James Stewart

Famously portrayed Glenn Miller in Biopic Glenn Miller Story

James Maitland Stewart (20th May 1908 – 2nd July 1997) was an American actor and military officer. Renowned for his distinctive drawl and everyman screen persona, Stewart’s film career extended over 80 films from 1935 to 1991. Portraying strong morality both on and off the screen, he epitomised the “American ideal” in the mid-twentieth century. In 1999, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked him third on its list of the greatest American male actors. He received numerous honours, including the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1980, the Kennedy Center Honor in 1983, as well as the Academy Honorary Award and Presidential Medal of Freedom, both in 1985.

Born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Stewart began acting while at Princeton University. After graduating, he embarked on a career as a stage actor, making his Broadway debut in the play Carry Nation (1932). He landed his first supporting role in The Murder Man (1935) and had his breakthrough in Frank Capra’s ensemble comedy You Can’t Take It with You (1938). Stewart went on to receive the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in George Cukor’s romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940). His other Oscar-nominated roles were in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Harvey (1950), and Anatomy of a Murder (1959).

Stewart portrayed darker, more morally ambiguous characters in movies directed by Anthony Mann, including Winchester ’73 (1950), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), and The Naked Spur (1953), and by Alfred Hitchcock in Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958). Stewart also starred in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), as well as the Western films How the West Was Won (1962), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, serving as deputy commanding the 2nd Bombardment Wing and commanding the 703d Bombardment Squadron from 1941 to 1947. He later transferred to the Air Force Reserve and held various command positions until his retirement in 1968 as a brigadier general. Stewart remained unmarried until his 40s and was dubbed “The Great American Bachelor” by the press. In 1949, he married former model Gloria Hatrick McLean. They had twin daughters, and he adopted her two sons from her previous marriage. The marriage lasted until McLean’s death in 1994, and Stewart died of a pulmonary embolism three years later.

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