I was kind of a weird kid. I liked old movies and preferred to read or hang out with the adults than play childish games with, well, other children. I was basically born an old lady, and my tastes followed suit.

One of our neighbors, a pipe-smoking old man with an antique MG and a wicked smile, used to tell me stories about growing up during the Depression, going to big band dances, and serving in World War II. One day, he pulled out a sort of yearbook from his time in the U.S. Army. It had pictures of the various units and bases he served at.

Then, he pointed out a small group photo in front of a plane. My friend, Al Britton, was there with his squadron. With Jimmy Stewart. That day, I learned that they flew together and that Captain Stewart was every bit as kind and down-to-earth as you would think and hope he was.

The 703rd Squadron. Jimmy Stewart is fourth from the left in the top row.

In that moment, an American icon became a real, tangible person to me.

The kindly Elwood P. Dowd, the insistent L.B. Jefferies, the hypnotized Scottie Ferguson, the fast-talking MacCauley O’Connor, the complicated Ransom Stoddard. The man who was always billed as James Stewart, but was so beloved that an entire country called him Jimmy. The man whose Oscar was on display on a shelf in his father’s hardware store for more than three decades.


Stewart eventually became a colonel during WWII and flew active combat missions. When he officially retired from the service in 1968, it was with the rank of brigadier general.

They say you don’t want to meet your heroes in case they disappoint you. It seems that with Stewart, it was the opposite. Thankfully, we can still visit with him through his impressive library of films.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Though he was nominated four more times, this is the only performance that won Stewart won the Best Actor Oscar. It wasn’t his first movie, but it was the one that made him a star and a household name.

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

In a film that may have hit a bit too close to home, Stewart and his crash-landed crew must engineer a way out of the desert. It’s a fabulous adventure film with a star-studded cast.

Harvey (1950)

Stewart often called this his favorite film role. It’s a joyous, feel-good comedy. He also performed the live play in London and was tickled when a small child yelled out, “Where’s the rabbit?”

Vertigo (1958)

Recently named by the BFI as the best film of all time, Vertigo is certainly a must-watch for any fan of Stewart or Hitchcock. Some have criticized its depiction of a man obsessed, but I think that is precisely the point. Decide for yourself.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Besides comedies, dramas, and thrillers, Stewart also made dozens of Westerns. In this one, Stewart is a U.S. Senator returning to the small town he once protected. Through flashbacks, it tells a complicated tale of right versus wrong.

Rear Window (1954)

This was the first Stewart movie I ever saw (I think I was about five) and it’s still my favorite. I’ve watched it a hundred times and still find new things. It’s not his flashiest or funniest, but I think his subtlety is what makes the film work. The eagle-eyed will even see a real photo of Stewart in a flak jacket in the background of his apartment.

Originally written by DVD Netflix