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James Stewart


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With the recent death of actor-icon Stewart, it's not surprising that another biography has been published (three others have appeared in the last four years, including Gary Fishgall's Pieces of Time, LJ 10/1/97). This one purports to show the two sides of Stewart‘his responsible, upright Ideal American side vs. his artistic, more "human" side. However, the truth is that despite rumors of bisexuality, there really wasn't much about Stewart's life that was very surprising or scandalous. He didn't marry until 41, but when he did he stayed married. He was a family man and war hero. He seemed well liked by those who knew and worked with him. Still, prolific celebrity biographer Quirk has done a good job of chronicling Stewart's life, and his discussion of Stewart's films is especially good. If your patrons like their celebrity biographies juicy and revealing, this one won't satisfy them; recommended if you didn't buy one of the other recent biographies or if demand warrants.‘Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Lib. System, Cal.

The second bio to emerge after Stewart's death earlier this year (the first was Gary Fishgall's Pieces of Time; Forecasts, Aug. 25) adds depth and breadth to the star's familiar boy-next-door image without tarnishing it. Born in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1908, Stewart attended Princeton, his beloved father's alma mater, but instead of pursuing a planned career in architecture, he fell in love with performing on stage. From there, prolific celeb biographer Quirk (Paul Newman, etc.), who says he researched Stewart's life for 30 years, takes readers along on the poverty-stricken actor's New York ride (with Stewart rooming with an equally down-and-out Henry Fonda), through his gradual success on the stage and his move to being a contract player at MGM, to his eventual stardom. Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne and Grace Kelly all make cameo appearances, recalling Stewart the actor and the man. The behind-the-scenes doings of Hollywood's golden era are revealed along the way, including a brothel, operated specifically for MGM actors, that "kept those guys out of trouble." In films by Frank Capra, Anthony Mann, Hitchcock and others, Stewart endeared himself to generations of film audiences. Quirk's thorough, engaging look at his life, both professional and personal, helps explain why, and proves an excellent complement to Fishgall's equally conscientious work. Fifty b&w photos. (Dec.)

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