Lessons in Manliness: Jimmy Stewart

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 4, 2009 · 51 comments

in A Man's Life, Lessons In Manliness


“His type is as normally average as the hot dog and pop at Coney Island. He is good looking without being handsome, quiet without being a bore, ambitious without taking either himself or his job too seriously and unassuming without being dull. Stewart’s growing appeal has sometimes been difficult to peg. He’s no Gable and certainly has none of the qualities of a Valentino. A sixteen-year-old fan seems to have hit it when she wrote to him, ‘I like you because you’re like the boy next door.’” -1938 MGM biography of James Stewart

James “Jimmy” Stewart was an unlikely candidate for silver screen fame. Lacking the suave handsomeness and virility of a Cary Grant, the tough masculinity of a John Wayne, and the dark grit of a Humphrey Bogart, he was unlike anything else to come out of Hollywood at the time. Beanpole thin, with a famously slow drawl and awkward mannerisms, studios initially couldn’t imagine him as a leading man. Everyone could sense that Stewart was enormously talented, but few had a clue on how to use him. It would take directors like Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock to recognize his strengths — openness, emotional complexity, intelligence, and authenticity — and coax out some of cinema’s most unforgettable performances.

If Stewart broke the mold of the typical leading man, his behavior off the set was equally antithetical to the rest of Hollywood. Never one to be flashy, married only once, courteous to everyone he met, disciplined and professional, his life provided little grist for the town’s gossip columns. There were no shortage of people who agreed with President Truman when he said, “If Bess and I had a son, we’d want him to be just like Jimmy Stewart.”

While often remembered for his wholesome turns in movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stewart was an actor of tremendous emotional range, equally adept at delving into the dark corners of the human condition. Over the course of his brilliant and wide-ranging 55-year career, Stewart appeared in 80 films, several of which have become true American classics.

In following his own course on screen and in life, Stewart left behind many lessons in manliness. Here are just a few.

Forge Your Own Path and Follow Your Passion


“My earliest memories are of hardware smells. The dry aroma of coiled rope. The sweet smell of linseed oil and baseball gloves. The acid tang of open nail kegs. When I open my nose, they all come back to me.” -Jimmy Stewart

James Stewart did not come from a family with connections to Hollywood. Raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, his father was the proud owner of the town’s hardware store. His father worked tirelessly to make the store a success, and believed that one day his son Jimmy would take over the business that had been in the family for three generations. Starting at age 10, he expected young Jimmy to come to the store after school to help out and learn the ropes.

Alexander Stewart was an Ivy League educated man who had served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I and presided over his family with manly bearing. Stewart idolized his father and wanted to fulfill his expectations and make him proud. Thus, though Jimmy wished to be a pilot and attend the Naval Academy, he acquiesced to his father’s desire that he follow in his footsteps and attend Princeton.

Upon graduation, Stewart planned to continue his education by getting a masters degree in architecture. He would then be expected to come home to Indiana, take over the hardware store, and perhaps expand into the home building business.

But after matriculating from Princeton, Stewart joined an acting company for what started as a summer stint. When Stewart made the decision to keep on acting instead of returning to school in the fall, his father was not at all pleased with the change in plans. Remembered Stewart:

“Dad was upset. My father didn’t like it at all-till the day he died he didn’t like it…he kept shaking his head, saying, ‘No Stewart has ever gone into show business!’”

Indeed, the elder Stewart never completely warmed up to the idea of his son being an actor. Even after the huge success of Jimmy’s first breakout film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Alexander called him and told him to quit the movie nonsense and come back home to get married, start a family, and help run the store. It was a plea Jimmy would hear for pretty much the rest of his life.

But Stewart didn’t go all Dead Poets Society and kill himself over this rift; he respected his father but he was his own man with his own dreams and his own life to lead. Although he was tempted to return to the quiet life of Pennsylvania throughout his whole life, his passion for acting kept him making movies into his old age.

Be Dignified with the Ladies


While we often think of the stars of yesteryear as more upright than the current crop of tabloid fodder, the Hollywood of the past was much like it is today; studios just worked harder to cover up their actors’ misbehavior and the media kept a respectful distance. While Jimmy Stewart was assuredly no saint, next to fellow actors who juggled multiple women at a time, had affairs with married women while they were single, and liaisons with single women when they were married, Stewart was considered downright prudish.

