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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.
Last week here at the Showplace we focused on the early years of James Stewart, leading to his decorated service as a fighter pilot in World War II.
The strain of the war and his leading of fight squadrons in tense battles showed on Stewart’s facade when he first returned from fighting in Europe. Stewart appeared to age many more years than the three he was away, and film roles were few and far between upon his return.
Stars like Stewart, Clark Gable and other major box-office draws who left to fight in the war returned to find that a new generation of leading men had taken over their mantle.
Stewart relied on an old friend, Frank Capra, to star him in an independent film project, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which initially was panned at the box office. Other Stewart films, regarded as commercial “failures” (at that time) forced Jimmy into the Western genre, where his more weathered-features would fit better on the big screen. This career decision led to successful movie-starring roles in classics like “Winchester ‘73,” “The Naked Spur,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “How The West Was Won” and “”The Man From Laramie.”
Stewart shined in other non-color films like the gritty “Anatomy of a Murder,” light-hearted films like “Harvey” and the biographical “Glen Miller Story” and “The Spirit of St. Louis”. Even in Cecille B. DeMille’s Academy Award-winning “The Greatest Show on Earth” filmed in glorious technicolor, Stewart’s entire face was covered by clown’s makeup through the entire picture (the reason why is cleverly revealed just before the climax and in the denouement of this epic film).
Steward’s more weathered features were also “hidden” better in black and white television vehicles as well, starring in the teleplay, “Flashing Spikes.” He also become a frequent guest on shows like “The Jack Benny Program” (now seen weekly on RCN TV) where he often guest-starred as himself. This introduced him to a new audience that could “warm up” to the “real” Jimmy Stewart and give people a chance to know his genuine likeability that had already been known throughout Hollywood and in the film industry.
Stewart’s popularity would reach new heights as Alfred Hitchcock would star him in four feature-length films, including “Rear Window” and “Vertigo,” the latter film widely regarded by cinema experts as one of the greatest films of all time.
In all, twelve of Stewart’s films have been inducted into the United States National Film Registry and five are currently featured in the American Film Institute’s list of the “100 Greatest Films” of all-time.
Be on the lookout for some of Stewart’s historic work from both the big and small screens on RCN TV.
To view this week’s current listings as well as a complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the listings section here on our website.