“The whole world believed James Stewart. They have never caught him acting”. These words come from Peter Bogdanovich, director, screenwriter and film critic.
James Maitland Stewart was a big, great actor from the United States. Already an Oscar winner in 1941 as an actor in a leading role for the film The Philadelphia Story by George Cukor, Stewart won an Honorary Academy Award in 1985 for his “50 years of memorable performances” (N.B. For those who don’t know what it is, it is the Oscar to the Career won by artists such as Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini…).
But maybe James Stewart’s artistic successes had outshone another fundamental aspect of his life: Stewart was an aviator.
Not just an aviator for pleasure like many Hollywood celebrities (do you remember our article on celebrities and airplanes?), but he was a true war hero.
1941 was for Stewart the year of his first Academy Award, but also the year when his contract with MGM production studio ended, and when he joined USAAC (United States Army Air Corps). The Stewart family had a long history of military careers. With a father and a grandfather who fought respectively in the Civil War and in The First World War, James didn’t back off and took part in twenty missions during the Second World War. A subsequent mission in the Vietnam War got him the rank of Brigadier General.
When he went back to his acting career after five years, Stewart got back on the big screen with Frank Capra’s It’s a wonderful life, and then he worked with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Mann.
But at this point Stewart was an aviator first of all, and his incredible ability got him the role of the “star of skies” Charles Lindbergh in Billy Wilder’s film The spirit of St. Louis in 1957.
Stewart obtained many, several artistic awards among which Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, a Silver Bear and a Golden Bear, the front page of Life in 1945, a commemorative stamp and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (which was stolen and then replaced!).
But here, on this blog dedicated to the flight, we want to remember him for his six Service Stars, a Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Croix de Guerre.