What a great movie.
James Stewart is just so darn likable. Affable. Put-upon but bearing up. Gets riled if he has to. Talks straight, shoots from the hip, sticks up for himself. Gives the bad guy a bloody nose. But also sensitive. He’s a willowy guy- not so strong to look at, but he works hard, and he sticks to it, and he makes it come out right.
I’m trying to think of our modern day equivalent. I suppose Tom Hanks has pulled it off in the past. In You’ve Got Mail, the remake, he was perhaps a bit show-offish. But a movie like Forrest Gump, which I loved- he came through a lot like I described above- just slow-witted. Basically, a decent person.
Hugh Grant would be another.
But neither of them has quite what Stewart did. That basic decentness seems to have grown out of the times- difficult times, where you had to work hard, and no-one would help, and if your dreams got crushed- well, you had to just cowboy up and take it. I’m thinking of both Shop Around the Corner, and It’s a Wonderful Life here. Hugh Grant often plays loafers with trust funds, not hard-workers. Tom Hanks- well, hmm. Has he taken on comedies with such sad depths like Stewart did?
But it’s not only in character that the film excels. There are also some fantastic lines. Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) dogs Stewart throughout, wittily, and his comebacks are delightful. For example-
Klara Novak (Miss Novak): Well I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a hand-bag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.
Alfred Kralik (thoughtfully): Well that’s very nicely put. Yes, comparing my intellect with a cigarette lighter that doesn’t work. Yes, that’s a very (thinking of the right word) interesting mixture of poetry, and meanness.
And one more, after him saying her illness was ‘only’ psychological-
Klara Novak: Mr. Kralik. It’s true we are in the same room, but we’re not on the same planet.
Alfred Kralik (again, thoughtfully): Uh Miss Novak, although I’m the victim of your remark, I can’t help admiring the exquisite way you have of expressing yourself. You certainly know how to put a man back on his planet.
How could you not like a guy like that? Takes an insult and just keeps on coming. Speaks of huge inner confidence.
And what an expressive face James Stewart has.
And what an ending to a movie. Sock suspenders!