Stewart was also granted casting and hiring clout, and he chose Anthony Mann to direct. Stewart took the opportunity to reinvent himself on the screen. Instead of boyish charm and an easygoing manner, Stewart was a tough, vengeful gunman who chased the titular weapon through numerous owners, eventually facing off against his own brother in a climactic showdown.
The movie was a box-office success upon its release, and Stewart earned rave reviews. A second Western from 1950, “Broken Arrow,” helped grow the new version of himself. Both are classics of the Western genre, and suddenly, Stewart wasn’t just a romantic lead or a dewy-eyed star. Nobody had doubted his ability before, but he was suddenly displaying a range that was getting people to stand up and take notice.
Stewart’s first interaction with his eventual wife was at Keena Wynn’s Christmas party in 1947. The woman, Gloria Hatrick McLean, an actress and model, was married at the time to Edward Beale McLean Jr., though the two would get divorced in 1948. Stewart had crashed the party and gotten drunk, which left a poor impression on Gloria. A year later, Gary Cooper and his wife Veronica invited Stewart and Gloria to a dinner party, giving them a chance to clear the air and start dating.
This time was the charm for both of them, as they got married on August 9th , 1949, and they remained married until Gloria’s death in 1994 from lung cancer. Gloria had two children from her previous marriage, whom Stewart adopted upon getting married.
A New Way of Doing Business
The late forties might not have been the best time for Stewart’s career, but in the fifties – now happily married – he had a bit of a career resurgence. The renewal came thanks to the burgeoning Western genre as well as his collaboration with director Anthony Mann. The first product of this collaboration was the 1950 film “Winchester ‘73.” Stewart agreed to do the film in exchange for being cast in the screen adaptation of “Harvey.
” “Winchester ‘73” was also a turning point in earnings and business for Stewart and Hollywood in general – Stewart’s agent, Lew Wasserman, struck a new kind of deal with Universal – Stewart got no fee from the movie but received a percentage of the profits. He earned $600,000, far more than his normal fee.
Back with the Bunny
The final film released with Stewart in 1950 was the aforementioned film adaptation of the play “Harvey.” Stewart had made waves as the lead character during the stage run of the play, but here he was hit with comparisons to original lead actor Fay. Stewart and the film, as a whole, received mixed reviews. In addition, the film didn't do too super well at the box office. Yet the film still garnered a number of award nominations.
It’s the only film of Stewart’s for which he received both an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination, though he failed to win either. Josephine Hull won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe for Best Support Actress. Stewart wasn’t thrilled with his performance in the film. The film would eventually gain a cult following.
Odd Choices of Roles
Sure, he could do it all...but would Jimmy Stewart be okay with a smaller part? 1951 had just one Stewart film, “No Highway in the Sky,’ one of the first airplane disaster films ever made. The movie was a box office success in England but didn’t get much traction in the states. The next year, Stewart made an odd choice for his next role – he wanted to be a clown.
Not only that, but he would be a clown in a small supporting role in Cecil B. Demille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but critics were left confused that Stewart would take such a role. Stewart wanted to ape Lon Chaney, who could disguise himself and let the character emerge.