BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE JIMMY STEWART SHOW (WB Archives)

By • Feb 28th, 2014 •

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The first thing that threw me about this single-season series, and it still throws me, was when, at the head of each episode, Stewart would come out as himself and say “I’m Jim Stewart.” Jim Stewart? I mean, it’s called The Jimmy Stewart Show. I guess that’s what his friends called him, but it was momentarily disruptive and alienating to hear this proclamation, show after show. A strange decision.

The show itself is, for the most part, a light-hearted rural sit-com. The series followed Stewart’s darker, cynical period, when he did the hard-edged Anthony Mann westerns, and Robert Aldrich’s FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, not to mention Hitchcock’s study of mean-spirited obsession – VERTIGO. Nonetheless, for his TV series debut, he chose to go back to his Capra period. Small town charm, easy-going goings-on in the life of a college professor, his wife, kid, grand-kids, and a stuffy-sweet professor nicely played by John McGiver.

His TV family’s casting doesn’t do much for me. Julie Adams, wonderful to see after endlessly enjoying her in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, is pleasant, but no more than that. Same for the other family members. And so one drifts along with plots that are about very little, delivering simple, small-town morality lessons, mild humor, and mild drama. It couldn’t have lasted too long as it was, and it didn’t.

Hal Kanter produced, wrote and directed a bunch of them, and his conceptual ideas – Stewart addressing the camera, etc. – are pleasant but, again, low-key and slight. Later on, John Lee Mahin was brought in to script a few episodes. Mahin was a heavy-weight, having written, among many other Hollywood screenplays and dialogue, SCARFACE (’32), BOMBSHELL, TREASURE ISLAND, NAUGHTY MARIETTA, CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (’41), QUO VADIS, and MOGAMBO. My guess is that they wanted a bit more bite in those episodes, and the one called “Old School Ties” is actually quite powerful. I wish more of them had hit this tone.

A pleasant surprise was in an episode called LUTHER’S LAST LOVE, directed by Christian (THE THING via Howard Hawks) Nyby. I was looking forward to seeing Pat Buttram in that one, but ended up laughing out loud at Nita Talbot in a tremendous comic cameo as McGiver’s loud-mouthed, low-class date . Talbot: What do you do?” Stewart: “I’m an anthropologist.” Talbot: “I love ants.”

Nyby, incidentally, directed over a third of the episodes.

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