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Looks at the life of movie actor Jimmy Stewart, highlighting his film career, his service in the army, and his love life
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A paint-by-numbers biography of the star of such classic films as It's a Wonderful Life, Harvey, Rear Window, and Vertigo. With his lanky good looks, his earnest, genial demeanor, the recently deceased Stewart often played the prototypical American. His naturalistic style of acting, with its frequently parodied starts and stammers, seemed effortless, but as Stewart once remarked, ``If I give a natural appearance on the screen, you can be damn well sure I'm working at it.'' He had no intention of becoming an actor, but a few amateur theatrical productions at Princeton soon had him hooked. He was quickly discovered by MGM, and by 1941 he was a top star with a clearly identifiable and beloved screen persona. After harrowing service during WW II as a bomber pilot, he returned to Hollywood and proceeded to make a series of notable films with Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Mann in which he deliberately subverted his prewar image to telling effect. But despite a few flashes here and there, this biography does not rise to the level of its subject. Preferring catalog to character, the author leapfrogs relentlessly from film to film, as if that was all that made up a life. Throughout, Fishgall (Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster, 1995) reduces Stewart to little more than filmography leavened with a few familiar anecdotes, while psychological insight, analysis, and dissection of craft are mostly relegated to the sidelines. Fishgall has done an impressive amount of work, watching all of Stewart's scores of films, interviewing anyone with the slightest connection, reading all the requisite memoirs, but given the shallows in which he operates, he could have gotten by with half the effort. It may have been a wonderful life, but this isn't a wonderful biography. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
One of the most endearing actors of our time, Jimmy Stewart appeared in over 70 films and led one of the most successful careers in Hollywood. Fishgall's (Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster, LJ 9/1/95) well-written biography portrays Stewart as a man very much like the one he portrayed on screen?dedicated to work, family, and country. After playing small roles in minor Broadway productions, he secured an MGM contract. In looks and manner, he was not the typical Hollywood male star, but his all-American characteristics appealed to audiences, and in only five years he became a leading man. He served as a bomber pilot in World War II but in 1946 resumed a career that would span a half century. The main focus of this biography is Stewart's work; each film, television appearance, and stage production is covered in detail with reminiscences from co-workers as well as critical and public evaluations. Stewart's recent death will increase demand for a new biography, and this one is recommended for public libraries.?Phillip Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama Lib., Florence
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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