Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: “I’m going to be with Gloria now.”

 

Those were the last words of James Maitland Stewart, who was born in Indiana PA on May 20, 1908. A shy young man, he was fascinated by early airplanes and considered signing up for the military, but was discouraged by his father, who urged him to attend college instead. At Princeton (BA–Architecture–1929), the young James Stewart discovered acting, and one of his careers was set. And this time, his father couldn’t dissuade him from his chosen path:

Dad was upset. My father didn’t like it at all–till the day he died, he didn’t like it…he kept shaking his head, saying ‘No Stewart has ever gone into show business!'”

After a slow start, Stewart achieved considerable success in Hollywood in the 30s and early 40s, doing well enough to buy himself a Stinson 105, a three-seat monoplane, and logging 400 hours of time as a pilot before the US entered the War. He was drafted into the Army after Pearl Harbor but was rejected as underweight. After some lifestyle and dietary modifications (mostly consisting of spaghetti, steaks, and milkshakes), and a rigorous exercise program, he enlisted and was accepted into, the Army Air Force where his interest in aviation and the fact that he was already an experienced pilot accelerated his progress towards earning his pilot’s wings. (“Every time you hear a bell ring, a pilot gets his wings.” I think that how it goes.)

He spent some time as a flight instructor at the Air Force training schools in Albuquerque NM, and Boise ID, and began flying combat missions over Europe in 1943. At the end of his war, a grey-haired Colonel Stewart had flown 20 combat missions, had directed hundreds more, and had made a name for himself as an officer who cared deeply about his men and who wouldn’t ask them to do anything he wasn’t prepared to do himself.

Jimmy Stewart finally returned home from the war in September of 1945

aboard the liner Queen Elizabeth. Pre­dictably, he waited at the gangplank until all of his men had disembarked before coming ashore. Asked about his service in Europe, he commented, “I had some close calls—the whole war was a close call.” When he returned to Hollywood, he refused a lavish welcome home party, saying, “Thousands of men in uniform did far more meaningful things.” (from Mr. Stewart Goes to War, originally published in Aviation History Magazine)

He remained in the Reserves for another twenty-three years, ending his military career as a Brigadier General, and for the rest of his film career insisted that neither the films themselves nor the studios that produced them, could use his war record to promote them in any way. He also refused to speak publicly about his experiences himself, and turned down roles which depicted him as a member of the military, saying “They’re just hardly ever the way it really is.” In 1966, not long before he retired from the Air Force, he flew his last combat mission over Vietnam, with the crew of a B-52 Stratofortress. The run near Saigon was quite straightforward; however the landing was anything but, and the pilot had visions of newspaper headlines screaming “Jimmy Stewart Killed in Bomber Accident with Bob Amos Piloting!” Fortunately, the plane landed successfully at Andersen AFB in Guam, all was well, and Bob Amos was able to dine out on the story for decades.

As were so many veterans of World War II, Stewart was modest about his achievements and preferred not to talk about his exploits or his service. Much has been made of whether he suffered from what we now call PTSD, although some of the facts presented in, and many conclusions of, the biography central to that theory have been called into question. Of course, the war changed him. But he shouldered his burdens with dignity and grace, and he soldiered quietly on, as have so many others before and since.

Even as his friends had given up on the idea that he’d ever get married (gossip maven Hedda Hopper called him the “Great American Bachelor”), Stewart had a series of discreet romantic attachments to several Hollywood leading ladies during the 30s and 40s, but it wasn’t until he met Gloria Hatrick McLean at a party in 1947 that he was truly and irrevocably smitten. (It must have taken her rather longer to reach that state; probably because he was a bit drunk the first time they met, and apparently neither she nor her dog, was all that favorably impressed.)

“The romance very nearly broke up before it got started,” Gloria later recalled. “At the time, I had a beautiful big German police dog named Bellow. When Jimmy saw me to the door [that first night], Bellow took one look at the strange man and went for his jugular.” [Jimmy said] “I realized that first I had to woo the dog. I bought him steaks at Chasen’s. I prattled baby talk to him. Praised him. It got to be pretty humiliating, but we finally got to be friends. I was free to court Gloria!”

“I could tell right off that she was a thoroughbred. For me it had been love at first sight. She was the kind of a girl I had always dreamed of. The kind you associate with open country, cooking stew, and not fainting because it was made of cut-up squirrels. She’d look at home on a sailboat or a raft; in a graceful swing from a tree branch into the swimming pool.”–Jimmy Stewart: A Biography

How very Jimmy Stewart. Clearly, he’d fallen once, and fallen hard, for the lady.

