American Legends: The Life of Jimmy Stewart


“A feller came up to me the other day and said ‘I don’t know whether this means anything to you but you’ve given me and my family a lot of enjoyment over the years.’ And I said to him, ‘Does it mean anything to me? It means everything to me. That’s the ballgame. That’s it.’ And I think that if I have done that to that man, and maybe a couple more…then I’m proud of that.” – Jimmy Stewart


A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.


When the American Film Institute assembled its top 100 actors of all time at the close of the 20th century, Jimmy Stewart ranked third, behind only Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant. There is a certain inevitability to these three actors ranking at the top of the list; after all, they were the dominant faces of Hollywood during the height of the era known as classical Hollywood cinema, a time before the onset of television when the movies still enjoyed relatively uncontested supremacy over American entertainment. The popularity of Stewart, Grant, and Bogart also extends well beyond the success of any of their individual films, reflecting their much broader cultural significance as monuments of Hollywood during its Golden Age.


In fact, if the list was reconstructed today, it is entirely possible that Stewart would rank first.


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