand what we were fighting for.

Jenn:

And, when you go on with your life, and you try to live a wonderful life, you

Jenn:

do it in memory of all of those that gave up their life for you to do that.

Jenn:

And I think that was another reason why he wanted to make this film.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

Now, obviously, making it's a wonderful life was a big success for him.

Scott:

And I don't, I don't know if it was, instantly successful kind of at the time.

Scott:

I'm sure it was, it was well received, but he, he continues

Scott:

on and he has an, an incredibly successful, career in life after that.

Jenn:

Sure.

Jenn:

Well, it's a wonderful life at the time wasn't well received.

Jenn:

It's a wonderful life at the time was mediocre.

Jenn:

Now it has grown into infamy.

Jenn:

Now it's become a classic and everybody loves it.

Jenn:

But at the time it was, it

Scott:

It was a Christmas

Jenn:

Christmas movie, but he made like Harvey in 1947 and that was

Scott:

and he got nominated for

Jenn:

huge.

Jenn:

And we, we watch Harvey.

Jenn:

His acting is just amazing.

Scott:

podcast about him and I included the clip in the video.

Scott:

It's some of the best acting.

Scott:

All right.

Scott:

I was just so surprised when I watched certain scenes in this movie that I can

Scott:

100 percent see why he was nominated for Best Actor and he was actually

Scott:

nominated multiple times for multiple

Jenn:

Oh, yeah.

Jenn:

And he's going to go on to work with the great himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

Jenn:

He does a couple movies with Alfred Hitchcock.

Jenn:

He'll do Rope.

Jenn:

He'll do Vertigo.

Jenn:

And he'll do the movie that's connected to our family, Rear Window.

Jenn:

And Rear Window is amazing.

Jenn:

Anyone who can act from a wheelchair, a whole movie.

Jenn:

I mean, this is a testimony to how great of an actor he is.

Scott:

And if you guys are curious about our tie, we won't go too deep

Scott:

into it, but again, my grandfather was a Hollywood prop master and actually

Scott:

worked as a prop master on rear window.

Scott:

And he has a picture.

Scott:

We have the picture of him setting the, essentially the

Scott:

back lot stage for the movie.

Scott:

So you see, if you've ever seen rear window, if you haven't, it's

Scott:

actually, it stands up very, very well.

Scott:

It's still very good.

Scott:

It's Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.

Scott:

The they kind of are watching the neighbors in this kind of this murder that

Scott:

happens and all this this drama, right?

Scott:

But there's the whole setting and if you've seen it before a picture that rear

Scott:

window that kind of courtyard Setting but they have the labels and my grandfather

Scott:

He must have probably had them there or had a picture of it of the labels of

Scott:

each of the characters at each of their Spots across the courtyard and so we

Scott:

have that picture and that's never shown in the movie that that is a true family

Scott:

heirloom and And so it's really neat.

Scott:

So I actually show some video of that.

Scott:

If you guys are curious up, I'll link the this Jimmy Stewart.

Scott:

So I took some video of this picture we have in our house of that

Scott:

back lot with the labels for the different characters in that movie.

Jenn:

And that movie came out in 1954.

Jenn:

It's the eighth highest grossing film of 1954.

Jenn:

And what else happened is he replaces, in Look Magazine they do the most

Jenn:

popular movie stars of all time, 1954, Jimmy Stewart will replace John Wayne.

Scott:

No way.

Jenn:

the top movie star.

Scott:

Oh, my

Jenn:

I know so 1954 is big for him rear window and replacing John Wayne The

Jenn:

thing about Jimmy Stewart is he's he's still bankable and he gets more bankable

Jenn:

just as his career goes on He's just one of those stars that just Just gross.

Jenn:

And it doesn't matter.

Jenn:

He keeps, he, he's not really typecasted.

Jenn:

He does Westerns.

Jenn:

He does suspense films.

Jenn:

He does family films.

Jenn:

He, he can really just be very versatile.

Jenn:

I mean, he's playing Alfred Hitchcock.

Jenn:

He's doing family films.

Jenn:

He's doing Westerns.

Jenn:

He's playing Billy.

Jenn:

He's doing he's playing Lindbergh in the Spirit of St.

Jenn:

Louis.

Jenn:

He's playing Glenn Miller in The

Scott:

I mean, and he's, he's tied to John Wayne, not only from 1954, but

Scott:

he's in John Wayne's last movie, The Shootist, which again, they're both kind

Scott:

of in the twilights of their careers, obviously for John Wayne, that was his

Scott:

last movie, but Jimmy Stewart, that was one of his last, not his very last.

Scott:

But he plays this doctor giving John Wayne's character, this

Scott:

rough and tough sheriff, the, the bad news that essentially.

Scott:

John Wayne's character, I don't remember his name has cancer, has terminal

Jenn:

Yeah, so they were together in the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Jenn:

And that's a John Ford movie shot in black and white to make them both

Jenn:

look younger because they were kind of

Scott:

Which is a phenomenal movie.

Jenn:

older at the time.

Jenn:

So I think the shoot is reminiscent of them coming back together in a

Jenn:

Western Jimmy Stewart at the time had some hearing problems, couldn't quite

Jenn:

get the cues right on movies anymore.

Jenn:

And John Wayne said, don't worry, I got you.

Jenn:

So together John Wayne would help give him the cue to say

Scott:

he would stomp his foot real loud or something like that.

Jenn:

Do something flick his face like do something.

Jenn:

Excellent.

Jenn:

Jimmy Stewart knew when to deliver the line and stuff.

Jenn:

So it just was a comfort level.

Jenn:

You're going to see that with Jimmy Stewart.

Jenn:

He really is, he's a people person, right?

Jenn:

And he is just really feels comfortable with certain people.

