Jimmy Stewart… the everyman

Jimmy Stewart

Vertigo is arguably one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best and most memorable films. Hitchcock puts his star, James Stewart, in one of his favorite roles, as an “everyman” who is forced to deal with extraordinary circumstances beyond his control. In Vertigo, Stewart’s character is challenged with murder, love, and an uncontrollable fear of heights which all but paralyzes his life. Veritgo is a brilliant story of suspense and murder in which Hitchcock furthers the development of story-telling through the medium of film in a style that remains original and highly entertaining.

(Klaus Ming June 2009)


Biography for

Date of Birth 20 May 1908, Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 2 July 1997, Los Angeles, California, USA (cardiac arrest and pulmonary embolism following respiratory problems)
Mini Biography

His “aw shucks” demeanor has served him well as the good guy, the shy guy or the nice guy in films like Harvey (1950) and You Can’t Take It with You (1938). Alfred Hitchcock turned him into a dramatic leading man in films like Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). Stewart also starred in his share of westerns, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Naked Spur (1953) and The Man from Laramie (1955).



Gloria Stewart (9 August 194916 February 1994) (her death) 2 children


Whether he was a good guy or a dramatic leader James or “Jimmy” Stewart`s name interlocks with Alfred Hitchcock. His name also shows up in the Empire magazine’s “The Top 100 Movie Stars of all time” list. Surprisingly He never took an acting lesson, but he became one of the most famous actor at all times.

Never took an acting lesson, and felt that people could learn more when actually working rather than studying the craft. “I don’t act. I react.”– Jimmy Stewart

I am James Stewart playing James Stewart. I couldn’t mess around with the characterizations. I play variations on myself.”– Jimmy Stewart

In Michael Munn’s book Jimmy Stewart The Truth Behind The Legend (1988) The chapter when he writes about Vertigo, the title is: ‘Times of depression’. But even if he had a hard time that time, he stayed true of his quality of work. His college Kim Novak said about him:

“Thank God I had Jimmy Stewart with me in that picture. He treated me so well. I learned a lot about acting from him. When we had emotional scenes, he’d prepared himself. He wasn’t like a lot of actors who could just get in front of the camera and do it all when the director yelled “ACTION!” And he couldn’t just stop when the director yelled “CUT!” He had to prepare himself first by somehow going deep inside of himself, and you knew to leave him alone when he was like that. Than he’d say he was ready, and we’d do the scene. And when it was over, he wouldn’t just walk away. He allowed himself to slowly come out of it. He’d hold my hand and I would squeeze his hand so that we both had time to come down from emotion.”

His final Hitchcock role, the acrophobic ex-cop Scottie Ferguson in Vertigo, is the richest of all, drawing on virtually every acpect of the star`s persona: innocence, idealism, independence, compassion, stubbornness, romantic diffidence, emotional vulnerability, and the capacity for volcanically destructive emotions.

(The Hitchcock Encyclopedia)

His performance as James “Scottie” Ferguson in Vertigo is ranked #30 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).

He was the first movie star to enter the service for World War II, joining a year before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was initially refused entry into the Air Force because he weighed 5 pounds less than the required 148 pounds, but he talked the recruitment officer into ignoring the test. He eventually became a Colonel, and earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and 7 battle stars. In 1959, he served in the Air Force Reserve, before retiring as a brigadier general. (Walter Matthau was a sergeant in his unit).

He once said the public was his biggest critic, and if they didn’t like his performance, neither did he.

Medals awarded: Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, American Defense Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 Service Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Presidential Medal of Freedom.


He married his wife in 1949 at the age of 41 and lived with her until her death in 1994. He died in 1997.

Over 3,000 people, mostly Hollywood celebrities, attended his funeral to pay their respects.


1. What is the: innocence, idealism, independence, compassion, stubbornness, romantic diffidence, emotional vulnerability?

2. What is the Philadelphia Story about?






Michael Munn: Jimmy Stewart The Truth Behind The Legend (1988) pages: 237

Thomas Leitch: The Encyclopedia of Alfred HItchcock

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