TITLE: Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe
AUTHOR: Robert Matzen
PUBLISHING: GoodKnight Books
RELEASE DATE: October 24th 2016
GENRE(S): History, Biography, Nonfiction, War/Military
Get to know the real George Bailey.
MISSION: JIMMY STEWART AND THE FIGHT FOR EUROPE [GoodKnight Books, October 24, 2016] provides the first in-depth look at the military career of Hollywood actor James M. Stewart, beginning with his family “mission” passed on from his grandfather (a Civil War hero) and father (who served in World War I) that military service in time of war was mandatory for the Stewarts. Jim tailored his life to this eventual outcome, learning to be a pilot so he could serve as an aviator in the war.
MISSION describes Stewart’s childhood, college years at Princeton, Broadway career, and meteoric rise to Academy Award-winning actor in Hollywood. People today can’t imagine that Stewart was a ladies’ man, but he had a reputation as one of the most active bachelors in Hollywood, with a list of lovers that includes the A-list of female movie stars.
In 1941, before America entered World War II, Jim was drafted into the Army and gleefully left Hollywood behind to fulfill that family mission. What happened to him in the service has never been covered in detail because he refused to talk about his experiences afterward. MISSION begins and ends with production of the first film Stewart made after returning from the war: It’s a Wonderful Life, which in December 2016 will celebrate its 70th anniversary.
MISSION also includes the stories of three other supporting characters, a radio man who flew with Stewart, a German civilian girl, and the German general in charge of fighter aircraft. They provide perspective on what Stewart was attempting to do and why.
STAR RATING: 4.5 ∗∗∗∗
“MOVIE” RATING: PG – For war themes and images
Jimmy Stewart is, simply put, a legend in the movie industry. There are many classics where we have seen him such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Rear Window, and one of my personal favorites The Man who shot Liberty Valance. The author here describes Jimmy’s life pre-war and his wonderful friendship with Henry Fonda as well as his love life and some of his opinions and feelings about Hollywood. Matzen does an outstanding job with his research and has spent quite a while focusing on being accurate as well as informative about Jimmy Stewart.
Though Matzen creates a vivid image of who Stewart was before the war, he is so much better at illustrating what the war was actually like. This counts for not only Jimmy’s outlook, thoughts, and happenings, but also a few others involved in the war as well. Whether they be fellow pilots or fliers or an innocent German civilian trying to find ends meet. The whole spectrum of what the war was really like is included in this biography.
Reading this biography was very enlightening for me as a reader and lover of history but was difficult to read in some parts simply because of how well-written it was. I could feel the fear in the men’s hearts but at the same time their determination to make every mission a success and to complete each task without fail or slip-up. The horrors of losing so many friends and members of your team. The sleep deprivation. The hunger. The desire to take out as many major German entities as possible. And the freezing cold during the winter. This was all intensely felt as I read Mission.
This book indeed shows the difference in all men and women who are confronted with war. Jimmy Stewart pre-war is a completely different man, both physically and mentally, as the post-war Jimmy Stewart. However, his drive and passion for what he did, on and off screen, was never changed. And this biography does a beautiful job at showing us that. It’s what made post-war movie, It’s a Wonderful Life a success and continues to remind people of that great actor, James Stewart.
ABOUT Robert Matzen:
Robert 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 #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.
Regularly interviewed by international press, including the New York Post, Hollywood Reporter, and BBC, Matzen’s previous print work includes many articles about classic films, and the Greenwood Press reference volume, Carole Lombard: A Bio-Bibliography. His 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