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Jimmy Stewart: ‘The Lord, He Is My Refuge and My Fortress’

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Jimmy Stewart: ‘The Lord, He Is My Refuge and My Fortress’

By Movieguide® Staff

Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.

Actor Jimmy Stewart, best known for his iconic role as George Bailey in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, said that his father displayed strong faith and taught him the American ideals portrayed in Stewart’s movies.

“Alexander Stewart was a muscular Irishman whose talk was as blunt as his face,” Stewart wrote of his father in an article from 1964.

Stewart noted that a balance of conviction and compassion was also present in his father’s faith.

“Dad was a Presbyterian, strong in his religion as he was in all beliefs. He sang in the choir with a true but penetrating tenor voice, and someone once described the hymns as ‘solos by Mr. Stewart, with accompanying voices,'” he recalled. “Strangely, Dad never sang very loudly at home. We lived in a rambling house with a large front porch loaded with wicker furniture. The living room, high ceilinged and trimmed with dark woodwork, held a grand piano, around which we gathered for family sings.

“During these sessions, Dad sang very softly, so as not to cover up Mother’s clear, sweet voice. Her name was Elizabeth, and he called her Bessie and adored her.”

Stewart also remembers his father’s influence on him through how he disciplined.

“With his temperament, it was amazing how patient Dad could be, and how subtle his discipline. I don’t recall a time when he stood across my path; he always walked beside, guiding me with his own steps,” Stewart said.

When Stewart grew older and enlisted in the Air Corps during World War II, his father supported him with scripture and prayer.

Stewart recalled:

We were very self-conscious with each other, talking in generalities, trying to conceal our awareness that, starting tomorrow, he could no longer walk with me. At the time of the greatest crisis in my life, he would have to stand aside. We were both afraid.

He opened his mouth, then shut it hard, almost in anger. We embraced, then he turned and walked quickly away. Only after he had gone did I realize that he had put a small envelope in my pocket.

That night alone in my bunk, I opened it and read, “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.

“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.”

Never before had he said he loved me. I always knew he did but he had never said it until now. I wept. In the envelope there was also a small booklet bearing the title The Secret Place—A Key to the 91st Psalm. I began to read it.

From that day, the little booklet was always with me. Before every bombing raid over Europe, I read some of it, and with each reading the meaning deepened for me.

Stewart recalled that the faith he had seen his father live by became his own during is time in the military.

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress… His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day… For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways,” Stewart said. “They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. And I was borne up. Dad had committed me to God, but I felt the presence of both throughout the war.”