Woohoo! It’s December! That means everybody is legally allowed to start getting excited about Christmas. Which, for me, means I get to start watching Christmas films!
But mainly it means I get to celebrate our lord and saviour, without whom Christmas would just be some gaudy, consumerist, hell-hole, devoid of taste and substance. That’s right, I get to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ with James Stewart. (Not ‘with’ him as he’s very dead as you’ll find out in a minute).
So follow me on a trip called ‘Reasons why I love Jimmy…’
That’s right, all the best people are dead and everyone knows it. Jesus, Ghandi, Bill Hicks, Darth Vader, etc. If you’re reading this then you’re alive which means you’re shit. Jimmy Stewart isn’t. Jimmy Stewart rules.
2)He didn’t die in the war, but he did fight.
After Pearl Harbour (the event, not the film) Jimmy signed up to the Air Force immediately, even persuading his recruitment officer to ignore the weight restriction that would have kept him out. After winning the war single handedly (well I like to think so) he achieved the rank of Colonel and earned himself the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and seven battle stars.
3)He was a one-woman guy… eventually.
While a bit of a player in his day, once he settled down with his wife Gloria at the age of 41 she was all he wanted. After she passed on he became reclusive. His final words, “I’m going to be with Gloria now”.
4)He kept his politics out of his friendships.
As a conservative Republican he played a big part in campaigns to get Presidents, from Reagan to Nixon, elected. But after once coming to blows with best pal Henry Fonda (a liberal Democrat), Stewart and he decided to never talk politics again.
5) He had a great sense of humour about himself.
Just check out these ‘Roasts’. That is comedy.
6)He played the accordian.
He really did.
And he made some movies!
Top 5 James Stewart Movies
One of four Hitchcock collaborations (including ‘Rope’, ‘Rear Window’ and ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’) Stewart showed a darker side as a man whose interest with a mysterious blonde (this is Hitchcock after all) turns into obsession. A dizzying, at times surreal movie, that deserves its place in most critics top 100. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get remade with Shia The Beef.
4)’The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’
Another director, another partnership spanning four movies, this time John Ford takes the hot seat. Stewart loved Westerns often stating they were his favourite genre, and this gives the him the chance to play another idealist in Ransom Stoddard, a lawyer who believes the only way to clean up the town is through the correct use of the law. The ending would couple the realism of life with the mythism of movies. “No, sir. This is the West. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Adorable in every respect, but still pretty dark with it. Essentially James Stewart plays an alcoholic who struggles with reality and fictionalises a 6ft rabbit to be his best friend. As its the man in question playing Elwood P.Dowd, the character is embalmed with warmth and laughter but the crazy is still there. Can anyone possibly play it again in the supposed Spielberg remake? If they can I’ll eat rabbit stew for a month.
A true mark of an actor is when they can hold a screen completely when no-one else is around. Jimmy Stewart could. Confined to a chair for all of the screentime (except when he’s dangling out of a window) this time he wasn’t an ‘everyman’ but a playboy photographer with a lifestyle to make most men jealous. That you still find L.B. Jeffries both sympathetic and, yes, even cool is only thanks to his performance.
1)’It’s A Wonderful Life’
His (and my) favourite of his films and, most probably yours too. As George Bailey the most put-upon, unselfish man in the whole entire world, Jimmy found the role that would forever define him. Again coupling darkness with humanity and working with a director that knew him well, no Christmas is complete without a trip to Bedford Falls. I hope heaven is a bit like it and that Jimmy and Gloria are enjoying it there.