Movies - TV
James Stewart Wasn't The Same Actor After World War II
By MIKE SHUTT
James Stewart’s lovable folksy demeanor made him a major star in Hollywood's golden age but even though he was a movie star he was a true actor who could tap into deep depression, obsession, and anxiety. That being said, one major thing occurred in Stewart's life that helped him channel the darker parts of himself.
In 1941, James Stewart became the first major actor in Hollywood to enlist in the military when the United States entered World War II and it wouldn't be until 1946 that he returned to Hollywood to make what we now see as a Christmas classic in "It's a Wonderful Life." To play the iconic George Bailey he allowed himself to tap into that trauma and pain of war.
Though Stewart would occasionally dabble in his good-natured persona from time to time, like in the film "Harvey," much of his best work would be in stripping away that kindly demeanor to explore the depths of his emotions, even his more sinister side. Nobody got this out of him better than Alfred Hitchcock, with whom he made four films over the course of 10 years.
Other directors, most notably Anthony Mann, also knew how to tap into the actor's newfound intensity. The best example is probably "The Naked Spur," which sees Stewart as a rough and tumble frontiersman, someone beaten down by life who holds a lot of anger inside, looking to capitalize on a $5,000 reward by any means necessary.