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Jimmy Stewart: A Biography [Kindle Edition]

Marc Eliot
2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.78
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Jimmy Stewart’s all-American good looks, boyish charm, and deceptively easygoing style of acting made him one of Hollywood’s greatest and most enduring stars. Despite the indelible image he projected of innocence and quiet self-assurance, Stewart’s life was more complex and sophisticated than most of the characters he played. With fresh insight and unprecedented access, bestselling biographer Marc Eliot finally tells the previously untold story of one of our greatest screen and real-life heroes.

Born into a family of high military honor and economic success dominated by a powerful father, Stewart developed an interest in theater while attending Princeton University. Upon graduation, he roomed with the then-unknown Henry Fonda, and the two began a friendship that lasted a lifetime. While he harbored a secret unrequited love for Margaret Sullavan, Stewart was paired with many of Hollywood’s most famous, most beautiful, and most alluring leading ladies during his extended bachelorhood, among them Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland, Loretta Young, and the notorious Marlene Dietrich.

After becoming a star playing a hero in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939 and winning an Academy Award the following year for his performance in George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story, Stewart was drafted into the Armed Forces and became a hero in real life. When he returned to Hollywood, he discovered that not only the town had changed, but so had he. Stewart’s combat experiences left him emotionally scarred, and his deepening darkness perfectly positioned him for the ’50s, in which he made his greatest films, for Anthony Mann (Winchester ’73 and Bend of the River) and, most spectacularly, Alfred Hitchcock, in his triple meditation on marriage, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo, which many film critics regard as the best American movie ever made.

While Stewart's career thrived, so did his personal life. A marriage in his forties, the adoption of his wife’s two sons from a previous marriage, and the birth of his twin daughters laid the foundation for a happy life, until an unexpected tragedy had a shocking effect on his final years.

Intimate and richly detailed, Jimmy Stewart is a fascinating portrait of a multi-faceted and much-admired actor as well as an extraordinary slice of Hollywood history.

“Probably the best actor who’s ever hit the screen.” —Frank Capra

“He taught me that it was possible to remain who you are and not be tainted by your environment. He was not an actor . . . he was the real thing.” —Kim Novak

“He was uniquely talented and a good friend.” —Frank Sinatra

“He was a shy, modest man who belonged to cinema nobility.” —Jack Valenti

“There is nobody like him today.” —June Allyson

“He was one of the nicest, most unassuming persons I have known in my life. His career speaks for itself.” —Johnny Carson

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eliot, a seasoned leading-man biographer (Cary Grant), turns in an exhaustive report on Stewart, throwing open new windows on America's boy-next-door with archival research, new photographs and anecdotes from Stewart's daughter, Kelly. Born to reserved parents in Pennsylvania, Stewart dipped his feet into theater at Princeton, joining the University Players troupe and cementing a fateful friendship with Henry Fonda. In the lean years of the Depression, Stewart won acclaim for Broadway roles, striking out West in 1935 to star in Capra films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Stewart, whose grandfather was a Civil War hero, obligingly joined the air force to lead bombing raids in Europe during World War II. Upon a safe return, he took on diverse genre roles from westerns to thrillers, shading his characters with depth and dimension. Alfred Hitchcock played deftly on Stewart's Boy Scout likability by giving him vaguely sinister roles in Rear Window and Vertigo. Stewart's heyday came in 1955, when the media anointed him king of Hollywood, knocking John Wayne to second banana. As Eliot chronicles Stewart's films and friendships, he entertains the usual speculation of illicit starlet affairs and brooding disillusionment, but he can't find much to tarnish this Golden Age icon. Photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"It was a wonderful- and long- life, and Eliot...covers it all."
-USA Today

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 943 KB
  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; Reprint edition (October 10, 2006)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,795 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
I just finished this book and I must say I am glad I didn't invest in the author's previous effort on Cary Grant...

Let's start off with the pros: The chapters on Stewart's service in World War II were quite good, and gave me a great deal of information I was unaware of. The bibliography is quite extensive and gave me some ideas for follow-up reading, particularly film scholar/critic Andrew Sarris' work. (Eliot studied under Sarris and quotes him extensively.) One of the best threads that runs through the book concerns the lifellong friendship between Stewart and Henry Fonda, who were united by fundamental similarities in their characters and backgrounds, but divided, sometimes heatedly, by their politics and world views. The obligatory while-making-the-film anecdotes are often entertaining. And finally, the section on Stewart's later life, the death of his son in Viet Nam and his retirement from film is quite touching. As far as film analysis goes, Eliot also does a fair job with the astonishing "Vertigo", adds depth to my reading of "The Man Who Knew Too Much", and takes a moment to appreciate a personal favorite, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."

Now for the cons: Marc Eliot has apparently never met a convoluted sentence he did not use as-is. Reading this book is an exercise in grammatical torture that absolutely cannot be blamed on printer's errors. It is beyond shameful that his publisher let this book come out in its current state and his editor should be fired forthwith. Every couple of pages the reader stumbles on a sentence in which the subject, verb and object seem to have been thrown in a blender with several commas and poured out like confetti.

