I don’t watch the Oscars anymore. My tolerance for preening ran out.
I remember when regular guys used to win. My favorite was Jimmy Stewart. He grew up helping in his father’s hardware store in Pennsylvania. Summers he worked construction. After becoming a star he joined the Army Air Corp as a private, overcoming several rejections for being too skinny.
Not that going to war should be a prerequisite for an Oscar. But, it helps to think that a guy getting a gold trophy actually did more than memorize lines. In Stewart’s case, he flew bombing runs over Germany in World War II as a lead pilot. That takes skill and guts.
I saw Jimmy Stewart once in Houston years ago. He was there to receive an award of some sort. We passed on the sidewalk outside a hotel. He looked the same as on the screen. A friendly smile. I was young then and too cool to show my admiration. I regret it.
My mother was from Milwaukee. In those days actors with touring college troupes were quartered with local families. She used to tell us about a young actor who once spent the night in her house when she was fifteen or so. Jimmy Stewart was, in her words, “polite and dreamy”.
The last time I saw Stewart was on the old Tonight Show. The measure of the man could be easily taken by the poem he recited. It was not about movies he’d made, medals he’d been awarded, or Oscars he’d won. It was about the passing of his dog Beau. The final stanza said it all:
“And there are nights when I think I feel that stare and I reach out my hand to stroke his hair, but he’s not there. Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so, I’ll always love a dog named Beau.”
I miss regular guys like Jimmy Stewart. They made the Oscars worth watching.
Malcolm D. Gibson
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Published March, 2013 Houston Examiner