20 May 2009

Great Ladykillers of Yesteryear: James Stewart

Perhaps "ladykiller" isn't the best label for James Stewart. Jimmy was never the kind of charming ruffian who could sweep a dame off her feet and into his arms. And how could he be, with a voice like that? No, Jimmy's key to success wasn't his Errol Flynn-esque roguish charms nor his Valentino-like good looks. Rather, it was his aura of the American everyman that made him so intensely likable--if ever there was a "boy-next-door" among the titans of Hollywood, it would have to be James Stewart, even though he was older than he typically looked. In You Can't Take It with You and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one cannot help but to cheer for him as he attempts to bag Jean Arthur, and one cannot help but be happy for him when he finally does.

Ever the patriot, Jimmy put his film career on hold to serve in the Army Air Forces, where he led numerous bombing sorties in the European theater. After dropping bombs on Nazis--who had it coming to them for quite a while--he went to play numerous versatile and memorable roles, including several as the long-suffering protagonist in films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Even if he didn't look the part like Tyrone Power did, Jimmy is a cool enough guy to warrant the title of Great Ladykiller of Yesteryear. And besides, what else could you call a guy who, if even only for a little while, was knocking boots with Norma Shearer?

Happy birthday Jimmy, you old dog, you.

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