Other reviewers have already mentioned factual errors, of which there are more than a few.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's A Not So Wonderful Bio October 27, 2006
When a biographer can't even get basic, easily-checked facts straight (Auntie Mame did *not* win the 1958 Oscar as Best Picture; How The West Was Won was originally released in the Cinerama process, not Cinemascope; etc., etc.), how much faith can the reader put into the unsubstantiated assertions that Cary Grant *may* have had a crush on Jimmy Stewart and so on? If the author is to be believed, Clark Gable is largely unknown to modern audiences because he never made a "classic" film like Stewart's It's A Wonderful Life. (Guess he never saw Gone With The Wind.) Some interesting, (apparently) previously-unreported stuff here--but who can tell how much of it is true?
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Intentional injustice? February 3, 2007
Eliot has filled this biography of Jimmy Stewart with enough unsubstantiated information, innuendo, and factual errors to sink a small ship, never mind the grammatical errors. Furthermore, the tone of the book is snide, schizophrenic and frankly unlikable - it seems as if the author almost has a vendetta against Stewart. The near-constant Freudian analyzations range from annoying to obnoxious, as does Eliot's penchant for finding deep sexual overtones and conflict in all of Jimmy's movies and many of his day-to-day activities.

A previous poster suggested the author didn't watch a few (if any) of Jimmy's movies in preparation for this 'biography', and I have to agree. Additionally, while much time is spent talking out Henry Fonda, the information doesn't go very far beneath the surface of the man or his friendship with Jimmy; this lack of real depth is epidemic throughout this book, unless one considers unsupported gossip, suppositions, and questionable psychological analysis 'depth'. The best part of the book really is that which discusses his war experience.

Overall, this book is unbelivable on several levels, the topmost being that Mr. Eliot, separating himself from most Americans, doesn't actually like Jimmy Stewart as a person and does his best to smear Stewart's personality and character - as well as that of anyone else who happens to get in his way. How this book, rife with error, got past an editor is also beyond my understanding. Someone interested in Jimmy is far better off watching his finest movies than reading this book.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars well written...but November 26, 2006
This book is an interesting read. The Author Marc Elliot is good at prose...and unlike some readers, I do not mind the occasional un-dotted I...etc. My problem with this book is different.

The author is clearly trying to break down the 'good guy' image of Stewart. He comes up with all sorts of (in my opinion) phony sexual stories about Stewart including that he visited a MGM sponsored brothel in order to prove his 'heterosexuality.' Come on...this is garbage. Also, he doesent miss a chance at the old Marlene Deitrich abortion story which I believe to be 'hooey' to use a Jimmy word. The author states that JS is a feminine hero and that many of his films have sexual undertones. I just don't believe this...and the fact that the author has written for Penthouse really sets the stage for what you are in for. This is a very biased book. And I wouldnt recomend it.

Also, before you spend money on this book...research the author. I didn't do this until I had purchased the book and I learned that his previous material doesent seem to fit. He is most known for a book entitled "Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince" The Jimmy Stewart book (in my opinion-again) does an extreme disservice to JS. The author misses some of his movies entirely and also misses "The Six Shooter" radio series that Jimmy did for NBC in the 50's.

The book is interesting to read (Marc is a great story teller)...but the dirt doesent stick (never has) and I would'nt believe a word of it if I were you. Finally, I don't like the 'Jimmy was thinking/feeling' additions...there is simply no way to know what the man was thinking. Take my advice and let Jimmy's films speak for themselves.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love it.
Published 19 days ago by Southern gal
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read
this book was an excellent account of a truly great actor. it was a great read from start to finish, there is not one feature of this book to complain about. a truly great read.
Published 3 months ago by enio
4.0 out of 5 stars It was a wonderful life
Jimmy Stewart almost faded from public perception but for the rediscovery by a new generation of a film virtually ignored when new- A Wonderful Life. Read more
Published 7 months ago by R. Vincent
2.0 out of 5 stars Skip it
Basically a rehash of old newspaper and magazine articles with extensive descriptions of each movie he was in with very little new content.
Published 7 months ago by Dave S
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book Firebombed By The Reviewers, But Not By This One
Jimmy Stewart, A Biography, Marc Eliot; Harmony Books [Crown Publishing], Random House (2006; hardcover)

Not all long sentences are verbose. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Don Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars Stewart fan
Very interesting and concise , tells the story of a decent and interesting man. We need more of his ilk now
Published 9 months ago by Walle- watcher
4.0 out of 5 stars great american
this book showed me how war changes people, even those in the public eye. his career in movies before and after the war were very different. Read more
Published 13 months ago by byron
4.0 out of 5 stars Waaaallll.
The writer told us about Jimmy, pretty much warts and all. Both this book and the bio
on Henry Fonda, both down play a movie I think was one of the best they done... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Dutch
4.0 out of 5 stars Great biography
I had to buy this for my sister. She saw one in a library, glanced thru it , and decided she wanted one. Amazon was the first place I thought to look for it. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Garold R. Barr
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful!
My mother loved this book. It was on her Christmas list and I ordered it for her. Lots of info she didn't know about Jimmy Stewart!
Published 20 months ago by Summer
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More About the Author

Marc Eliot is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books on popular culture, among them the highly acclaimed biography Cary Grant, the award-winning Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince, and most recently American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood, plus the music biographies Down Thunder Road: The Making of Bruce Springsteen, To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, and Death of a Rebel about Phil Ochs. He has been featured in many documentaries about film and music and has written on the media and popular culture for numerous publications. He divides his time among New York City; Woodstock, New York; and Los Angeles. Visit him at

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