James Stewart a Biography

Donald Dewey, Author Regnery Publishing $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-57036-227-9
Jimmy Stewart, now 88, may have had a wonderful life, but he seems somehow absent from this filibuster of a biography about him. Dewey (Marcello Mastroianni, 1993) has done his homework, interviewing scores of Hollywood co-stars, friends and family members; unfortunately, he has had to settle for secondary-source quotes from Stewart himself. After an overlong description of Stewart's hometown, ancestry and education, Dewey finally gets on track with Stewart's entree into acting, a profession he stumbled upon when the Depression spoiled his plans for an architectural career. His engaging descriptions of Stewart's early acting experiences with the University Players--a summer-stock troupe--and on Broadway provide insight into the star's close and complex lifelong relationships with Henry Fonda and Fonda's first wife, Margaret Sullavan. The heart of the book provides an adequate account of Stewart's meandering career in Hollywood, from his 1935 beginner's contract with MGM to his dip into network TV during the early 1970s. Most intriguing are the descriptions of Stewart's associations with such noted directors as Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock. Dewey's close-up portrayal of Stewart's work on It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, both by Capra, and on Hitchcock's Rear Window shows the scope of work of which Stewart was capable. Regrettably, Dewey includes tedious plot summaries for each of Stewart's movies, no matter how unimportant. Perhaps the most moving parts of the book are the last two chapters, about the deaths of Stewart's wife, Gloria, and of Fonda, his close friend, but these read almost like afterthoughts to a long and too dryly detailed study. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/30/1997
Release date: 07/01/1997
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-0-7515-2160-3
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Compact Disc - 978-1-4708-8836-7
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