After more than 30 years of ruling Hollywood, Stewart had become one of the greatest men to even stand in front of a camera. From immediate classics like “Rear Window” to slow-burn cult favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” from comedies to romantic films to Westerns and thrillers, Stewart could pretty much do all of it. For that reason, he was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1965, which is awarded for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.
DeMille was the first to receive the award, and other recipients included Walt Disney, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope. The very next year, John Wayne would receive the award. It was the first “honorary” award of his career, something given to him just because of who he was, not necessarily because of a specific film or piece of work.
Joining Another Great
The next big film in Stewart’s repertoire had him join forces with one of the other most famous actors of the time: John Wayne. It was the first of three films that these legends would make together, and all three of them would end up being classics of the Western genre. John Wayne starred as Tom Doniphon, the main character of the film, while Stewart plays a young lawyer that is beaten by Liberty Valance and discovered by Doniphon.
Lee Marvin played Liberty Valance in one of his many villainous roles, and Vera Miles played the female lead. The film was a huge money maker, becoming the 50th highest grossing film of 1962. Most reviews were flatly positive, though some found imperfections. In modern times, it’s regarded as one of the best of the genre.
Following a Classic with a Classic
After the film “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” (which was a success in its own right), Stewart and Wayne got right back to work with their second film and their second collaboration of 1962, “How the West Was Won.” It wasn’t just Stewart and Wayne who appeared in this sprawling ensemble cast, however. The movie also featured Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach, Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, and even Jimmy’s old friend Henry Fonda.
The movie is widely considered to be one of Hollywood’s greatest epics. It not only earned widespread critical acclaim, but the star power and directing – courtesy of three men, including John Ford – it was also a box office smash. Against a budget of 14 million, it made about 50 million. Add a zero to the end of that, and you have what it would have made today.
A Couple of Failures, a Couple of Successes
Just because Stewart was one of the greats, that doesn’t mean he didn’t still have a bomb here or there. Right after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award, his very next film was called “Dear Brigitte,” which not only had him but French stunner Brigitte Bardot, who played herself. It was a family comedy, but it was also a bomb at the box office.
His next film, “Shenandoah,” was a civil war film, one of the few Stewart would do that centered around war. After that, he took to the skies again in “The Flight of the Phoenix,” another aviation-based film. It had some critical success, but it was a general box-office failure.
More Westerns to Finish Out the Decade
He showed up in “The Rare Breed” in 1966 alongside actress Maureen O’Hara and in “Firecreek” in 1968 with Henry Fonda. Then it was “Bandolero!,” also in 1968, and “The Cheyenne Social Club” in 1970 with Henry Fonda again. Of the four, “Bandolero!” was the most successful – it was helped along by the additions of stars Dean Martin and Raquel Welch.
In 1968, Stewart would receive his second honorary award, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award for “outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.” Stewart was only the sixth to receive it, and he was able to climb on stage to receive it from his good friend Fonda, who was presenting the award. Surprisingly, Fonda would never receive the award, despite all his success.