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James Stewart: Model Husband

Marrying a forty-ish bachelor is risky, no matter who he is. But when he’s also a famous movie star—well, it’s a chance most women wouldn’t want to take—much.

When Jimmy Stewart’s engagement to Gloria Hatrick McLean was announced, his friends took Gloria aside.

“Jimmy is wonderful,” one of his pals confided. “But he’s forty-one years old. And I don’t have to tell you, Gloria, that he’s really settled in his ways.”

Another friend cautioned the future Mrs. Stewart: “Jim’s awfully persnickety about his food. And when it comes to clothes—well, really, Gloria, you’re just going to have to be very tolerant with Jim. He just isn’t used to sharing his time or his money or his life with a woman. It may be hard for him to change.”

Gloria smiled, nodded, thanked them all for the advice and married Jim on August 9, 1949, in the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church.

Gloria had been married before. Her two sons Ronald, ten, and Michael, eight, are from her first marriage to Edward McLean II, of Washington, D. C.

After five years of marriage to Jimmy, she admits he isn’t perfect, but she makes no complaints. “Jim is certainly the best husband any woman could ask for. All those stories about his being a dyed-in-the-wool bachelor and a stick-in-the-mud are ridiculous.

“Jim eats anything, and he’s so easy to get on with, you couldn’t ask for a better adjusted human being. The children are crazy about him, especially the boys.

“They’re old enough for him to have fun with. He wrestles with them and plays ball and goes hiking. They just love to hike together. Last year they climbed to the top of some mountain in Santa Monica Canyon and hid a golf tee. Well, a week ago they hiked back to see if they could find it. They not only found it, but this time they buried two golf tees.

“Of course Jim doesn’t know quite what to do with our twin girls, Judy and Kelly, because they are only three. But he surely likes holding them.

“I’m not saying this because he’s my husband, but I’ve yet to find anyone here who doesn’t genuinely like Jim.”

Jimmy Stewart’s behavior as a citizen, like his behavior as a husband, is a result of his background and philosophy.

In his own words, “I’m just a small-town guy with small-town values and a small-town attitude.”

Jimmy tries to live in Hollywood today as he would live in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Jim was born and reared in Indiana (population 11,743) where his father runs the hardware store. Husbands there, as he remembers, are simple, unsophisticated, hard-working, church-going providers.

Jim is very much like them. No nightclubs, no yachts, no fancy racing cars.

He has made a lot of money, and although lavish with his family, he gives himself relatively few luxuries.

But according to his wife, “He’s a camera bug. Jim has one of every kind of camera in existence. I’ve never seen so many cameras in my life.”

Jim has always been plane-crazy. When he was a boy he took flying lessons and made model planes.

Now he owns an F-51 Mustang which has broken the coast-to-coast speed record, piloted by Joe De Bona, one of Stewart’s best friends. Stewart and De Bona own a charter plane service out of Clover Field, Santa Monica. But Jim is usually too busy for pleasure flying.

“As soon as I finish one picture,” he says, “seems as if there’s another right behind.”

Stewart is blessed with great powers of concentration. He studies while his two stepsons are watching television, his dog Belo is barking and Gloria is talking or dancing with Judy and Kelly.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” says the wondering Mrs. Stewart, “how Jim can study while any kind of racket is going on. I think this concentration is responsible for his absent-mindedness.

“You’ve heard of the absent-minded professor? Well, Jim is the original.

“I love him and he’s wonderful, but after the twins were born and he was supposed to take me home from the hospital, he almost forgot about it!”

He drove to the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, all right. The nurse said she would take Mrs. Stewart’s gifts and bags to the car.

“Let me help,” Jim offered, whereupon he scooped up an armload of packages and headed for the elevator.

When he got to his car, Jim dumped the packages. Somehow he had started thinking about a camera he’d read about. Forgetting the nurse who was following him, her arms laden with bags, he jumped into his car and drove to a camera store.

The salesman was demonstrating.

“Here’s one,” he announced, “that even your wife can work.”

“My wife?” Jim repeated. “Why, I’ve left her at the hospital!” And with that he dashed to his Chevvy and raced back to the Cedars of Lebanon.

When the nurse was talking to a hospital attendant about Jimmy’s absent-mindedness, the attendant said, “That’s nothing. He almost forgot to take his twins out of the hospital, too!”

Jimmy Stewart loves his family, and he hates to be separated from his wife. “That’s why I got married,” he once explained.

A few years ago when Jim was making No Highway In The Sky in England, he insisted upon taking Gloria and the two boys with him. After a few months Gloria decided to take the boys and go home to wait for the next baby. Jim had to stay.

When Gloria got home, she learned that the baby would be twins and called Jimmy in London. Jim merely said, “Wonderful, wonderful. So glad you called.”

Ten minutes later he began to think about it and called her back.