So, he persisted, and in 1949 he popped the question. She said yes, and they were married that August. Stewart adopted Gloria’s two sons from her previous marriage, and he and Gloria had two daughters together. His adopted son Ronald was killed at the age of 24 while serving as a USMC Lieutenant in Vietnam, one year after Stewart’s own flight over that country.

In 1951, Jimmy and Gloria bought their dream home in Beverly Hills (no word on whether the knob on the newel post came off in their hands every time they went up and down the stairs). It was the only home they bought together, and they were still living there 43 years later when Gloria Stewart died from lung cancer.

Stewart never recovered from his wife’s death, becoming depressed and reclusive. In poor health the last two years of his life, he finally succumbed to a series of medical events stemming from long-standing cardiac problems.

Jimmy Stewart, a loving husband, devoted father, decorated military veteran, winner of two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and dozens of other honorary and lifetime achievement awards went to be with his Gloria on July 2, 1997.

Happy 112th birthday, Jimmy Stewart. An officer, and a true gentleman.

“If Bess and I had a son, we’d want him to be just like Jimmy Stewart.”–Harry Truman

PS–Further reading, extra credit: These sites contain some really fascinating accounts of Jimmy Stewart’s life and service:

https://www.historynet.com/mr-stewart-goes-to-vietnam.htm
https://www.historynet.com/mr-stewart-goes-to-war.htm
https://www.military.com/veteran-jobs/career-advice/military-transition/famous-veteran-jimmy-stewart.html

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  1. Stad Thatcher

    Great tribute!

    • #1
    • May 20, 2020, at 4:52 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  2. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wonderful! As a fellow Tiger, Jimmy Stewart was always an interest of mine. Some years ago my wife and I watched almost all of his films. He was a wonderful actor, so friendly and accessible and downright likeable

    • #2
    • May 20, 2020, at 5:07 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  3. PHCheese Member

    My uncle was a B-24 Liberator pilot. He was raised in Clyde Pennsylvania about 20 or so miles from Indiana Pennsylvania. When he died my siblings and I inherited his earthly possessions. He had never married and to the best of anyone’s knowledge never had children. Among other things I inherited a bunch of pictures. One picture was my uncle sitting on a stool in uniform with Jimmy standing next to him in civil clothes. The picture has nothing written on the back and is undated. My uncle never mentioned the picture nor Jimmy Stewart. Everyone who might know about it is long gone. I have it in a box in the garage. If I can find it today I will try to add it to your post. I really should display it just for a conversation piece. I have a feeling it might have been publicity picture for what I don’t know. They were in England at the same time but not in the same Air Wing.

    • #3
    • May 20, 2020, at 5:16 AM PDT
    • 22 likes
  4. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    My uncle was a B-24 Liberator pilot. He was raised in Clyde Pennsylvania about 20 or so miles from Indiana Pennsylvania. When he died my siblings and I inherited his earthly possessions. He had never married and to the best of anyone’s knowledge never had children. Among other things I inherited a bunch of pictures. One picture was my uncle sitting on a stool in uniform with Jimmy standing next to him in civil clothes. The picture has nothing written on the back and is undated. My uncle never mentioned the picture nor Jimmy Stewart. Everyone who might know about it is long gone. I have it in a box in the garage. If I can find it today I will try to add it to your post. I really should display it just for a conversation piece. I have a feeling it might have been publicity picture for what I don’t know. They were in England at the same time but not in the same Air Wing.

    What a wonderful story! And yes, if you can dig up the photo, please share it with us.

    • #4
    • May 20, 2020, at 5:22 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. JennaStocker Member

    Thank you for posting this heartfelt and timely tribute to a true American hero, husband, and father. Well done!

    • #5
    • May 20, 2020, at 5:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jimmy and Gloria Stewart were occasionally guests on The Jack Benny TV show, and those are in my opinion some of the funniest episodes.

    • #6
    • May 20, 2020, at 5:47 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Stad Thatcher

    iWe (View Comment):
    He was a wonderful actor, so friendly and accessible and downright likeable

    SPOILER ALERT!

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    That’s why my wife and I never suspected he was the murderer in After the Thin Man.

    • #7
    • May 20, 2020, at 5:51 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. PHCheese Member

    I can’t seem to find it right now but there is a wonderful clip of Jimmy on Johnny Carson reading a poem about his dog. Be prepared to cry if you find it. Found it on YouTube, just search Jimmy Stewart.

    • #8
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:26 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Addiction Is A Choice Member

    Outstanding post, @she!

    You know, the great George Gobel was a flight instructor, too. He recounts his experience in this Tonight Show clip – widely-considered one of television’s funniest moments. (Gobel doesn’t come on till about the 15-minute mark, but Johnny, Bob Hope, and a surprise appearance by Dean Martin make the wait worthwhile.)

