Stewart, James

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Stewart, James (Maitland)

(1908–  ) film actor; born in Indiana, Pa. He was a magician and accordionist when he was a boy, and while he was attending Princeton University he appeared in campus productions. After graduation he joined a repertory company in Massachusetts, where two of his coperformers were Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan. This tall, gangly, drawling young man arrived in Hollywood in 1935, where he appeared in The Murder Man, but it wasn't until he starred in such films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) that filmmakers realized how appealing he was to the American public. In 1940 he won an Academy Award for The Philadelphia Story. He was a bomber pilot in World War II, flying 20 missions over Germany and attaining the rank of colonel. After the war, he returned, once again playing the quintessential small-town man in It's a Wonderful Life (1947), a movie revived every Christmas on television. He went on to a variety of roles—cowboys, detectives, and other masculine types. He was given an honorary Oscar in 1984.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.