Stewart had relationships with some of the most beautiful and alluring women of the time — Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland, Dinah Shore, and Marlene Dietrich to name a few. But he preferred to keep his relationships out of the public eye and was notoriously circumspect about the women in his life when probed by reporters.

While other stars burned through multiple marriages (Clark Gable and Cary Grant both married 5 times), Stewart held out to find the right woman to settle down with. She was hard to find in Hollywood; women threw themselves at Stewart in hopes of hitching their star to his, but he found these brash, sexually aggressive women off-putting and quickly tired of the vapid ladies he met in Tinseltown. Seeing many of the women he knew cheat on their husbands, he became extremely cautious about tying the knot. As his fortieth birthday approached, he began to despair of being a bachelor forever.

But then he met Gloria Hatrick. Athletic, smart, and funny, she was an elegant and beautiful woman who shared his love of fishing, golfing, and sailing. Stewart said:

“I could tell right off that she was a thoroughbred. For me it had been love at first sight. She was the kind of a girl I had always dreamed of. The kind you associate with open country, cooking stew and not fainting because it was made of cut-up squirrels. She’d look at home on a sailboat or a raft; in a graceful swing from a tree branch into the swimming pool.”

Stewart and Hatrick were married in 1949 and stayed married for 45 happy years. If Stewart had been something of a playboy in his single years, after his trip down the altar he became a devoted husband. Gloria remembered:

“Jimmy was working with some of the most glamorous women in the world. My constant fear I suppose was that he would find them more attractive than me and have an affair with one of them. A lot of men in Hollywood became involved with their leading ladies. Jimmy was a red-blooded American male so naturally I thought it could happen to him, too. I was convinced it was only a matter of time before the telephone would ring and it would be James telling me that he had to work late at the studio or that he would be out playing poker with the boys. Well, no such call ever came. And I can honestly say that in all the years of our marriage Jimmy never once gave me cause for anxiety or jealously. The more glamorous the leading lady he was starring opposite, the more attentive he’d be to me.”

Do Your Duty


All the generations of Jacksons on Stewart’s mother’s side of the family had served honorably in the military, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. So when it was Jimmy’s turn to serve, he was ready to fulfill his duty. Although he had numerous opportunities to get out of service, Stewart — unlike a certain cowboy actor who usually gets many more manliness points — did everything he could to serve.

In 1940 Stewart was drafted into the military. But when he took his physical, the army rejected him; at 6’3″ and 130 pounds, he was deemed too skinny for service. He could have bowed out honorably but instead he appealed the rejection and set up a second physical. He spent the next 3 months constantly gobbling up milkshakes and fried chicken wings in attempt to put on 10 pounds. When the second physical came around, he was still underweight, but he convinced the doctor to look the other way and approve him.

And so a week after winning an Oscar for The Philadelphia Story, Stewart became the first major American actor to don a uniform. He humbly transitioned from acting to peeling potatoes and gracefully accepted the drastic change in his pay — from $3,000 to $21 a week.

Stewart had a lifelong fascination with flying that started with building model airplanes as a child and progressed into getting his private and commercial pilot licenses as an adult. As an avid flyer, he decided to transfer to the Air Corps. While eager to just be one of the boys and start flying missions, Stewart grew increasingly exasperated as the other men were shipped overseas while he was left to train other pilots, make recruitment films, and be trotted out in uniform for various publicity events.

The Army, afraid that losing Stewart in combat would be a heavy blow to American morale, was intent on keeping Stewart from shipping out. But Stewart continually and persistently implored his commanding officers to put him on active duty.

Thus when Colonel Robert Terrill, Commanding Officer of the 445th Bombardment Group needed a man who would be able to lead his men into combat and get them home safely, the Army, knowing there was no more capable or qualified man for the job, finally relented.

When Stewart joined the 445th in Sioux City, he so impressed Terrill that in a matter of weeks the Colonel put him in command of the 703rd Bomb Squadron division, consisting of a dozen B-24 bombers and 350 soldiers and flyers. Once in Britain, Stewart flew missions as dangerous and harrowing as any other Airman, leading squadrons on bombing runs into Germany and occupied France. Besieged on each mission from the Luftwaffe, Stewart escaped many narrow misses. Many of his fellow men were not so lucky, and Stewart watched with sickness as they fell from the sky.

