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Jimmy Stewart: A Biography

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  796 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
With rare access to those closest to the legendary actor, Marc Eliot, the bestselling author of Cary Grant now provides a unique glimpse into the real life behind Jimmy Stewart's celluloid image and reveals the complex man behind the all-American boy-next-door image.
Hardcover, 463 pages
Published November 6th 2006 by Harmony (first published 2006)
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Celebrity Biographies
12th out of 54 books — 28 voters
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39th out of 294 books — 64 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,851)
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Feb 02, 2010 Pearl rated it did not like it
I couldn't even finish this book. At first, I was impressed with the minute details of Jimmy Stewart's life that the author brought to light; and the book itself being a hefty tome, I was excited at the prospect of learning everything there is to know about such a brilliant actor.

What made me give up the book about a quarter of the way through was the author's odd preoccupation with Jimmy Stewart's sexuality and sex life. While sex may sell, I think that some of the insinuations were completely
Jul 15, 2007 Cristina rated it really liked it
Shelves: film
Mark Eliot created some waves in "classic film star fans'" world when he published Cary Grant: A Biography a few years ago. Suffice to say, the only reason I was tempted by the biography on James (Jimmy) Stewart was out of my admiration for the actor--not the book's author.

Despite my apprehension, I was pleasantly surprised by Jimmy Stewart: A Biography. Although one must always be wary of any biography written on any celebrity--especially one who is dead and especially described in a book not o
Mar 28, 2009 Louise rated it it was ok
The author seemed more interested in gossiping about celebrity sex lives and telling the entire storyline of Stewart's movies than in adding anything worthwhile to the reader's understanding of the man or the actor.
Jimmy Stewart was a great actor and a good man, and despite the author's lack of interest in that, it's still obvious.
I thought the author used a lot of other people's books and interviews, rather than doing any investigating himself. The only thing I know he did was watch Stewart's m
Jerry Borchardt
Aug 18, 2014 Jerry Borchardt rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I once asked a young, new college grad employee if she knew who the actor James Stewart was. She drew a blank until I mentioned the movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and she said, "oh, that guy." Unfortunately, under-thirties and even most gen-xers are ignorant of older cinema, pre-Spielberg/Lucas, in the same way that my generation, the baby boomers, was ignorant of the silent era of film. The young employee didn't know who James Stewart was in the same way I didn't know who Francis X. Bushman was wh ...more
Betsey Manzoni
Feb 01, 2012 Betsey Manzoni rated it it was amazing
I adore Jimmy Stewart, so it was almost a sure bet that I would love his biography. However, you never know, given what secrets and sorry personality traits that biographers may reveal about their subjects, if you'll end up liking the person or not! I'm happy to report that I still adore Jimmy Stewart. He was Hollywood royalty back in the Golden Age of Hollywood and no one deserved it more than he did. I doubt there was anyone who didn't like the affable Mr. Stewart. No sordid affairs, no drug o ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Simon rated it did not like it
Just . . . smarmy, which is not a word that I think most people would use in connection with Stewart. Eliot spends a lot of time making not-so-veiled insinuations about the sex lives of Golden Age Hollywooders. When he isn't sniggering behind his hand, so to speak, he gives his interpretations of films in the Stewart canon. The interpretations are, shall we say, murky? I stayed to the end because, you know, Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life, but a more fastidi ...more
Nov 29, 2010 Vicki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memior
The first thing that I want to say is that this book was extremely readable. I was never bored. I didn't skip things (except for a 5 page description of what happens in "Vertigo"-I've seeen the movie, I already know). The book was entertaining. Plus, I finished reading it and still liked Jimmy Stewart, which I often can't say about biographies, since many times they seem to concentrate on digging up all the dirt they can on their subjects and making them seem like horrible people. Overall, I enj ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Peyton rated it liked it
While I still love JImmy Stewart, and now have the strong urge to look up a lot of old movies (darn you, Netflix, for not having more available on streaming!), I have no real desire to read another book by Marc Eliot. I think that his readings into almost every film Stewart made as having some dark, repressed sexual under- or overtones, and his use of Freudian analysis for just about every interaction Stewart had with any woman says more about Eliot than about Stewart. Enjoyed learning more abou ...more
Andy Hickman
Jan 10, 2016 Andy Hickman rated it liked it
Marc Eliot, “Jimmy Stewart: A Biography” (NY: Harmony Books, 2006)

Thoroughly researched biography about James Maitland "Jimmy" Stewart (1908– 1997) with film synopses and filmography, many source materials, and extensive notes.

