Jimmy Stewart, according to most film critics and historians, is one of the greatest movie stars of all time. The World War II veteran and all-around swell guy starred in such classics as It’s a Wonderful Life, Rear Window, Vertigo, and the highly underrated John Wayne western The Shootist.
Today, the James M. Stewart Museum Foundation, created in his honor, gives out an annual Harvey Award to others in the entertainment field “who have demonstrated integrity and a devotion to the acting craft,” notes TribLive.
For the first time ever in 2015, the award went to someone who is still an active performer, Person of Interest and Passion of the Christ star James Caviezel.
Caviezel, in his acceptance speech for the Harvey Award, characterized Jimmy Stewart as “more than just an actor” to him, but “my favorite American — a man of honor and of decency and humor and plainspoken greatness that embodied the best of who we are.”
Here are some other things you may not know about the Hollywood legend.
1. Caviezel was correct. He wasn’t “just an actor,” but he was also “the first movie star to enter the service for World War II, joining a year before Pearl Harbor was bombed,” notes IMDb. Stewart was just 33-years-old at the time and 10 years older than the maximum required age limit. He was also refused at first because he came in five pounds under the 148-pound limit for a person of his height, but he convinced the recruitment officer to ignore the stringent requirements of the test. He would eventually become an active-duty Colonel and after that, a Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, the site notes. Military honors included the Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre, and other decorations. He retired as Brigadier General.
2. Stewart’s 1940 Best Actor Oscar became a mainstay at his father’s hardware shop for 25 years. That’s right. Jimmy Stewart never even kept the thing after winning for 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He would never win another for an individual performance, but he did receive an Honorary Award at the 1985 ceremonies.
3. Jimmy Stewart, as accomplished of an actor as he was, never took a single lesson, believing that on-the-job training was the best training of all.
4. Out of his extensive body of work, his favorite movie of all was the at first disappointing — at least performance-wise — It’s a Wonderful Life, which would later become a film and holiday classic.
5. Stewart was married to the same woman — Gloria Stewart — for close to 45 years until her death. After she died, he refused to do public appearances and rarely left their California home, where he would stay mostly in his bedroom and only come out for meals. He died of cardiac arrest three years after Gloria.
What was your favorite Jimmy Stewart movie? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image of Jimmy Stewart via Wikipedia Commons]