One of America's greatest and most versatile actors!!! I just recently found out that he was a Princeton grad, not surprised. I loved him in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", “The Glenn Miller Story", " "Harvey", "Vertigo", "It's A Wonderful Life", "Rear Window", and "Strategic Air Command". His distinctive speaking mannerism and his impeccable comic timing are traits that will forever define his work.
Since drifter51 has an excellent review of Stewart’s professional work as an actor, I thought I would write a quick tip based on another equally important aspect of this iconic American. As a retired army helicopter pilot and adjunct professor of history I want to highlight Jimmy Stewart’s contribution to our nation’s defense.
He was an avid flyer before the war; he attained a private pilot license in 1935 and a commercial ticket in 1938. Later in 1940, Stewart was drafted into the United States Army but was rejected for failing to meet height and weight requirements for new recruits—Stewart was five pounds under the standard. He later successfully enlisted as a private in the Army in March 1941. He became the first major American movie star to wear a military uniform in World War II.
Not satisfied with just doing recruiting tours and bond drives in uniform as so many other Hollywood stars did, he sought combat action. Because of his flying experience he was accepted into the Army Air Corps and after successfully completing flight training, he served nine months as a B-17 and B-24 flight instructor, Stewart eventually convinced the “top brass” to attach him to a unit going overseas. Sent as the commander of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, at the rank of Captain in December 1943, the Squadron flew its B-24 Liberator bombers to RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England and immediately began combat operations. While flying missions over Germany, Stewart was promoted to Major.
Stewart twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in combat and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. He also received the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. In July 1944, after flying 20 combat missions, Stewart was made Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force. Before the war ended, he was promoted to colonel, one of very few Americans to rise from private to colonel in four years.
After the war, Stewart continued to play an active role in the United States Air Force Reserve after the war, achieving the rank of Brigadier General on July 23, 1959. Stewart did not often talk of his wartime service, due to his desire to be seen as a regular soldier doing his duty instead of as a celebrity. He served as Air Force Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base in the early 1950s. In 1966, Brigadier General James Stewart flew as a non-duty observer in a B-52 on a bombing mission during the Vietnam War. At the time of his B-52 flight, he refused the release of any publicity regarding his participation as he did not want it treated as a stunt, but as part of his job as an officer in the Air Force Reserve. After 27 years of service, Stewart retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968. After his retirement, he was promoted to Major General by President Ronald Reagan.
I recommend you see him in "Strategic Air Command" if you haven't seen the movie. see my review at http://www.lunch.com/Reviews/d/Strategic_Air...and-1551097.html?cid=13
Not only a great actor but a great American patriot, who is owed a debt of gratitude for his acting and his service to the defense of his country!