Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Irksome Jimmy Stewart

Who doesn't love Jimmy Stewart? 

I certainly adore him. In youth he is sweet and funny and very human (oh, and super cute, too). As he aged, the charm remained and a mature wisdom and reliability was added to the package. So why then are the three movie characters I find most irksome all played by Jimmy Stewart?

Rear Window

Mr. Good Times
As L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, the wheelchair-bound photographer, Jimmy is one royal pain in the butt. I mean, here is Grace Kelly, beautiful, luscious and oh-so-available; practically throwing herself at him throughout the entire picture and his is just cranky. He is downright cruel to her, suggesting that they just keep things “status quo” without any hope for the future. What a guy. Come to my apartment, sleep with me, and let’s keep it at that. Really, every time I see that scene, I want Grace to just say “see ya.” But, I guess that would ruin a great movie. 

A girl like Lisa Carol Fremont should NOT have to work this hard
He does eventually warm to Lisa after she shows herself to have the adventurer’s spirit, but the poor thing practically has to get killed to get him to notice her. He really is no fun.


This is a man losing his grip
As Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, Jimmy is an obsessed man whose disregard for Judy Barton is borderline nuts. First, he brushes off the perfectly lovely, level-headed Midge. Too normal, I guess. 
Midge - you don't know it, but it was your lucky day when you
walked down that hospital corridor without  Johnny-O
Judy holds the secret of her identity as the dead and adored Madeleine, so she reluctantly plays along with his little makeover scheme. But Jimmy is a real tyrant here, bullying Judy, bullying the saleslady who sells the suit, the dress and the shoes, as well as the beautician who must get just the right shade of blonde

Just one of Judy's "WTF" moments
He has a right to be miffed that he was played for a sucker, but the dragging of Judy up the tower is pretty vicious. Couldn't he have just called the cops?

The Philadelphia Story

Why Ruth wants this sourpuss is a mystery
As pompous man of the people reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor, Jimmy is only slightly more likable than George Kittridge, the man Katharine Hepburn's Tracy Lord plans to marry. He is smart, but he is oblivious to co-worker Ruth Hussey’s devotion to him. 
Is there really more than one choice?
Instead, he falls for a woman whose character and class he been berating on a non-stop basis. He is ultimately a gentleman, but a truly annoying one. Tracy is grateful for the attention, but she has her head on straight when she chooses ex-husband Cary Grant (as CK Dexter Haven) over the reporter. He is more fun and poor Ruth Hussey only gets him by default. I’ll bet he’ll spend their marriage pining for Tracy and complaining about what a stuck up snob she is.

Note to self: quit complaining - you know you love the guy!
Of course, all of this means that Hitchcock had issues and Jimmy Stewart is a fine and complex actor. These three characters irk me to death and yet these are three of my favorite films. I think, perhaps, that characters who go by names other than those given to them are just plain annoying. That must be it.


Aubyn said...

I remember my father could hardly bear to watch Rear Window because Stewart's treatment of Kelly irked him so much. And I agree with you that the part where he asks her to keep things "status quo" is the point where he goes from being kind-of-a-jerk to full-on douche. If you're so convinced you guys are incompatible just break up with her, man!

I might disagree with you a bit on Philadelphia Story, though. Not that Mike isn't irritating in his whole chip-on-the-shoulder attitude but compared to the other male characters, he still comes off a little better. Kittridge is obviously a pompous jerk. Dexter is more charming, true, but he also keeps ragging Tracy for being so gosh-darned high-handed about his drinking (clearly she should have just kept passing him highballs like a good little wife). And Tracy's father is practically the ne plus ultra of Jerkitude. He blames his adultery on the fact that Tracy wasn't a sweet, adoring daughter (!!) At least Mike actually compliments Tracy, which is more than can be said for the rest of them.

Great post. Really gave me a lot to think about.

Caftan Woman said...

Old Snoopy-nose Jefferies gives me whiplash because I'm constantly shaking my head at him throughout the movie.

I like Mike. He just needs to grow up, and this "Tracy" thing is a step in the right direction.

DorianTB said...

FlickChick, your magnificent post is spot-on! For years, despite my love for REAR WINDOW, VERTIGO, and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, I've often found myself at once sympathetic AND annoyed as hell at these particular James Stewart roles. In REAR WINDOW in particular, Jimmy's "Jeff" Jeffries is the world's biggest ornery commitmentphobe (or as an old college chum put it simply, "C-C-Commitment?!" :-)) When I watched REAR WINDOW on TNT, many moons ago before TCM changed my life, Brent Spiner was the host, and he mentioned how he'd always thought the true perversity of the film was Jeff's reluctance to commit to Lisa: "She's Grace Kelly, man! Go for it!" *SPOILER ALERT* By film's end, by golly, Lisa had EARNED her right to relax with an issue of HARPER'S BAZAAR, and frankly, Jeff kinda had that second busted leg coming! :-) *END SPOILER ALERT*

VERTIGO is another film where Stewart's character makes me want to smack him - talk about makeovers gone mad! Barbara Bel Geddes' character should've just kicked him to the curb when he got all obsessive, and run off with the cantilever bra guy and made lingerie happily ever after. For that matter, why DID Midge call off her engagement with Stewart's Scottie? In my very first TotED post, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece with ideas about how to give VERTIGO a happier ending, if y'all are interested: :-)


Jimmy Stewart, how cn you NOT love him?
Have you ever watched him in After the Thin Man? Also adorable in basically his first big part. And what to say about Mr. Smith goes to Washington? Lovely!
If I were Kate Hepburn in The Philadelphi Story, I'd become a bigamist to have both Jimmy and Cary!

Anonymous said...

I love Jimmy Stewart and Tom Ammandes (cause he looks so much like him) too. Another annoying movie character Jimmy played was in How The West Was Won. I mean HOW could he leave the beautiful Carol Baker, not once but twice?

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The Lady Eve said...

Jimmy Stewart also strikes me as likably annoying in "Bell, Book and Candle" and "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation." But he annoys me not at all in "The Shop Around the Corner" and "Harvey."

Thanks for another great and entertaining read, FlickChick.

FlickChick said...

Thanks so much for your comments, Rachel. Jimbo is quite cute in the Philadelphia Story, but he needs a chill pill.

FlickChick said...

Caftan Woman - old Snoopy-nose? Love it! Aww - everyone likes Mike. I just need him to shut up.

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Dorian. Scottie drives me nuts. Although the movie is mesmerizing, his obsession is creepy.

FlickChick said...

Le - I do love Jimmy (most of the time). But if it comes down to Jimmy & Cary - Jimmy is left in the dust!

FlickChick said...

Hi Sandra - you are correct. In fact, in most of Jimmy's westerns, he's a bit annoying.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Steph.

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - likably annoying - that's the phrase I was looking for!

Silver Screenings said...

I agree completely with your post. Jimmy Stewart's character in "Rear Window" is especially irksome to me. My favourite part of your review is this sentence: A girl like Lisa Carol Fremont should NOT have to work this hard. True!!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, silverscreenings - I love the guy, but he sure had annoying down pat!

Unknown said...

I'm glad at least you like these films! I can see how Stewart is annoying in the HItchcock films, but I think he is kinda cute in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940). Especially when he gets the hiccups!

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