Happy Hobos—James Stewart & Gloria Hatrick McLean
The man who gets around to seeing all the sights is the man who has no strings attached to his heart to keep him tied to one place. That, at least, is the old “footloose and fancy-free” theory.
Jimmy Stewart belies it. Jimmy’s gone farther in the past six months than he ever did in a similar period before, in spite of his war service.
Jimmy and Gloria, his bride of less than half a year, traveled some 30,000 miles in the first three months of their life together and currently eying maps and atlases and globes, they insist their travels to date were just a series of little strolls. They’re planning a jaunt around the world next, and even that may turn out to be only a trial run for some more traveling.
“We figure we can make it around the world in two months,” Jimmy explained. “That means we can’t stay in any one place very long, but when we see a place we like, we’ll make a note of it and then we’ll make a trip there for a vacation. But we intend to make the most of the time we do have in whatever place we visit.
“We’re going to go rubbernecking,” he declared. “We’ll see what there is to see. We’re never going to come home from a trip and say, ‘If we’d just done this.’ We’re going to do it.
“Some people don’t go along when they’re in strange places. With new things to do, strange customs to observe and foods like you never see anywhere else, these people say, ‘My, I wish I could have a chocolate milk shake.’ Now milk shakes are fine, but people like that just ought to stay home. When Gloria and I were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, we put our see-everything-new, do-everything-new plan into action.
“We had always known that outrigger canoes had been the chief means of transportation for South Sea Islanders for hundreds of years.
“We’d heard, too, that in the front seat of an outrigger you get soaked. So we drew lots for seats and Gloria drew the front. She was almost completely under water at times. Once, as we dipped under a wave, I looked and could scarcely see her.”
The Hawaiian phase of the Stewart travels was the time of relaxation. Before that, Gloria must have had an idea she was married to a rocket, they went around the country so fast.
Before they were engaged and before there were any matrimonial plans, Jimmy had promised to act as grand marshal at the Soap Box Derby in Akron. It never occurred to either of them to break a promise to the thousands of boys who would be on hand so, after a few quiet honeymoon days at Ojai, they hopped a plane to Akron.
There were appearances in Cleveland for a convention, dashes hither and thither, including a return to Cleveland to watch Joe De Bona come winging in the winner of the Bendix trophy race in Jimmy’s plane, Thunderbird; flights to New York, to Colorado, all before the Hawaiian trip.
“One day,” Jimmy recalled, “we had breakfast in Akron, lunch in Cleveland, dinner in Detroit and stopped in Chicago for a cup of coffee.”
And Mrs. Stewart on her first ride in this jet-propelled merry-go-round?
“It was amazing how she took it,” said Jimmy. “We had the time of our lives.”
To those who watched the flowering of romance between Gloria and Jimmy it wasn’t surprising that she fit so well into this new life. She’s a naturally adaptable person who is at home in whatever element she is placed, and she knew what being the wife of a movie star would mean.
They met first at a dinner at the Gary Coopers. They were attracted to each other, naturally. They met on other occasions at social functions; they began having dates; they were frequent dinner companions; they played golf together; they went fishing. Then, at a quiet dinner in celebration of Jimmy’s birthday—May 20, months after they first met—he asked her to marry him.
There was a trip to Indiana, Pennsylvania, to see Jimmy’s folks and a visit to the county fair to watch Dad Stewart’s trotters race.
“It was a bitter day for Dad,” Jimmy smiled. “When Thunderbird didn’t finish the Bendix race the year before, I got it heavy from him. He told me he’d have to loan me a horse so I would win a race. That day at the fair, his good horse had the sniffles or something and couldn’t go and his new little horse came in third, with only three horses in the race!”
The traveler role is a new one for Jimmy. He was-pretty much of a stay-at-home throughout the years of his bachelorhood. Before the war, after all, he averaged four pictures a year for nine years. That schedule left him little holiday time. After that, the war took five years out of his career, which meant a lot of serious and determined catching-up to do. He’s caught up now, with his fine performance in the “The Stratton Story” which won him Photoplay’s coveted Gold Medal for the most popular man’s performance of the year. Since “The Stratton Story,” he’s made two other pictures, “Malaya” and “Broken Arrow.”
There was also another reason for Jimmy’s former lack of initiative about going places, one that seems fairly obvious. It isn’t much fun to travel alone. Now he has a charming companion to double the enjoyment of picturesque sights.
With all the traveling and the plans for many more tours, the Stewart home isn’t just the place to pick up spare togs between flights. It has the feeling of permanency, where people are well-settled, living with deep contentment.
It might just be a difficult place to leave, even briefly, for a tour, for Jimmy had slipped quietly into being a husband and enjoying the domestic life, as you’d expect. It hasn’t done him over, but there are some differences. He seems freer and easier, more out giving in casual meetings. He appears more relaxed, giving more of himself without effort, but still a long, long way from being an extrovert.
His well-being is reflected in his weight. For years, those magicians of the movies, who can make everything look the way it isn’t, couldn’t put any pounds on Jimmy, not even when they put him in a hospital and stuffed him full of fattening foods. He fooled ’em by losing three pounds. Now he’s seven pounds heavier than he ever was and on that 63” frame it looks good.
Because his own house was too small, Jimmy sold it. They’re living in Gloria’s home until they can find the kind of place they want. Not that they’re house hunting frantically. That wouldn’t be Jimmy’s way.
“I’m a town boy; I like to live in with things,” Jimmy said, in explaining why they were not looking for one of the ranches which are so popular with the film set. “We’ve got to think about the out having to send them over to the next county.”
He’s also doing right well by his new role of father to Gloria’s two boys. All you have to do is hear one call him “daddy?” to know the complete and full acceptance.
Like most big stars, Jimmy was invited to ride down Hollywood’s Santa Claus lane with Santa last Christmas. He never had done this before, but he accepted the invitation because the two boys were thrilled over the prospect of riding with two of their favorites, S. Claus and J. Stewart. It was the first public appearance of Jimmy with the two lads, who have been shielded from the spotlight that just naturallt is turned on movie stars.
Between studio calls, Jimmy enjoys spending his leisure time on the golf course with Mrs. Stewart. “She always talks me into a stroke a hole handicap,” he says. “Then she beats me.”
The hobbies Jimmy had when he lived alone have not been carried over into the new life. His accordion is stored away in the garage; there’s a “For Sale” sign on his racing plane and he has let his amateur radio operator’s license lapse.
“Who wants to spend his evenings trying to talk to a stranger in Australia or some faraway place?” Jimmy asks. “ Unless you’re there, and we might be soon!”
—BY BILL MCKEE
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MARCH 1950