Tags: Hollywood | james stewart | roles | star | shined | supporting

James Stewart in Supporting Roles: 3 Times Star Shined Without Being Lead Actor

Image: James Stewart in Supporting Roles: 3 Times Star Shined Without Being Lead Actor
Actor James Stewart is shown in this undated portrait. (Bert Reisfeld/DPA/Landov, file)  

By    |   Thursday, 26 Mar 2015 02:21 PM

James Stewart is known in American film history mainly for the many starring roles he brought to life on the silver screen. A few of his classic performances include: George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jefferson Smith in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and John “Scottie” Ferguson in “Vertigo.” However, Stewart was a versatile character actor who could easily step into supporting roles and turn them into gems as well.

Most of Stewart’s supporting roles came in the early to mid-1930s while working under a seven-year contract for MGM, according to the American Film Institute. Some of these early films are somewhat unforgettable as Stewart struggled finding roles that suited him and directors struggled just to cast him.

It was in 1938, when Stewart worked for the first time with director, Frank Capra, that audiences, as well as the film industry, began to take notice of his talents.

1. “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938)

The film found Stewart playing opposite Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore. In "You Can't Take it With You," Stewart plays Tony Kirby, the romantic match for leading lady, Arthur.

The film won the Best Picture Oscar and became a breakout role for Stewart.

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From that point on, Stewart’s career skyrocketed, and he turned into one of Hollywood’s most sought after leading men. Even as he aged, Stewart remained a bankable star for the next three decades.

However, in the latter years of his film career, he would take on the occasional supporting role. In these films, his name alone usually won him a spot near the top of the bill.

2. “The Shootist” (1976)

Stewart's close friend, John Wayne, requested he play a role in what turned out to be Wayne’s final film, Stewart plays E.W. “Doc” Hostetler.

In a paean to The Duke's film career, Wayne plays dying gunslinger J.B. Books, who seeks out the advice of the good doctor as a last hope against his worsening condition.

Richard Eder of The New York Times wrote of Stewart's cameo appearance: "The medical consultation between the aged Messrs. Wayne and Stewart is poignant and near-devastating, though the reasons probably lie less in the film than in our own associations with the two actors."

3. “An American Tail: Feivel Goes West” (1991)

Stewart’s final role shows a glimpse of how the actor could have an impact on a film. In "An American Tail: Feivel Goes West," Stewart voiced the character of Sheriff Wylie Burp. Throughout this animated feature, the sheriff acts as an advisor to the film’s main character, Feivel (voiced by Phillip Glasser).

The role is clearly an homage to the many Westerns that Stewart appeared in during the 1960s and 1970s, and clearly reflective of the way in which American film audiences connected to him.

It remains a touching homage to a classic Hollywood legend.

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James Stewart is known in American film history mainly for the many starring roles he brought to life on the silver screen. However, Stewart was a versatile character actor who could easily step into supporting roles and turn them into gems as well.
james stewart, roles, star, shined, supporting
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2015-21-26
Thursday, 26 Mar 2015 02:21 PM
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