Reel Insight #84: Classic Actor Series - Jimmy Stewart

After two years, we finally broke down and decided to cover a classic actor. So check out our James "Jimmy" Stewart episode:

0:00 - Intro/Plugs/Feedback
10:43 - New Movies: 21 Jump Street (Rachel) and Brave (Jess & Rachel)
18:48 - Random Topic: Most anticipated films for the rest of 2012.
32:30 - Star of the Week: James "Jimmy" Stewart
35:25 - Made for Each Other
39:53 - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
42:49 - The Shop Around the Corner
45:14 - The Philadelphia Story
49:11 - It's a Wonderful Life
54:36 - Harvey
58:05 - Rear Window
1:01:35 - Vertigo
1:06:07 - Anatomy of a Murder
1:12:58 - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
1:18:12 - Wrap up

Give it a listen and email your thoughts to reelinsight[at]gmail[dot]com. We love feedback and we love to read your feedback while casting. Our "theme" music is from Kevin MacLeod with Incompetech. Also, join the Facebook Fan Page and subscribe on iTunes to stay updated. Thanks for listening!


  1. First off, I am so glad you're doing some older actors! I've listened to the show on and off (depending on how familiar I was with the actor's filmography), but I was really excited to see Jimmy Stewart's name pop up on my podcast list. I'm glad you (largely) enjoyed your time with his films, and you did a great job coming up with a nice cross-section of his career. I think "he has a much more varied career than I expected" as Jess put it is exactly the right take-away. So many people think he's just the "aw-shucks" guy from It's a Wonderful Life or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and he does a lot more than that.

    I can totally see why you'd find it hard to get into the Tracy Lord character in Philadelphia Story - she's totally selfish and flippant about everything, but I also don't think Mike Connors is wrong when he says there a magnificence about her, a latent spark and fire that shines out of her. It's not rational and often not visible, but that innate charisma, underneath the abrasiveness of her exterior, is why he and everyone else falls for her. Dexter is the only one who can really see through both sides of her and is willing to be honest with her about her faults and still love her. But yeah, the fantastic dialogue is enough for me to not care about whether I "like" Tracy or not. I actually really love the way everyone in that movie has their own thing going on - it's complicated, yes, but big supporting casts with fully differentiated characters with their own tics and problems is one of my favorite things about '30s and '40s films. They had a knack for writing these things so you never lost sight of the main story, but the world feels occupied by lots of interesting people, all with their own concerns.

    Rear Window isn't a murder mystery, it's a suspense film. :) Hitchcock differentiated the two, claiming he made suspense films - he told the audience from the beginning who did it and then let them squirm. The Kelly-Stewart relationship is one of the more interesting things in it - I agree, they seem mismatched, but after seeing the film umpteen times (it's my favorite film of all time), I really think their love story is perhaps the central theme of the film, with the murder almost being a McGuffin as it helps/forces them to learn how to accept each other and let each other in, especially Jeff, who tends to hold Lisa at arm's length for what he thinks is her physical safety but is really to safeguard his emotional stagnation.

    I could go on about all the others, but I won't - I'll just point out that you guys should really watch You Can't Take It With You. First off, it isn't a Clark Gable vehicle; he's not in it at all. Stewart is the romantic lead, opposite Jean Arthur (same as in Mr. Smith), and Frank Capra directs, making it the first time they teamed up, not Mr. Smith. It's not quite as good a movie as either Mr. Smith or It's a Wonderful Life, but it's still really quite good. Also, I'm very glad you enjoyed Liberty Valance! I'm a big fan of westerns, but I know so many people who discount them by default, so the fact that you generally don't care for them but liked this one is nice to hear.

  2. Geez, that was longer than I intended. Don't bother reading all that on the next episode. :p Like I said, I like Jimmy Stewart a lot.

  3. Woo! I'm thrilled that you enjoyed The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. I'm a big fan of that movie and was nervous to hear your thoughts about it. I'll echo Jandy's comments that it was great to have coverage of a classic actor. Stewart is known for being the straight-arrow guy, but there's a lot of variety to his career. He really goes dark in the westerns with Anthony Mann. I would have enjoyed to hear you talk about Winchester '73 or The Naked Spur, but I know there's too much to cover from his career. I do like the format of covering a smaller number of movies, which gives you a chance to dig a bit deeper into the actor's career. Great show.

  4. Ahhh, just barely missed our last recording! We'll definitely get to this great feedback in Ep. 86. Thanks guys!


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