    • #9
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:32 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. Richard Easton Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    My uncle was a B-24 Liberator pilot. He was raised in Clyde Pennsylvania about 20 or so miles from Indiana Pennsylvania. When he died my siblings and I inherited his earthly possessions. He had never married and to the best of anyone’s knowledge never had children. Among other things I inherited a bunch of pictures. One picture was my uncle sitting on a stool in uniform with Jimmy standing next to him in civil clothes. The picture has nothing written on the back and is undated. My uncle never mentioned the picture nor Jimmy Stewart. Everyone who might know about it is long gone. I have it in a box in the garage. If I can find it today I will try to add it to your post. I really should display it just for a conversation piece. I have a feeling it might have been publicity picture for what I don’t know. They were in England at the same time but not in the same Air Wing.

    If you find it, please post it with his name and I’ll check with some historians about it.

    • #10
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:32 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    That’s why my wife and I never suspected he was the murderer in After the Thin Man.

    Yup. Jimmy was never a very believable Bad Guy.

    • #11
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:33 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Stad Thatcher

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):
    this Tonight Show clip – widely-considered one of television’s funniest moments. (Gobel doesn’t come on till about the 15-minute mark, but Johnny, Bob Hope, and a surprise appearance by Dean Martin make the wait worthwhile.)

    A classic! Lonesome George Gobel’s one liner “the world was a tuxedo . . .” is da bomb!

    • #12
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:48 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. PHCheese Member

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    My uncle was a B-24 Liberator pilot. He was raised in Clyde Pennsylvania about 20 or so miles from Indiana Pennsylvania. When he died my siblings and I inherited his earthly possessions. He had never married and to the best of anyone’s knowledge never had children. Among other things I inherited a bunch of pictures. One picture was my uncle sitting on a stool in uniform with Jimmy standing next to him in civil clothes. The picture has nothing written on the back and is undated. My uncle never mentioned the picture nor Jimmy Stewart. Everyone who might know about it is long gone. I have it in a box in the garage. If I can find it today I will try to add it to your post. I really should display it just for a conversation piece. I have a feeling it might have been publicity picture for what I don’t know. They were in England at the same time but not in the same Air Wing.

    If you find it, please post it with his name and I’ll check with some historians about it.

    I just touched every box in my garage and no luck. We have moved three times since I last saw it so I’ll have to do a deep dive. Thanks for the offer. That would be interesting. BTW his name was James Martin Thomas. He retired in either 73 or 74 as a Colonel flying up to the last day. He switched to fighter jets for three years in Korea and two tours in Vietnam.

    • #13
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:48 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Miffed White Male: Jimmy and Gloria Stewart were occasionally guests on The Jack Benny TV show, and those are in my opinion some of the funniest episodes.

    The Stewarts and the Bennys were neighbors on Roxbury Drive (along with Lucille Ball, Ira Gershwin among others).

    As for Stewart’s father, he may have been aghast as Jimmy chose show business but that didn’t stop the elder Stewart from permanently displaying his son’s Academy Award in the window of the family hardware store.

    Stewart was often in the company of his friend Ronald Reagan. On the campaign trail, Reagan kept referring to his friend as “Major General James Stewart.” Even after someone pointed out to him that Stewart was only a Brigadier, Reagan persisted. Finally, Stewart had to set him straight.

    ”Ron,” he said, “that fellow tonight was right. It is brigadier general. I just never corrected you before because it sounded so good!”

    • #14
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:55 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. KentForrester Moderator

    I’m not posting anywhere near your post. I’ll wait for one that stinks up the place. I tease, Louise. 

    What a guy. They don’t make ‘em that way anymore.

     

    • #15
    • May 20, 2020, at 6:59 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  16. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    What a guy. They don’t make ‘em that way anymore.

    Oh, I think they probably do. One just has to clear away, or ignore, the static.

    • #16
    • May 20, 2020, at 7:07 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Stad Thatcher

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    so I’ll have to do a deep dive.

    We’ll wait. Hehe . . .

    • #17
    • May 20, 2020, at 7:19 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Stad Thatcher

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):
    You know, the great George Gobel was a flight instructor, too. He recounts his experience in this Tonight Show clip

    Had to watch – in tears laughing!

    Gobel even joked about his flight instructor experience, priceless one-liners . . .

    • #18
    • May 20, 2020, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jimmy Stewart was a great guy. I cannot add anything here, other than to repeat that this is a lovely tribute.

