He is silver now, but no less golden. At 78, James Maitland Stewart looks back fondly on a career of some 80 feature movies. He’s played cowboys and congressmen, baseball players and bandleaders, ranchers and runamucks. And through it all, this Princeton graduate who stumbled into Hollywood by way of summer stock has had a special air of innocence and elegance that has made him, without a doubt, America’s favorite actor.
His craft, most often seen on the late show in recent years, is now being preserved for the ages on home video. MCA, which released the long-awaited Hitchcock series a while back, just came out with five more Stewart classics: The Glenn Miller Story, The Rare Breed, Bend of the River, Winchester ’73 and Thunder Bay.
As Stewart relaxed in a comfortable armchair in his Beverly Hills home, surrounded by almost as many awards as memories, editor Maury Z. Levy talked with him about his life and loves, his tapes and times.
LEVY: You, quite obviously, have a VCR in your home. Do you use it a lot for taping?
STEWART: Well, um, actually, no. You see, so many of the old movies I’m interested in are on so damn late at night, and I just can’t keep awake anymore. But taping them from television—I just don’t find that a good thing to do. Especially, you know, if it’s a picture that I’m in. I just find the quality so gull-darn awful. The movie’s scratchy, the sound is bad. That’s why I think this new idea of prerecorded home video is so great. They go and do the taping and the cassette work at the studio, and they do it directly from the film master. I’ve seen some of the stuff and it’s absolutely crystal clear, and the sound is great.
LEVY: And that’s why you’ve let them release so many of your films on home video.
STEWART: Yes, well, that’s right. They just make the whole thing so, well, so attractive. Also, you don’t have to wait until two in the morning to see it. You can just invite people in whenever you want. Throw a little party, you know, and still get to bed at a respectable hour.
LEVY: But will this mean the end of movie theaters?
STEWART: I’ll tell you something there. For some of them, it might not be such a bad idea. Now I’m talking about those little 300-seat houses with the bad projection and the bad sound. I think it’s very disturbing what they let these things get down to. But I do hear that some folks are building bigger and better picture houses. I know there are several being built right here in Los Angeles. And, in other places around this great country, they’re reopening some grand old houses that have been closed for a long time. The owners were smart enough not to have them torn down, because they just had a feeling that the movie audience that used to be would come back.
LEVY: And will they?
STEWART: I think so. I think we might see a nice mix. People will watch the videocassettes one or maybe two nights a Read the rest of this entry »