For his service, Stewart received the Air Medal for flying 10 successful missions over Germany, the Distinguished Flying Cross for leading an air raid on Brunswick, and the prestigious Croix de Guerre from the French Air Force.

Stewart remained in the Air Force Reserves until forced into retirement and left the Force with the rank of Brigadier General.

Be Humble


Stewart’s dignified manner with women extended to his treatment of everyone he met and worked with. He refused to let fame give him an inflated sense of self-worth nor deter him from his values. Although his money would have allowed him to, he never lived in an ostentatious way. While the car of choice in Hollywood was a Mercedes, when he finally hit it big he went out and bought a Volvo. He drove it for many years, and then replaced it…with another Volvo. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, when he was in his 70s, he refused to heat his pool for his daily dips, seeing it as an extravagance.

Stewart always sought to make his co-stars shine and respected his fellow actors immensely. Known as a consummate professional, he never had an ill word to say about a co-star, even when their antics on set had been anything but respectable. And he was always rooting for the success of others. When Stewart was up for the Best Actor Oscar in 1960 for Anatomy of a Murder, he wanted very much to win as his star had dimmed a bit after the poor reviews and box office performance of 1958′s Vertigo. Walking into the Academy Awards ceremony, he bumped into another nominee in the Best Actor category, Charlton Heston, and the two posed for pictures together. Heston recalled, ”As the flashbulbs finally petered out and we turned to go to our seats. Jimmy took my arm and said, ‘I hope you win, Chuck, I really mean that.’ I don’t know another actor alive who would’ve said such a thing. He’s an extraordinary man.”

Stewart’s humility extended to his military record as well. The public was enamored with the idea of this movie star turned Airman, and when he returned home, he could have easily used his service record as a way to garner attention for himself and promote his films. It would have certainly been tempting, as his postwar transition back into movies did not go smoothly, and industry insiders were beginning to doubt his ability to make a comeback.

But Stewart had long insisted that he was just one of the boys, no more important than any other serviceman. To this end he refused to talk to reporters about his war experiences or appear in any kind of publicity event that capitalized on his service. He also refused to act in movies that depicted combat, leading him to turn down lucrative roles in big movies like Midway and The Longest Day. As Stewart explained, “They’re just hardly ever the way it really is.”

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 B. Minich November 4, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Jimmy Stewart is still one of my favorite actors – he pulls off roles that nobody else in Hollywood has ever been able to.

I’m also a native son of Indiana, PA, and they love him there to this day. After he left for Hollywood, he kept in touch with his father throughout his life. In fact, at least one of his Oscars made its permanent residence at Stewart’s Hardware Store.

Sadly, the store doesn’t exist anymore – in fact, the building that housed it was torn down years ago – definitely before I can remember, possibly before I was born. But there is still a small marker there, and you can still see his boyhood home on Vinegar Hill. You can’t tour it, though – its still a residence to this day. You have to go to the museum set up for him to see anything related to Stewart.

I do find his military story interesting, and can’t help but think his rejection by the Army really helped him in his role in Its a Wonderful Life.

2 Martin Schwartz November 4, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Rumors of his affairs are mentioned in at least one biography. I admire his acting and his real life bravery. I admire aggressive moves to salvage his career by going back to the stage in the late ’40′s and making a success of his westerns when lesser actors would have retreated into 1950′s television. I admire the wonderful roles he took on in the ’50′s with Hitchcock and his 2nd tv series, where he played a lawyer much like the one in Anatomy of a Murder. But I don’t confuse him with his roles just as I don’t confuse Eddie Albert with Brother Rat or Louis Hayward with the son of Monte Cristo or John Wayne with any role he played.

3 Corey Tess November 5, 2009 at 12:04 am

I adore Jimmy and I believe that he had something many glam boys of the time lacked.. “true manhood” his distinctive voice and sincere eyes carried an honest strength that would make any woman melt… He is one of the rate icons I refer to as “my type”. Although, in reference to your post, I don’t consider him at all the boy next door… because I have yet to meet anyone remotely resembling him… I find him rare rather than common.. where as a debonair Cary Grant (yesterdays “George Clooney”) seems a dime a dozen in “type” if not “looks” minus a tuxedo…

Still hoping to meet a Jimmy Type here.. lol


4 Brett McKay November 5, 2009 at 12:24 am

There is not a shred of proof that Stewart had affairs when he was married. The only biography that mentions even the rumor of it is Peter Bogdanovich’s which claims-based entirely on hearsay-that he had an affair with Kim Novak during the filming of Bed, Book, and Candle. Other biographers have found no proof of that baseless claim. Marc Eliot, for instance, spent 3 years researching his life and his resulting biography his full of every piece of dirt (which isn’t many) that he could dig up on Stewart. But he could not find any proof of his having an affair.

