Jimmy Stewart probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. The son of a hardware store owner from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Stewart embodied classic Americana on film. Starring in everything from Frank Capra small-town dramas to Hitchcock nail-biters to gritty Westerns. He became the face of wholesomeness. He almost never played the bad guy, especially once he cemented his fame. 

Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation of France. U.S. Air Force photo

He took a hiatus from filmmaking during WWII when he served as a pilot. In 1943, he was sent to England as Commanding Officer of the 703d Bomb Squadron. He began flying B-24 combat missions and in 1944 became Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat wing, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force. Stewart ended the war with 20 combat missions. He remained in the USAF Reserve and was promoted to brigadier general in 1959. He officially retired in 1968.

My neighbor in high school was a navigator in Stewart’s plane. He confirmed that Stewart was incredibly down-to-earth, and was there to do a good job and keep his guys safe.

Still from Harvey (1950)

Stewart was cast in the Broadway production of Harvey  in 1947 and starred in the 1951 film version. It would become an iconic role, perfectly reflecting the gentle, soft-spoken, kind-hearted actor. It garnered him his second Oscar (the first was for The Philadelphia Story opposite Ruth Hussey).

Catch a dozen of Stewart’s best films on August 7 on TCM.

View the entire Summer Under the Stars schedule.

Join along on social media with #SummerUnderTheStars.

Each year, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) fills their programming calendar with days, and nights, devoted to a single classic film star. During August, I’m going to highlight some of the stars, and their work, that I think shouldn’t be missed.

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