    • #19
    • May 20, 2020, at 7:27 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. PHenry Member

    I saw this live, and it remains my favorite memory of Jimmy Stewart.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=mwGnCIdHQH0&feature=emb_logo

    • #20
    • May 20, 2020, at 8:24 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    PHenry (View Comment):

    I saw this live, and it remains my favorite memory of Jimmy Stewart.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=mwGnCIdHQH0&feature=emb_logo

    Wow. I think what always gets me about Jimmy Stewart is his palpable honesty. I don’t think/can’t see a false note in him anywhere.

    • #21
    • May 20, 2020, at 8:34 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. Arahant Member

    This is the Quote of the Day, and what a quotation it is from a man who led an extraordinary life. If you’d like to sign up for the Quote of the Day, go here.

    • #22
    • May 20, 2020, at 8:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. Barry Jones Thatcher

    Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorites and this is a wonderful write up. One small point – he did star in a WWII war movie as soldier. It was called “The Mountain Road” and he played an Army Engineer Major – the film was placed in China in 1944. And his military service started in Feb of 1941, well before Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the War. Regardless, I never pass up the opportunity to watch Stewart film when I see one come along…

    • #23
    • May 20, 2020, at 11:03 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  24. Leslie Watkins Member
    Leslie Watkins Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):
    He was a wonderful actor, so friendly and accessible and downright likeable.

    SPOILER ALERT!

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    That’s why my wife and I never suspected he was the murderer in After the Thin Man.

    Jimmy Stewart epitomized my belief that the best comedians are also brilliant at drama, whereas the reverse is rarely true.

    • #24
    • May 20, 2020, at 11:14 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  25. Arahant Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    This is the Quote of the Day, and what a quotation it is from a man who led an extraordinary life. If you’d like to sign up for the Quote of the Day, go here.

    And the June QotD Sign-Up Sheet is now available.

    • #25
    • May 20, 2020, at 11:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. SParker Member

    Barry Jones (View Comment):

    Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorites and this is a wonderful write up. One small point – he did star in a WWII war movie as soldier. It was called “The Mountain Road” and he played an Army Engineer Major – the film was placed in China in 1944. And his military service started in Feb of 1941, well before Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the War. Regardless, I never pass up the opportunity to watch Stewart film when I see one come along…

    Also in Strategic Air Command (1955).

    • #26
    • May 20, 2020, at 12:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Barry Jones (View Comment):

    Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorites and this is a wonderful write up. One small point – he did star in a WWII war movie as soldier. It was called “The Mountain Road” and he played an Army Engineer Major – the film was placed in China in 1944. And his military service started in Feb of 1941, well before Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the War. Regardless, I never pass up the opportunity to watch Stewart film when I see one come along…

    Thanks for the corrections. I see that now that I looked it up specifically. I thought I’d read he was drafted in December 1941 somewhere, but must have been thinking about someone else.And I didn’t know about The Mountain Road, which was made in 1960, and which is based on a Theodore H. White novel. Appreciate the info. (FWIW, the Wikipedia entry on the film refers to Stewart’s vow never to make a “war story” movie, but quotes his co-star Harry Morgan as saying that Stewart made the film because it was such a dark and somber view of war, along with a clear anti-war message. It does sound interesting.) Thanks again.

    • #27
    • May 20, 2020, at 12:20 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. tigerlily Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Great tribute!

    Yes, just wonderful!

    • #28
    • May 20, 2020, at 12:47 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  29. Barry Jones Thatcher

    She (View Comment):

    Barry Jones (View Comment):

    Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorites and this is a wonderful write up. One small point – he did star in a WWII war movie as soldier. It was called “The Mountain Road” and he played an Army Engineer Major – the film was placed in China in 1944. And his military service started in Feb of 1941, well before Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the War. Regardless, I never pass up the opportunity to watch Stewart film when I see one come along…

    Thanks for the corrections. I see that now that I looked it up specifically. I thought I’d read he was drafted in December 1941 somewhere, but must have been thinking about someone else.And I didn’t know about The Mountain Road, which was made in 1960, and which is based on a Theodore H. White novel. Appreciate the info. (FWIW, the Wikipedia entry on the film refers to Stewart’s vow never to make a “war story” movie, but quotes his co-star Harry Morgan as saying that Stewart made the film because it was such a dark and somber view of war, along with a clear anti-war message. It does sound interesting.) Thanks again.

    I have only seen it once and it wasn’t exactly a John Wayne type of WWII film. But Stewart (as always) makes it worth watching.

    • #29
    • May 20, 2020, at 1:03 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. PJ Coolidge
    PJ Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My favorite story about Jimmy Stewart going to fly for the Army in WWII is that while his salary dropped from the thousands down to $21 per paycheck, he would still dutifully send 10% ($2.10) to his agent.

    • #30
    • May 20, 2020, at 1:18 PM PDT
    • 4 likes