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I can't wait for my betters to tell me why I'm wrong, but I'm happy to throw down for Jimmy Stewart as one of the top five actors ever to star in Hollywood.


Surely, he is the beating, bleeding, sweet and wounded heart that keeps It's a Wonderful Life in its place as the only standard Christmas fare that centers around a suicidal man so miserable that he echoes Job's desire: "May the day of my birth perish!"

He did fine work in so many genres, from Westerns (The Man from Laramie) to war pics (Flight of the Phoenix) to social comedies (The Philadelphia Story) to romantic comedies (The Shop Around the Corner) to earnest dramas (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) to sly dramas (Harvey) to courtroom dramas (Anatomy of a Murder) to the more leering dramas of Hitchcock (Rope, Rear Window, Vertigo). I would say there's some range there, and I would say it's because there was some depth and complexity to the man.

As David Thomson puts it in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, "His body of mature films, made during the '50s for Hitchcock and Anthony Mann, while generally presenting him as a troubled, querulous, or lonely personality, clearly play on the immense reputation for charm that his early films had won. Thus Stewart is one of the most intriguing examples of a star cast increasingly against his accepted character."

All that by way of saying that Vertigo is playing tonight at Cinema Under the Stars. You could do a lot worse.

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