The rumor was that Stewart only agreed to appear in the weak “Bed, Book, and Candle” because he had started an affair with Novak while making Vertigo and wanted to remain in close contact with her. But Stewart and Novak had agreed to make that movie before they made Vertigo, before they even met.

Eliot asked Novak directly about the affair and to quote:

“She denied it with a laugh that suggested the utter absurdity of such a thought: ‘First of all, at the time I made Vertigo, Jimmy was twice my age, married, and I was in love with another man, Richard Quine…Richard would direct both Jimmy and me in Bell Book and Candle. Yes, I found Jimmy attractive and he had a crush on me, I think, but I didn’t have one on him. I liked him in the way high school kids like each other. What he saw in me was the same thing I saw in him, that I was not in any way a ‘Hollywood’ person….I can remember whenever we were together, and had to do a kissing scene, he would blush beet red…”

She then goes on to say that once they were sitting on the couch between scenes and they had their feet touching and that was the only non-filmed physical contact they ever had. And then she says:

“..people have thought we might have had an affair. This is categorically untrue. I won’t deny that I had a number of relationships in my day, I have never denied any of them, but in this instance it just isn’t true.”

No one is confusing Stewart’s movie roles with the actual man. The profile above is based on the reading of three different biographies and is an accurate picture of who he was as a man. Stewart was not a perfect man off-screen but he was stellar in many ways.

5 Éamonn November 5, 2009 at 7:34 am

“To this end he refused to talk to reporters about his war experiences” isn’t 100% true. He did appear as a participant in Episode 12 of The World at War, a documentary series about World War II. It was made by Thames TV (in the UK) and shown in 1973. It was a serious documentary, however not an entertainment movie. It shows every interviewee in the rank/position they held at the time, so the tagline on his interview is “James Stewart, Squadron Commander”.

6 Steven November 5, 2009 at 7:36 am

After Jimmy Stweart died, Kim Novak offered this appreciation: “Hitch (Alfred Hitchcock) told me the reason Jimmy has starred in more of his movies than any other actor is when you have Jimmy in a movie, you don’t have to shoot the first three reels.”

7 Cowboy Bob November 5, 2009 at 7:36 am

For a long time, I thought of him as a doddering wimp. “Clarence! I want to live!” Then I saw some of the pictures he played in. He was great as a cowboy, and showed fire that I did not know existed. Now I know that he was an excellent actor.

As for the affairs, “John Wayne — American” mentioned that women were disappointed, including Marlene Dietrich (she was described as being such a tramp that she was “as passionate as a cash register”); she was unable to get his knickers down, either.

Bravo, Mr. Stewart!

8 Scott November 5, 2009 at 8:35 am

Brett, thanks for the article on Jimmy Stewart. What a fine example of manliness, and a well-written article. I’m looking forward to trying to get to know Mr. Stewart a little better now.

9 Navy Vet November 5, 2009 at 9:43 am

“Stewart-unlike a certain cowboy actor who usually gets many more manliness points-did everything he could to serve.”

Maybe next time you an do a little research into Reagan before displaying your ignorance in a post. Good starting point would be on board the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, where they have quite an impressive space showing highlights of Reagan’s military and civilian career.

Such clear bias only makes the blogger appear petty and bitter.

10 ptd November 5, 2009 at 9:56 am

Navy Vet-
I believe that the certain cowboy actor was John Wayne, not Ronald Reagan. He has a rather sketchy military history.

11 paul November 5, 2009 at 9:59 am

Absolutely one of your best columns.

12 Brian November 5, 2009 at 10:07 am

Navy Vet-

He is definitely talking about John Wayne. John Wayne used the same surfing injury that ended his football career at USC to get out of WW2. When on a tour of Vietnam and asked how this compared to WW2 he made up stories rather than telling the truth.

13 k2000k November 5, 2009 at 10:14 am

“Such clear bias only makes the blogger appear petty and bitter.”

This blogger has already said many positive things about the former president. I suggest you actually read this blog before making such comments.

