Jimmy Stewart Embraced Hometown Values of Faith, Family Throughout Career

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Jimmy Stewart Embraced Hometown Values of Faith, Family Throughout Career

By Movieguide® Contributor 

Legendary actor and WWII hero Jimmy Stewart embraced his hometown values of faith, family and hard work throughout his iconic Hollywood career. 

“This is where I sort of made up my mind about certain things. About hard work being worth it, about community spirit, about the importance of family, about the importance of God and the church,” Stewart said during his final visit to his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, in 1983. 

Indiana continues to honor the actor. The local airport is named after him, and a nine-foot-tall statue of Stewart stands across from a hardware store his father owned, Yahoo reports. 

“It was the centerpiece of downtown and sold a little bit of everything. People came in to buy everything from paint and building supplies to nails and coffee. It was also a place to gather and talk,” Executive Director of the Jimmy Stewart Museum Janie McKirgan told Closer. 

McKirgan notes that Stewart regularly attended church with his family.

“My parents did their best to teach me faith in God,” he expressed, “to shun pomposity and glibness, to be modest, because a decent, gentlemanly man is modest.”

“I came from a very disciplined household,” Stewart added. “My mother stopped Dad from being — well, over-boisterous. She was the only person he would listen to about anything. He would raise his voice about pretty nearly anything — but never to her.”

His parents’ faith would impact the rest of his life. After he left home to serve his country during WWII, he opened a note his father gave him that contained Psalm 91. 

“My dear Jim, soon after you read this letter, you will be on your way to the worst sort of danger. I have had this in mind for a long time and I am very concerned… But Jim, I am banking on the enclosed copy of the 91st Psalm,” his father’s note read. 

“The thing that takes the place of fear and worry is the promise in these words. I am staking my faith in these words. I feel sure that God will lead you through this mad experience … I can say no more. I only continue to pray. God bless you and keep you. I love you more than I can tell you. Dad,” the letter concluded. 

He shared that he read a booklet on the Psalm his father gave him “before every bombing raid over Europe…I read some of it, and with each reading the meaning deepened for me.”

After the war ended, Stewart returned to the entertainment industry and starred in one of his most iconic movies, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. 

He would go on to be nominated for and win numerous awards for his work in Hollywood. 

But despite his success, Stewart wanted to be remembered for a few simple things: 

“I want to be remembered as someone who believed in hard work and love of country, love of family and love of community.” 

Movieguide® previously reported on Stewart’s experience making IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: 

For Stewart, though, something indescribable made this movie different from any other movie he worked on, and in his article, he described one such moment.

In one scene, “at the lowest point in George Bailey’s life, Frank Capra was shooting a long shot of me slumped in despair,” Stewart described.

“In agony I raise my eyes and, following the script, plead, “God… God…dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God…”

“As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.”

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