Silver Screen Icons: James Stewart [4 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Stratton Story
Both Van Johnson and Gregory Peck were considered for the role of baseball star Monty Stratton in the 1949 biopic The Stratton Story before settling upon the real Stratton's own first choice, James Stewart. The film covers several years in the 1930s, as Texas farm boy Stratton rises from the minors to the Chicago White Sox. Along the way, Monty marries an Omaha gal named Ethel (June Allyson), who gives him a son. In November 1938, Monty accidentally shoots himself in the leg while on a hunting excursion. When the leg has to be amputated, it looks as though Stratton's pitching career is over. He broods over his bad luck for months before snapping out of his self-pity and learning to walk with his new prosthesis. To prove to himself that he's overcome his handicap, Monty takes a job pitching with the Southern All-Stars. His return to baseball is rough sledding (the other team persistently bunts balls out of his reach), but Monty Stratton is finally able to make a successful comeback. Only occasionally playing fast and loose with the facts (the time-frame of Stratton's real-life return to baseball is telescoped by several years), The Stratton Story was one of the best and most profitable baseball pictures ever turned out by Hollywood. Fans of the game will get an extra kick from the presence in the cast of big-leaguers Bill Dickey and Jimmy Dykes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Shop Around the Corner
The Shop Around the Corner is adapted from the Hungarian play by Nikolaus (Miklos) Laszlo. Budapest gift-shop clerk Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) and newly hired shopgirl Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) hate each other almost at first sight. Kralik would prefer the company of the woman with whom he is corresponding by mail but has never met. Novak likewise carries a torch for her male pen pal, whom she also has never laid eyes on. It doesn't take a PhD degree to figure out that Kralik and Novak have been writing letters to each other. The film's many subplots are carried by Frank Morgan as the kindhearted shopkeeper and by Joseph Schildkraut as a backstabbing employee whose comeuppance is sure to result in spontaneous applause from the audience. Directed with comic delicacy by Ernst Lubitsch, this was later remade in 1949 as In the Good Old Summertime, and in 1998 as You've Got Mail. It was also musicalized as the 1963 Broadway production She Loves Me. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Spirit of St. Louis
This retelling of one of Charles Lindbergh's most famous feats stars Jimmy Stewart as the legendary flier, and was directed by Billy Wilder. The story, adapted from Lindbergh's autobiography, begins when the aviator is working as an airmail pilot, but has much loftier goals in mind for himself. He begins to envision a nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic - something that no one has ever done before - and finds a group in St. Louis, Missouri willing to provide the necessary financial backing; he then has a special plane built in honor of the funders. Later, as Lindbergh sits in his cockpit, waiting to take off, he thinks back over his days as a circus flier, stunt flier and aimail pilot. The journey itself presents a series of hazards, but Lindbergh perseveres, using the stars for navigation when his compass disappears and overcoming other obstacles such as ice on the wings. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

The FBI Story
If Warner Bros.' pageantlike The FBI Story resembles an episode of Jack Webb's Dragnet at times, it's probably because the screenplay was by veteran Dragnet scrivener Richard L. Breen. The film meticulously details the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, from its formation in 1924 to the present day (1959, that is). The story is told through the eyes of FBI agent Chip Hardesty (James Stewart), who narrates the film. We see the FBI tackling such villains as the Ku Klux Klan, the mob, the Nazis and the communists. Subplots include the struggle by the federal agents to be given permission to carry firearms, a plight driven home when Hardesty's best friend (Murray Hamilton) is killed by gun-toting Baby Face Nelson (William Phipps). Offsetting moments like these are scenes of Hardesty's home life with his wife Lucy (Vera Miles), who at first opposed her husband's joining the bureau but who later becomesJ. Edgar Hoover's biggest fan. Excessively sentimental at times (it seems that the Hardesty family can never hold a party without receiving a terse telegram announcing yet another personal tragedy) and saddled with a rambling, stop-and-start continuity, the overall success of The FBI Story hinges upon its individual episodes, including a wowser of a pre-credits sequence involving matricidal mad bomber John Graham (Nick Adams). Since the film was made at a time when the FBI was considered to be of spotless reputation, don't expect to see any scenes of the bureau wiretapping civil rights leaders--or, for that matter, J. Edgar Hoover prancing around in drag. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • James Stewart
    James Stewart - Monty Stratton
  • June Allyson
    June Allyson - Ethel Stratton
  • Frank Morgan
    Frank Morgan - Barney Wile
  • Agnes Moorehead
    Agnes Moorehead - Ma Stratton
  • Bill Williams
    Bill Williams - Gene Watson

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