14 dave November 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

Whatever it may or may not say aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, it remains a fact of history that that gentleman did not serve a day in the military outside the continental United States. Insofar as he had a ‘military career’, it was entirely concerned with the production of training films. Nothing wrong with that, he had bad eyes and was unqualified for combat service. There is no point getting het up and trying to pretend different, because it just ain’t so.

15 Don November 5, 2009 at 10:30 am

I must say, one of his best movies was Sgt. York. I know he may be more famous for that Christmas movie about wonderful lives and such, but dang it, Sgt. York was awesome.

16 Don November 5, 2009 at 10:34 am

Sorry, my mistake above. I guess Gary Cooper was in York. I always thought it was Jimmy Stewart. I failed that one. Sorry about that.

17 Brett McKay November 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

Navy Vet- Yep. I was referring to John Wayne. Don’t get me wrong. I love John Wayne and John Wayne movies, but the fact is he didn’t enlist in WW2 when a lot of other movie stars (like Jimmy Stewart) did. He said he would get around to enlisting after the war, but he never did.

Those close to Wayne said he always felt guilty for not serving in the military and it was a sore subject for him. A lot of soldiers held it against him that he only *played* soldier in movies and never actually signed up. Some biographers explain Wayne’s uber-patriotism as a way to make up for not serving in the military.

18 Bret November 5, 2009 at 10:50 am

Love the website. Jimmy Stewart was a class act. You mentioned he didn’t do war films. Wasn’t he the lead in Strategic Air Command? Great film for it’s time.

19 Brett McKay November 5, 2009 at 11:21 am


It’s true that he did do the SAC movie, but in Stewart’s mind the film was really politically important to convince Americans that it was important for the government to spend millions of dollars to develop weapons delivery systems-he felt it was “the biggest single factor in the security of the world.” In Stewart’s mind the SAC film was what he called a “service film” (more of a informational, somewhat propaganda-esque movie) which was different that what he called a “war film” which he always refused to do. Perhaps the distinction isn’t as clear for others, but it was for him. I think basically he didn’t wanted to glorify combat in way that served no other purpose than to entertain.

20 john book November 5, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I just now quit reading the other blogs on this site…..about half-way through… So much sweat over his sex life and military career… I wish he could be canonized but he never mentioned nor behaved like a saint…but was quite while married. His military career speaks for itself. Why look for the worse in a person? Jimmy was a real guy. I never knew him, wish I had, but I had some shirt-tail relatives who did… they always said how much they respected him for the honest way he lived. I’ll leave it at that.

21 Craig November 5, 2009 at 1:15 pm

I grew up around the corner from Mr. Stewart. Not only was he an incredible man, but also he was always gracious and warm to both strangers and those who were barely familiar to him. For example, he always had a warm smile and a sincere “good day!” whenever we passed while he was walking his beloved dog.

22 Isi November 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm

@Cowboy Bob – that is a fantastic quote about Marlene Dietrich “as passionate as a cash register”. Insults used to be so much more fun.

When I started reading this I knew the name but really couldn’t figure out who Stewart was. Maybe that goes with his low profile, just one of the guys mentality. Fantastic write up though. This was basically like reading a very abridged version of a biography.

Out of curiosity does anyone know how long he was in the service before he was forced to retire?

23 Ben November 5, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Thanks for the post. Stewart sounds like a real man.

24 Rajesh November 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm

I have always been a huge fan of Jimmy Stewart. I purchased a box set of Hitchcock’s movies and several of them star Jimmy Stewart. He was an impressive actor and a truly great man indeed.

25 Stormbringer November 6, 2009 at 6:08 am

Brett, I do have to take issue with what I consider an unwarranted and unnecessary shot at John Wayne. It had no place, and there were other factors that (as you imply) he milked an old injury. He was granted his deferments for family reasons as well, but I will not belabor the point.

26 Hayley November 6, 2009 at 7:22 am

Jimmy Stewart was my moms favorite actor, I think she wanted to marry him.
I remember watching him in a courtroom drama- can’t remember the title, but I can see why so many people liked him. Apart from all his other achievements. He came across as humble and an everyman – a true gentleman I guess.

