Entertainment » Vol. 53

‘Mission’ Looks at the Intriguing Life and Times of Jimmy Stewart

On March 22, 1941, James Maitland Stewart, America’s beloved boy-next-door “Jimmy,” left Hollywood behind to take the United States Army Air Corps oath of service.

A highly paid movie star whose country wasn’t yet at war, Stewart’s shocking move made headlines – but for the next four years, he largely remained behind the secure perimeters of air bases in the Western Hemisphere, working his way up military ranks and ducking the press. In the years that followed, Stewart remained steadfastly tight-lipped about what happened “over there” – and ultimately took the story of his service with him to the grave.

Intimately detailed and painstakingly researched, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe takes readers through Stewart’s childhood, college years at Princeton, Broadway career and meteoric rise to Academy Award-winning Hollywood superstar. Unlike any other biography of Jimmy Stewart to date, Mission also uncovers the reasons behind Stewart’s decision to serve in active combat – against the initial protestations of the U.S. government, which would’ve preferred for him to stay in the country, train other pilots and make recruiting films.

From his formidable lineage (both of Stewart’s grandfathers were Civil War heroes; his father fought in both the Spanish-American War and World War I) to his little-known reputation as one of Hollywood’s most notorious ladies’ men (Ginger Rogers, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner and Judy Garland were but a few of the A-list ladies to fall prey to his charms), Robert Matzen’s Mission provides an unparalleled look at the man who, in his first return to the silver screen following the war, became It’s A Wonderful Life’s George Bailey.

A not-to-be-missed addition to the bookshelves of military history buffs, Old Hollywood aficionados and anyone compelled by great storytelling with great heart, Mission presents a Jimmy Stewart, who was in his time perceived as a shy and bumbling type, as a ferocious bomber pilot, fearless squadron commander and American hero patriot.

Mission also delves into the details of the making of It’s A Wonderful Life with a leading man who was experiencing PTSD (or, as it was known then, had gone “flak happy”). Matzen also reveals the stories of three “supporting characters” in Stewart’s story: a radio man who flew alongside him, a German civilian girl and the German general in charge of Nazi fighter aircraft.

Matzen is the author of seven books, including the award-winning Errol & Olivia: Ego & Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood and the bestselling Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, which rose to No. 2 on the Amazon bestseller list for biographies, won the 2015 Biography of the Year Benjamin Franklin Award and earned praise from the Smithsonian Institution. Matzen’s work as a filmmaker earned national awards, and his feature documentary about George Washington, When the Forest Ran Red, is a genre classic. He has also written and directed several films for NASA.

Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe (GoodKnight Books) will be available on Oct. 24, 2016 via Amazon and in select brick-and-mortar retailers. For more information, visit robertmatzen.com.

Comments are closed.