Anthony Mann directed Jimmy in eight films, and said, “All the great stars that the public love have clear eyes … The eyes do everything: they're the permanent reflection of the internal flame that animates the hero. Without those eyes, you can only aspire to second-string
Oct 14, 2015 Marci rated it liked it
Oh Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, so many great movies! As so often happens the high regard I held Jimmy Stewart in was tarnished a bit once I found out the nitty gritty of his life. He was still stellar compared to many of his peers, but oh, the hard partying in his 20's and 30's. The things the studio made him do!! I feel he was redeemed when he went to war, and actually felt a closer connection to him knowing he was flying bombers as did my grandfather. A very well written book, comprehensive in lookin ...more
Jul 01, 2015 David rated it liked it
While at times this is a wonderful glimpse into the life of a great actor, and revealed many things about the actor I didn't have a clue about--- there were some problems with the presentation.

First, while I agree that Hitchcock's "Rope" was full of homosexual implications, and intentionally so, I cannot agree with the author's explanation of the hidden sexual implications of a actor repressed both in real life and on screen. The author seems to be titilated by what he views as sexual tension i
Mar 19, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing
Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors and having now read his biography I understand why. He is an all American hero in real life - just an average Joe who had the opportunity to do some great things. Having made over 80 films (many of which are historically famous now) he never thought of himself as a star but loved working in the film industry. Often, as was the case in It's a Wonderful Life, Rear Window and Vertigo - he was not thought of as a success when the film was made but later in ...more
Jimmy Stewart
Jun 08, 2015 Jimmy Stewart rated it really liked it
Reads like a novel, a compelling window into the life of a rare actor, family man, human being. Page turning, it's impressive how Eliot makes recent history seem like it is unfolding in front of you for the first time. Has inspired me to read more biographies.
Robin Anne
Mar 26, 2016 Robin Anne rated it liked it
The author did well in writing a thorough account of the films that Jimmy Stewart made. Each film described in the book had a well written history and thought provoking in depth analysis that would make a film student salivate. Unfortunately, I purchased the book thinking it was a biography instead of a film analysis and history of the motion picture industry.

Except for a few typos, the book was really well written. The only problem I had was the content as it was not what I was hoping for. Befo
Jenni Rodriguez
Nov 03, 2014 Jenni Rodriguez rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-like, bios
If you're thinking of reading this book on Jimmy I might pass. While it has it's moments for the most part it's the author giving his opinions on jimmy's book and life, using Freud and unnecessary symbolism every chance he gets and there's also lots of misinformation. I have read a previous book on Stewart that I really enjoyed and Jimmy's one of my favorite actors so I may not be the best person to recommend or not recommend this book, but I personally didn't enjoy it. One thing I did like was ...more
Natasha Deen
Jan 05, 2012 Natasha Deen rated it it was amazing
All the things I didn't know about Jimmy Stewart. This guy was more amazing than I'd originally thought (and I originally thought he was pretty darn amazing).
Jul 06, 2014 Spiderorchid rated it liked it

It's kind of difficult to rate this book...

Eliot does a very good job of analyzing Stewart's movies and his movie-persona. Especially the detailed part about "Vertigo" is very interesting. We get a good overview about the movie-industry at the different times of Stewart's career and information about why a certain kind of film was popular at a certain time etc. This is solid work and enjoyable for James Stewart-fans and movie-fans in general.

