Watched an old James Stewart movie today; old in that it was released in 1965, and because Stewart was nudging sixty when it was made. I remember having seen Shenandoah as a child in the days of black and white TV so it was good to revisit in colour. For some reason the haunting theme song had remained in my head all these years.
Despite it being a civil war flick some of the scenery is just beautiful. (I seem to be attracted to cornfields. Is there a name for that, I wonder?)
Stewart plays a widower on 500 acres of fertile farmland in Virginia, with half a dozen strapping sons and a daughter, and is reluctant to involve his family in the war happening on their front doorstep. There are all the usual Jimmy Stewart homilies, delivered just as one would expect, and of course once his youngest son is captured by the Union, Jimmy gets his dander up ……as he does…..and gets well and truly involved.
Doug McClure plays Stewart’s son-in-law, a Confederate Army officer. He was my mad crush when he played Trampis in a television series many moons ago, and when I saw him in this it reminded me why I swore off blondes.
Which takes me to this great find – Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot by Starr Smith. What a fascinating read!
Stewart had always had a love of flying even before his acting career, and when war broke out he was keen to get amongst it. Initially the Studio bosses were not eager for him to get involved (not only because of his fan base but because he would have a price on his head) and so he bided his time as a flight instructor. However, Stewart did get to fly missions as a bomber pilot over Germany and was considered both a good pilot and Leader of men. He reached the rank of Colonel in 1945 and was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Oak Cluster, the Croix de Guerre with Palm and seven Battle Stars.
More interesting are the remembrances of his men which quote Stewart as collectively calling them “ Fella’s” in any meeting, just as he did in his role in Shenandoah. Some of these tales really are the measure of the man. Well worth the read.
At Stewart’s funeral, the Shenandoah soundtrack was played as the pall bearers carried the coffin out to the car.*