Jenn:

We talked about his marriage to Gloria.

Jenn:

He marries Gloria, I think, let me make sure I have the date right here.

Jenn:

He marries Gloria in 1949, and together they'll have two daughters.

Jenn:

He'll adopt her two sons from a previous marriage, and he's with

Jenn:

her until her death in 1994.

Jenn:

Now he lives for three more years, but he becomes kind of reclusive after

Jenn:

this because of the comfort level.

Jenn:

He doesn't feel comfortable with anybody.

Jenn:

else really after her.

Jenn:

He wants to see his children, but that's about it.

Jenn:

And it comes to a point where he has a pacemaker and he doesn't

Jenn:

get the battery replaced.

Jenn:

He just, he wants to be with Gloria.

Jenn:

Those are his final words.

Jenn:

I want to go be with Gloria now.

Jenn:

And he's just a family man.

Jenn:

He, he is one of those people that he, not only shows you what it's like to be

Jenn:

a person of good character, he's living the life of a man of good character.

Jenn:

And that's one of the reasons I love Jimmy Stewart so much to be able to, there was

Jenn:

no flag at his grave for Memorial day.

Jenn:

So to be able to be the one to leave a flag at Brigadier General James

Jenn:

Maitland Stewart's grave, it was an.

Jenn:

honor for me.

Jenn:

And then his adopted son, who is killed in Vietnam, who Memorial Day is

Jenn:

all about, also did not have a flag.

Jenn:

He's buried.

Jenn:

Beside his, his mother, who's Jimmy Stewart's wife I left

Jenn:

a flag at his grave as well.

Jenn:

That was such an honor for me.

Jenn:

So my Memorial Day for me was perfect because I got to honor

Jenn:

somebody who I really look up to and honor his son and his service.

Jenn:

And for me, it just meant a lot to be there.

Scott:

Yeah, it was, it was, again, I'm so glad that you got out there and

Scott:

you got to be able to make that video.

Scott:

And I think you bring up some really great points about Jimmy Stewart's

Scott:

service and what he did after, right after he came back with that role.

Scott:

And it's a wonderful life.

Scott:

And I, I really encourage people to go watch the video.

Scott:

It's a shorter one, five or six minutes.

Scott:

But it's, I think it was just, I just really enjoyed kind of

Scott:

the points that you brought up.

Scott:

The silver screen shimmered a little less brightly for me in 1976.

Scott:

Gone were the days of feeding scripts to fresh faced hopefuls.

Scott:

I'd now navigated a Hollywood landscape obsessed with sequels and explosions.

Scott:

Yet, here I was.

Scott:

Back in familiar territory.

Scott:

John Wayne's office, of all places.

Scott:

Only this time, I wasn't a nervous junior executive, seeking

Scott:

approval, but a seasoned advisor brought in for a specific purpose.

Scott:

Jimmy Stewart.

Scott:

The name still held a certain magic.

Scott:

The lanky youth I championed all those years ago had blossomed

Scott:

into a Hollywood legend.

Scott:

He was here for the shootist, a poignant reflection on aging gunslingers, a role

Scott:

that echoed his own on screen persona.

Scott:

Time had etched lines on Jimmy's face, the boyish grin replaced by a seasoned

Scott:

smile, but his eyes still held that same spark of decency, the same twinkle that

Scott:

had captivated audiences for decades.

Scott:

We talked about the script, dissecting the character of J.

Scott:

B.

Scott:

Brooks, a fading Marshall clinging to a bygone era.

Scott:

I'm damn lucky you were around, Doc.

Scott:

That second one nearly did me in.

Scott:

There was a vulnerability in Jimmy's portrayal of the physician.

Scott:

Who gives John Wayne's character the news no one wants to hear.

Scott:

Books, every few days I have to tell a man or a woman something I don't want to.

Scott:

I've been practicing medicine for 29 years and I still don't know how to do it well.

Scott:

A quiet acceptance of mortality that resonated deeply.

Scott:

It was a far cry from the wisecracking reporter of the Philadelphia story, or

Scott:

the idealistic heroes of his many films.

Scott:

Yet in a way, it felt like a culmination.

Scott:

Here was Jimmy.

Scott:

The embodiment of American virtue confronting his own twilight.

Scott:

As we worked, I couldn't help but reminisce.

Scott:

I shared stories from his early days, the forgotten tests that launched his career.

Scott:

A hint of surprise actually flickered across his face, then a warm smile.

Scott:

Seems like a lifetime ago, he chuckled.

Scott:

That familiar drawl still holding its charm.

Scott:

Filming wrapped, and Jimmy's performance in The Shootist was a

Scott:

masterclass in understated brilliance.

Scott:

It wasn't the showstopper of his youth, but a quiet symphony of emotions.

Scott:

Watching him on screen, I didn't see a Hollywood legend, but the

Scott:

young man with a nervous twitch.

Scott:

The man who dared to dream big.

Scott:

The man who soared through the skies in a B 24.

Scott:

Jimmy Stewart's legacy transcended the silver screen.

Scott:

He was a testament to the enduring power of decency, a reminder that heroism

Scott:

comes in many forms, and for me, he would always be a bridge between the wide eyed

Scott:

dreams of Hollywood's golden age and the bittersweet realities of time's passage.

Scott:

Thank you for listening to Talk With History podcast and please reach out

Scott:

to us at our website talkwithhistory.

Scott:

com.

Scott:

But more importantly, if you know someone else that might

Scott:

enjoy this Jimmy Stewart focused podcast, please share it with them.

Scott:

Shoot them a text and tell them to look us up.

Scott:

We rely on you, our community to grow, and we appreciate you all every day.

Scott:

We'll talk to you next time.

Jenn:

Thank you.

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