27 Brett McKay November 6, 2009 at 7:31 am

@Stormbringer I didn’t mean for it to be a low blow to the Duke. I just think it’s funny how many people think John Wayne served in the military because he was in all those war movies and was generally bad ass, but find it hard to believe that a skinny, sort of nerdy kind of guy like Stewart did because, well, he was skinny and sort of nerdy. It’s the irony I thought was interesting.

I think one could make the argument that John Wayne did his part on the homefront by playing in the sort of movies that boosted troops’ and the nation’s morale. I mean, even today, soldiers love his movies. And I’m sure many a man has joined up because they saw The Longest Day or the Green Berets.

28 James F. November 6, 2009 at 10:58 am

No need to try to defend Wayne, Brett. Your point was well made. John Wayne “acted” like a man in movies but he had nothing off-screen to show for it. He never served in the military, never was a real cowboy, never did anything really “tough.” People mix up the man with the roles he played. The reason Wayne did not enlist is because he worried that serving would put his newly blossoming career in jeopardy. A true coward.

29 David Himel November 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I love the concept of your blog. Not that it sets up impossible standards but rather represents simpler times that allowed people to focus on the quality of their character. The goals of relentless wealth, exposure and consumption were not in play for Stewart. I blog about the fashion of this period because like the people, quality and purpose were the focus, success and happiness were often the result but our out of sync consumer reality t.v. society has reversed the priorities. Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and many of the other great actors of the ww 2 period remain excellent role models for todays Man, who faces an ever more complex society with more fuzzy, less defined roles maybe even more broad in some sense of “manliness”.

30 Etihad November 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm

The examples that Stewart set in his life and his work showcase that being the loudest or the biggest aren’t required to be the best. My favorite Stewart westerns are the ones he made in the 1950s, often directed by Anthony Mann. In these westerns, Stewart played characters, both simple and complex, that held at their core a quiet and humble professionalism, much like the article stated.

31 Craig November 6, 2009 at 3:16 pm

A great article, concerning a gentleman, who lived in an era when ‘men were men’, if only we could all emulate the characteristics, and timeless principles, which Jimmy displayed throughout his career, his work, his personnel life.

I shall be spending New Year’s with my children, and have ensured i have a copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, and Mr Krueger’s Christmas…sit and watch either one of these flawless motion pictures, which has depth and substance beyond words…

Truly brilliant article, about one of a kind !!

32 Preston November 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Wow. Great article. Quite a man!

33 Mr. P November 6, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Duke Wayne ducked the military in WW2 because his star in Hollywood was rising. He’d been in B-Westerns for a decade or so when he got a huge break in ‘Stagecoach’ in 1938. He could have served if he wanted to but he didn’t. While filming ‘They Were Expendable’ the director, John Ford, made it a point to remind Wayne that he ducked the war. Said something about Wayne saluting like a sissy. Ford himself was an officer in the navy and was at Midway during that battle and was the on the USS Hornet during the Tokyo Raid. Co-star Robert Montgomery, also a navy vet and a PT-boat skipper during the war, told Ford to lay off. I like Wayne’s movies, he made a lot of good ones but yeah, Duke dodged the draft in WW2.

34 Mike Anderson November 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm

My name is Gunnery Sergeant Mike Anderson. I have greatly enjoyed reading the Art Of Manliness for about a year, I receive your articles through RSS feed at my official USMC email address.

Can I add a bit of second hand knowledge to this article? For 6 years, while I was stationed in Yuma Arizona at the Marine Corps Air Station there, I went to church with a retired Air Force navigator, TSgt Bill Rogers. Since I love aviation history, I loved listening to Bill’s stories and talking with him about his “glory days”

Bill flew many missions with General Stewart during his continuing career in the US Air Force Reserves. Mr. Bill always spoke highly of the General, saying that when he came aboard for a mission, he was neither a General, nor the famous Hollywood actor…just Jimmy.
He always joined the crew in all tasks, worked just as hard as everyone else, and took the mission very seriously. He never looked for special accomodations due his rank or star status but joined them, staying in the BOQ’s and eating in the messing facilities with them and above all, he always took care of his men,ensuring their well being whenever he flew with them.

Jimmy Stuart is a great role model, and an understated hero. But, his best quality, as your article pointed out is that he was never above being just “one of the guys.” TSgt Rogers was another man cut from the same cloth, by the way. It is an honor to call him a friend.

