James Stewart’s easy-going persona made him one of the greatest actors of the golden age of Hollywood. People around the world spend their Christmases watching him star in the most famous Christmas holiday film in Hollywood history. This museum dedicated to Stewart is located in the small college town where the late actor was born and raised. He carried many of his small-town sensibilities throughout his life, which made him relatable to audiences and a beloved character in all of his movies.
Jimmy, as he was known by those in his hometown, planned to work at his family’s J. M. Hardware Co. store, but an invitation from a friend to spend a summer preparing a show for Broadway sparked his love of acting. In no time he was moving on to Broadway with bit parts, then leading roles until he was discovered by Hollywood. A few of his many wonderful starring roles included films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor), and the Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life.
At the height of his career, Jimmy entered the Army Air Corps as a private and by the end of WWII, was a colonel. He was decorated as the leader of a squadron of B-24’s in his 20 combat missions over Germany. He continued his military career after WWII by serving in the Air Force Reserves and retired to the rank of Brigadier General.
Stewart died on July 2, 1997, and left a legacy of honesty, hard work, and values that are lovingly and beautifully reflected in this museum. Filled with his wonderful memorabilia that takes you back in time, you can even watch one of Jimmy’s movies, pass by his boyhood bedroom and see his California office up close.
In Jimmy’s own words, “Entering a building which houses a museum named after me is a privilege I could never have anticipated. I hope its visitors will enjoy their stay there. After all, they are the ones who really built it.”