On the other hand he tends to go overboard when it co
Trent Macdonald
Oct 22, 2011 Trent Macdonald rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 19, 2010 Seth rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
I should have known better with this biographer (who also wrote "Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince"). He seems much more interested in Stewart's sins than in anything else. Biographers have amazing power when you think about it, both in the events they choose to include and leave out of the biography, as well as in how they write about what they do include. I was disappointed to read about how ugly a place Hollywood was even back in the 20's and 30's. I will say that Stewart comes out of thes ...more
Aug 07, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors and personalities of all time, so I was excited to read this book. A few chapters in, though, I realized that something about it was bugging me -- I didn't like the book, although it hadn't affected my opinion of Jimmy Stewart. A little more reading and I realized that what I didn't like about the book was the author's tone. He spent a lot of time focusing on the sexual exploits of Jimmy Stewart and his many acting friends, but what I got from it was no ...more
Chad Simons
Apr 25, 2014 Chad Simons rated it did not like it
Eliot did not do justice to Jimmy Stewart at all in this "biography!" Eliot seemed more interested in creating innuendo and accused relationships rather than writing about the great man Jimmy Stewart. If he had factual information about anything it may have been better served, but assumptions and fantasies of debauchery are not worth anyone's time. There are much better books out there that truly record the life of one of Americas past heroes.
Jul 02, 2008 PastAllReason rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2008, biography
A book well worth reading not nearly as much for the author as for the account of Jimmy Stewart.

Towards the end of the book there is a quote from Frank Capra about Jimmy Stewart, the actor, "There is a higher level than great performance in acting. A level where there is no acting at all. The actor disappears and there's only a real live person on the screen. A person audiences care about immediately. There are only a few actors, very few, capable of achieving this highest level of the actor's
Glen Peterman
Dec 05, 2014 Glen Peterman rated it liked it
Although I found the book an easy enjoyable read I am only able to give it three stars if for nothing else than the authors arm chair psychiatry resulting in the overuse of the word Oedipal.

The one thing mr Eliot did that I really enjoyed about the book was whenever someone important was introduced he gave an abbreviated biographical account of their lives as well. This turned what was billed as a book about Stewart into a biography of golden age Hollywood. It was a pleasant and welcome surpris
Jaime Contreras
Oct 04, 2016 Jaime Contreras rated it really liked it
Jimmy Stewart remains one of my favorite actors and an American acting icon. mr. Stewart was a man of a calm nature, acting prowess and integrity. he remained so during his career and afterwards.

This biography presents a humble man who loved his family, country, acting and the military. The author take us on a sojourn of a man born into a patriotic Midwest family who was discouraged to act but eventually was supported due to his intellectual pursuits, military service and dedication. I enjoyed
Jun 16, 2012 Loralee rated it liked it
Mostly well-told story of the boy who went to Yale to study architecture, acted in the theatre group, was begged to join a new production company because he was in love with his supposed co-star (only she turned out not to be in the group), tooled around in Hollywood for a long time because nobody knew quite what to do with him, started getting big just before the war broke out, served in World War II (kept stateside at first to act in army advertisements because the government knew that a movie ...more
All though I don't sure I should have given this 2 stars instead of one. This book would only be about 50 pages if we take out the unimportant info of every star life sex life which would have us believe that every star in Hollywood was either gay( including jimmy stewart) or sleeping with everyone like a bad soap opera Not to mention pages of pages describing every scene in a movie like 5 pages or so pages a bout vertigo.
Denise Junker
At times gossipy and too detailed in analyzing the films Stewart made, I was glad to get through the drudgery sections because it did present a life story I wanted to know and the quotes from Stewart and acknowledged, respectable friends, especially the tributes at the end, were fun and/or touching. I probably never reread it but will be keeping it for now.
Jun 28, 2008 rabbitprincess rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Stewart fans
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Harvey
actual rating: 3.5

A very thorough account of the life of Jimmy Stewart. It discusses not only his films, but also the circumstances in his life surrounding the films. The author has evidently done his research well; he has provided a detailed sources section and often adds explanatory notes throughout the text. However, he could probably have used a proofreader: there were several glaring typographical errors such as "in vein" (in vain) and "staring" instead of starring, "riding" instead of "rid
Leslie Shades
Jul 06, 2015 Leslie Shades rated it it was ok
Since you asked....I will not ever be reading a book by this author again. This is the first book that I have ever given just two stars in my review. it was filled with sole good information but frankly, I felt like I was reading a tabloid. And he really blew it when, having already dropped a zillion stories about a zillion OTHER people besides Mr Stewart, he missed the opportunity to mention Mr James G when it came to Streets Of Laredo. I almost didn't finish this book because of all of the, fo ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it
For a change of pace, I read most of the life of Jimmy Stewart. It was good to be reminded of the many great movies and many great roles Mr. Stewart had in his lifetime. His association with Alfred Hitchcock in four movies still ranks among his highest achievements.
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