Pieces of Time: The Life of James Stewart

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Jimmy Stewart catapulted to stardom as everybody's favorite boy next door, his appeal emanating from his honest, affable persona. As the beloved hero of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and in a brilliant acting career spanning 79 films, this legendary star of Hollywood's Golden Era stole his way into our hearts. Here at last is the definitive biography of a major American icon. 16 pp. photos. 416 pp.
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Jimmy Stewart catapulted to stardom as everybody's favorite boy next door, his appeal emanating from his honest, affable persona. As the beloved hero of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and in a brilliant acting career spanning 79 films, this legendary star of Hollywood's Golden Era stole his way into our hearts. Here at last is the definitive biography of a major American icon. 16 pp. photos. 416 pp.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jimmy Stewart (1908-1997) is widely viewed as the All-American boy-next-door. Fishgall (Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster) supports this view as he meticulously profiles the Hollywood legend in a comprehensive biography. The exhaustive research presented here gives a full account of Stewart's career. Part of Stewart's "All-American" image comes from his birthplace: a small, modest town in Pennsylvania. With values rooted in family, community and God, Stewart lived a life that was somewhat less glamorous than the average Hollywood star's. He studied architecture at Princeton, served as a bomber pilot in WWII and enjoyed one stable marriage (to Gloria Hatrick McLean). He successfully raised four children and maintained strong ties with his family back home. Meanwhile, he appeared in 79 films, 12 TV programs and 10 theater productions. This impressive rsum, coupled with his humanism and sincerity, made Stewart one of the most-loved actors in film history. Although Fishgall's intensive delving into Stewart's life, including detailed descriptions of the making of his films, may end up wearying readers not already smitten with Stewart, fans of the man who brought George Bailey and Elwood P. Dowd to life will relish this enthusiastic life. (Sept.)
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 screendedicated 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
Kirkus Reviews
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830043286
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/15/1999
  • Pages: 416

Meet the Author

Gary Fishgall is the author of Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck: A Biography, and Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr. He has been an actor, director, theater administrator, drama critic, reporter, and teacher. He lives in St. Louis.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Great life review of an even greater person

    I have always been very fond of Jimmy Stewart yet had never read a biography on him. This was extremely well written, thorough and enlightening. Great job by author, Gary Fishgall. A must read for Jimmy Stewart fans!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2009

    Biography of Jimmy Stewart

    As someone who has really enjoyed Jimmy Stewart's movies, I enjoyed learning more of the facts about him and his life. He comes across as the person I imagined he was, but the book is written as basically a compilation of just that: facts. There isn't much human interest involved in the reiteration of his life. I would have liked a more personal picture of the man and his life. Worth reading if yuou're a fan, but the book itself won't make you one.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Good men don't always make good reading.

    A well-written biography, and Jimmy's war record is admirable. But he was a virtuous, conservative man, and though his films are usually enjoyable, this biography is kind of boring. Not the fault of the writer by any means. Jimmy got up, went to the studio, made movies, went home to wife and kids, was in bed by nine. Not the stuff to make a razzle-dazzle book. But I will always love Jimmy Stewart, and his fans will probably like his story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2000

    One of the best biographies written about James Stewart!

    Gary Fishgall does an incredible job telling the story about James Stewart. It's good to know we had an upstanding citizen in this country at one time (not that we don't now). He was and is one of the best actors that has ever graced the screen of the american cinema. If you want to learn about Jimmy Stewart and are a big fan of his work, read this book! Jimmy Stewart was and still remains to be a hero in this country for many different reasons.

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