“Darling!” he shouted. “Did you say twins?”

Jimmy loves old clothes and will continue to have his favorite sports coats patched and re-patched. When he orders a new suit, he will take it back to the tailor time and. time again until he feels completely satisfied with it. One tailor who “You can’t believe it. He seems so easy-going and he speaks slow and soft. But if his collar is one-hundredth of an inch out of line he can’t wear it!”

His wife says, “You’d expect him to be grumpy once in a while, but in the five years we’ve been married, Jim has always been pleasant.

“He always does his best to please and he never forgets anniversaries or bi days. He’s given me cars and diamonds and so many things. And lots of times, he’s very cute about the way he gives things.

“For example, he’ll buy me a red cashmere sweater. On the box he’ll write, ‘This is a red cashmere sweater.’ Then he’ll hand the box to me and say, ‘Put this away some place. It’s a gift for you, and I don’t want you to know what’s in it.’ ”

Gloria finds it very difficult to buy gifts for Jim. So far she has given him two presents that she’s satisfied with—two paintings by Utrillo.

Jimmy Stewart is a fine artist. As a boy he developed a marked talent for sketching. At Mercersburg Academy, he was art editor of The Karux, the school yearbook, for three years.

He is also a good accordionist and pianist. At Princeton he played an accordion solo, “So Beats My Heart For You,” in his first Triangle Club musical. The Falmouth Players, a stock company in Massachusetts, relied on his accordion, too. Now, it lies hidden somewhere in the cellar, and Jim plays the piano at home. This simple family entertainment—playing for the kids to sing—is his idea of a good time. And because it is, he has never become the prototype of the sought-after movie hero.

Before Gloria married Jimmy she was told that he was shy, that she would have to bring him out of his shell. She found that he is not shy, exactly. He has great humility and respect for others. And he will not compromise on his principles.

He doesn’t believe in making “problem” pictures, for example. No matter how much money he is offered he refuses to star in such films. Nor. will he discuss politics for publication. Nor will he permit his own war record to be exploited.

Jim was one of the first screen stars to enter the service. On March 22, 1941, nine long months before Pearl Harbor, he became a private in the Air Force. A year later, because of his previous flying experience, he was commissioned.

As an officer he served first as a pilot instructor. Early in the war he was sent overseas with the Eighth Air Force. In December, 1943, and early 1944, he flew on spectacular raids over Bremen and Berlin. He led his bomber squadron on the famous aircraft factory raid over Brunswick, Germany, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. At the end of the war Jim was a colonel commanding a bomber wing.

There is no star in Hollywood whose service record can top Stewart’s but, of course, Jimmy will not talk about his service record for publication. He has a deep love for the Air Force. That’s why he made time to star in Strategic Air Command.

Jimmy Stewart is one of the most faithful of Hollywood’s church-goers. Drop in at the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church any Sunday, and chances are that you will find Jimmy down front singing hymns and his two stepsons, Ronnie and Mike, passing the collection plates. Mrs. Stewart will be teaching a Sunday School class.

Jim was brought up to attend church regularly. He insists upon each member of his immediaite family’s fulfilling the same requirement. Religion to him is a fundamental part of existence and while he doesn’t talk about it, he can always be recruited for a good cause.

He believes in work, too.

“Some actors consider Hollywood a lark. To me, making pictures is a career. I give it everything I’ve got. It’s a serious business, and I like to keep busy in it.”

Before Jimmy agrees to star in a film he studies the script industriously. He makes suggestions to the producer, not only about his part but about others. He has amazed directors by saying, “I’ve got too many lines. My part should be cut.”

Jimmy is always vitally interested in the success of an entire production, for the good reason that he usually works for a low salary and a percentage of the profits.

Except for Harvey, this gamble has paid him well. He has about $4,000,000. Jim made The Glenn Miller Storyfor no salary but fifty per cent of the profit. He’ll probably earn $2,000,000 on this one production.

He does not believe in squandering his money. Before he invests his surplus funds he has his business manager, Guy Gadbois, investigate all the angles of any particular proposition. As a result, Jim has a considerable fortune in cattle, oil, real estate, TV and several other lines.

You read a lot about big-city guys who invade small towns, bringing with them their fancy ideas, store-boughten suits and immoral ways. In the end, of course, after disrupting and corrupting a good percentage of the townsfolk, they are converted to paths of righteousness and become quite homey. But there’s a different twist to the Jimmy Stewart story. This one features a small town boy who made his way to one of the noisiest cities in the world and climbed quietly to the top without a noticeable change in his habits. Jimmy hasn’t reformed anyone and he hasn’t tried—but if his home and his homelife seem a little set apart from the run of the Hollywood mill establishments—well, they are. As far as his way of life goes, inasmuch as it can be said of any guy with a few million dollars. Mr. Stewart has never left home!





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