Semper Fidelis,

35 Mr. Ed November 7, 2009 at 12:28 am

Where did you find that “J.M. Stewart & Co. Hardware” photo?
Great article!
(BTW: I agree on John Wayne…Real name “Marion” haha…I’ve heard he had to have a voice over for singing…he could not play guitar himself either…what a fake.)

36 Navy Vet November 7, 2009 at 7:13 pm


I humbly apologize for jumping to a wrong conclusion. Your post does not go after Reagan, and I was a little too hair-triggered to find insult to one of my favorite Presidents.

I owe you a beer next time you are in town, and I will tell you stories about how the Navy is the manliest branch. Just got done with a retirement ceremony so I am feeling a little froggy.

Navy Vet

37 John November 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

Great article! I’ve long admired Jimmy Stewart, as an actor and as a person,

Sgt. Anderson, thank you for your service to our country.

38 Sjefke December 3, 2009 at 3:17 pm

And here are more/most(?) actors, morphed together very cleverly: http://www.wimp.com/menfilm/

39 Tas von Gleichen December 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I will remember Jimmy as being a simple, honest, hard working person.

40 Kim Luoma January 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I paid attention when you said he never leveraged his military service. As a young Air Force Captain in the early 1980′s I had the privilege of producing a program for the AF called “Air Force Now”. The audience was principally military members to help them understand their heritage. Long story short, we got the AF Public Affairs General at the time to write a letter to retired General Stewart asking if he might participate in a short film magazine style interview and retrospective of his time in the Army Air Corps/AF. We tried to affirm that we would not sensationalize. I so wanted to be able to spend even an hour with him! What a privilege we all thought, even in documentary style to attempt his story. The hours ticked into forever… His record of service does what he hoped… and is the best best testament.

41 Connie Fernandez January 11, 2010 at 7:06 am

Who couldn’t help but love James Stewart He was like a real person that you even might know,I love everyone of his movies,he such a perfect actor, He is timeless.

42 Masked McKenna April 7, 2010 at 6:32 am

Jimmy Stewart has always been one of my favorites, now I know why. I love reading this blog, it renews my faith that gentlemen not only still exist, but they’re studying the real manly arts and not the “Jersey Shore” reality TV definition of what a man is.

43 Matt November 5, 2013 at 11:28 am

Bear in mind however, John Wayne was too old for military service at the time. He was 34 at the of Pearl Harbor and past the cut off. Secondly, the military gave him a 3-A deferment. That was actually pressured by Republic pictures. Wayne did want to enlist and fight alongside friend John Ford. I would also assume that the shoulder injury he sustained that removed him from USC football may have played a part, along with all the other injuries he may have sustained doing his own stunts.

44 ITO November 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Growing up without a father, I always pictured Jimmy Stewart as the role model for the father I wanted. I am in my 40s now, and to this day he is still my role model.

45 Geraldine Miller November 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

When I was a little girl my Dad used to take me into his Dad’s hardware store every Saturday.
Of course I didn’t know his son was famous until I was a teenager.

46 JEP November 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm

A question was asked about when Major General Stewart was forced to retire – it was May 31, 1968 and he was 60 years, 11 days old.

In 1966, Brigadier General James Stewart flew as a non-duty observer in a B-52 on an Arc Light bombing mission during the Vietnam War. He refused the release of any publicity about his participation because he did not want it to be a publicity stunt, he thought it was a part of his job as an officer in the Air Force Reserve.

47 Storey Hieronymus Hauck November 6, 2013 at 10:35 pm

One of our family’s small claims to fame is that my grandfather was part of Jimmy’s squadron in WWII, I believe as a mechanic. While he never knew him well, my grandfather was always so proud of one particular Christmas card that Jimmy personally addressed and sent to him. My grandfather (now gone) was one of WWII’s great gentlemen, and he always thought very highly of Mr. Stewart. This article just backs up what we already knew!

48 Arby November 9, 2013 at 8:54 am

Jimmy Stewart will always be one of my favoritesThis is a great article about him to bad about the misinformed gig at John Wayne.Wayne was also a great man and to set the record straight I would suggest reading John Wayne, The Man Behind The Myth by Michael Munn.Wayne tried several times to enlist and he was not denied due to injuries, there were other powers to be at work to keep him out of the military of which he knew nothing about.

49 Caroline December 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Nice article. I only disagree with one thing: The assertion that Jimmy Stewart wasn’t handsome. I don’t think a man is much judge of that. I think He was quite handsome and grew moreso as he matured.

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