Jimmy Stewart: A Biography
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Jimmy Stewart: A Biography

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  573 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Jimmy Stewart’s all-American good looks, boyish charm, and deceptively easygoing style of acting made him one of Hollywood’s greatest and most enduring stars. Despite the indelible image he projected of innocence and quiet self-assurance, Stewart’s life was more complex and sophisticated than most of the characters he played. With fresh insight and unprecedented access, be...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Crown Archetype (first published 2006)
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Cristina B
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...more
Betsey Manzoni
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
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...more
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...more
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
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
Jerry Borchardt
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
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
Natasha Deen
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).
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

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...more
Trent Macdonald
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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.
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...more
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
Jun 28, 2008 rabbitprincess rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
While the writing itself isn't stellar, I think this book gave me a lot of insight on both Mr. Stewart's personality and his work, which is the point of the book. It also mentioned a lot about the professional climates of his career, such as working under studio contracts, and how actors in general were compensated, which helps put things in context for you. However, I don't agree with much of any of the author's critiques on Stewart's films, but I think that's made me want to see them even more...more
Jimmy Stewart is the quintessential movie actor--all-American, humble, talented, and gracious. I enjoyed Eliot's book very much--learning much about Stewart's filmography, personal life, and rise to stardom. Should you venture to read it, you will be surprised by the initial reaction to "It's A Wonderful Life".

Eliot is a decent writer who obviously loves the ins and outs of the Hollywood scene--and that shows up in his lengthy explanations of studio politics, director vs. producer squabbles, etc...more
A very tedious book for me. Chosen for me as a gift from my husband. More of a history of film during the Jimmy Stewart era. Stewart went from being an actor who I imagined as being the kind of person he was in "It's a wonderful life" to one who I think of as a drinking, skirt-chasing actor who eventually settled down.
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...more
Enjoyed learning lots about my favorite actor. As an old movie buff, it was fun to learn tidbits like.....did you know that in 1940, Jimmy Stewart and Lawrence Olivier and Clark Gable and Mickey Rooney lost the acadamy award to the guy in "Goodbye Mr. Chips?" We're talking "Gone w/ the Wind," "Wuthering Heights, and of course, -- mainly "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." (What were they thinking?) Anyway...guess I need to watch that movie.

All in all, loved reading it. A little too much about every...more
Eric Smith
Well written biography on one of Hollywood's greatest actors (and one of my personal favorites). From his life under the tight rule of his religious father in Indiana, PA to his early days on Broadway to his early career and success in Hollywood, through his traumatic experience as a bomber pilot with the Army Air Corp and onto his second turn as a Hollywood star, this book leads us through the life of the man who always billed as James Stewart on the screen but referred to have everyone else ca...more
I've always been a fan of Jimmy Stewart, notwithstanding that our politics are very different. I think it says a lot about him that his best friend, Henry Fonda, also had very different political beliefs and yet they were very close. This book does a good job of hitting the main points of a remarkable life. It has a moderate serving of gossip for those who are into that sort of thing, but is marred somewhat by some psychoanalyzing. Worth reading, especially for the beach or a rainy day, but not...more
Greg Van Vorhis
I am absolutely furious about this book. I quit reading about half-way through.

I read it through the section about It's a Wonderful Life (chapter 13). In that chapter, I found three mistakes - not minor details, but major, provable points, including misquoting Zuzu and misquoting the inscription in the book in the last scene - within four paragraphs. If Eliot's work is that shoddy in four paragraphs, how can I trust the rest of the information in the book?

Avoid this at all costs!!!!!!!!!!
A lot more in here about other stars, producers, directors, writers etc. What a sleezy, immoral bunch, no wonder so many divorce, don't even get married and have so many problems. I like Jimmy, he was one of the better ones plus he helped dedicate our new gym building back when I was in high school so I've seen him in person. This was enough of the Hollywood crowd, I don't care to read about anyone else. I skimmed over a lot of the details about all the different people and the actual movies.
Well, I didn't really read the entire thing. I got so disgusted with it and the author's bizarre fascination with the sexual side of Hollywood. Some of his remarks were totally off-base - such are referring to "The Thin Man" series of movies as "sexed-up." Since they slept in separate beds and their kisses could hardly seem steamy even for husband and wife, I fail to see how these movies were "sexed-up." At points the author is just crude. It wasn't worthy to be finished.
Nov 03, 2013 Bruce rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bruce by: Heard of it around the time it was published, Heard of it again in 2010
Found it a very good read. Since Jimmy Stewart was a public figure, it was easy to assume one knew more than one did. The lanky figure had trouble proving himself worth of being a bomber pilot and cut through red tape to see action in WWII. A Presbyterian Elder but like his acting he does not fit normal molds. His faith and life in general was not lived in an ivory tower. Hollywood politics often controlled his screen career. Marc Elliot seems to have done his homework.
I had read most of Jimmy Stewart's biographies as is my favorite actor and was waiting for a new one (back when this was first released). Eliot tells more or less the same stories as I had previously read but it was still a good read. The author didn't have any sordid gossip to spread about an American icon. The fact that 3,000 people showed up for his funeral days something about an incredible man: actor, husband, father, and patriot.
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