The great James Stewart was born 108 years ago today in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He remains one of the most popular actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age (and a favorite here at Cladrite Radio). Here are ten trivia tidbits about James Stewart:
- James Stewart was the first prominent actor to enlist in the military during World War II. He joined the Army eight months before Pearl Harbor and served overseas for 21 months, where, as a pilot with the 445th Bomb Group, 703rd squadron, he flew 20 combat missions and rose to the rank of colonel.
- Stewart held the highest active military rank of any actor in history. After World War II, he continued serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, ultimately attaining the rank of brigadier general.
- James Stewart attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1932 with a degree in architecture.
- Stewart was a member of Princeton’s Triangle Club, a musical-comedy theater group. A 1931 recording exists of Stewart performing the song “Day After Day” with the Princeton Triangle Club Dance Orchestra (regular listeners to Cladrite Radio have heard this recording).
- Stewart played the accordion and hoped to do demonstrate his facility with the instrument in the 1957 picture Night Passage, but his playing was dubbed by a professional musician.
- James Stewart wore the same hat in all of his westerns.
- Stewart was very conservative, politically, supporting such presidential candidates as Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
- James Stewart was originally in line to play Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest, but because Vertigo had not done well at the box office, director Alfred Hitchcock went with Cary Grant instead.
- Stewart was a bachelor until age 41, but his marriage to former model Gloria Hatrick McLean was a happy one.
- James Stewart’s Best Actor Oscar statuette (The Philadelphia Story, 1940) was on display in the window of his father’s hardware store for 25 years.
- The word “Philadelphia” on that statuette was misspelled.
Happy birthday, Mr. Stewart, wherever you may be.