If you are a big fan of Jimmy Stewart and already have many of his fine films as part of your personal collection, the purchase of this box set, containing some of his lesser-known works, would be a nice addition. But if you’re looking to start a collection of Jimmy Stewart films, this should not be your first purchase.
I love and adore Jimmy Stewart. Who doesn’t? As beloved and popular as he remains to this day, it’s safe to say he’s still a household name, like his co-stars in The Philadelphia Story, Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. His enduring popularity with generations of film audiences is a testament to his remarkably long career, which includes a staggering number of impressive performances in some of the screen’s greatest films of all time. Sadly, the titles gathered for the supposed “Signature Collection” do not reflect the true brilliance of his many achievements. In fact, the films presented here are unlikely to be recognized for any reason other than Stewart’s (and co-star Henry Fonda’s) participation, but rather are mere side notes to a remarkable list of credits generated by a single actor.
With the exception of The Naked Spur, this box set falls far short of justifying a special collection to be purchased as a whole. The additional titles (The Cheyenne Social Club, Firecreek, The FBI Story, The Spirit of St. Louis, and The Stratton Story) are a group of rather uninspired choices from an otherwise illustrious career. One would expect a more well-rounded and higher quality selection to represent a body of work from such a Hollywood luminary. With so many other high profile pictures to choose from, one is lead to believe that these films were perhaps leftovers available to create a product that could be packaged and sold on the weight of the star’s impressive name alone.
This is not to say that these are bad films, unworthy of attention. After all, Jimmy Stewart is worth watching in just about anything at any time (such as his virtual cameo in Airport ’77). With the likes of some notable directors such as Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., Sabrina), Mervyn LeRoy (Mister Roberts, Random Harvest, Gypsy) and Sam Wood (Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Kings Row, The Pride of the Yankees), the talent involved in these particular movies cannot be overlooked. But these artists have all done better work in other more noteworthy productions too numerous to list in their entirety here.
So why not present some of Jimmy Stewart’s other films as part of a signature collection? One doesn’t have to be a movie buff to come up with a more auspicious list of his films off the top of one’s head. Heck, you could do a number of themed collections based on directors he’s worked with (four with Alfred Hitchcock, eight with Anthony Mann, and three with Frank Capra), actors with whom he frequently co-stared (three with June Allyson and four with Margaret Sullivan), Jimmy as the Young Romantic (Destry Rides Again, The Shop Around the Corner and The Philadelphia Story) as well as the family-oriented films of his later years (Mr. Hobbs Takes a Holiday, Dear Brigitte, and Take Her, She’s Mine).
From early on in his career, Jimmy Stewart came to personify the Everyman, on and off the screen. It’s safe to say that with more than ninety film credits spanning fifty years, his universal appeal will remain unequaled for years to come. The regular guy, down to earth actor who relied on experience rather than acting lessons never failed to entertain audiences, regardless of the quality of the film in which he appeared.
When it comes down to investing your expendable income in an actual collection worth collecting there are better options out there for the Jimmy Stewart fan to consider. Any Alfred Hitchcock set would most likely feature at least two films starring the acclaimed actor and another Stewart collection called “The James Stewart Hollywood Legend Collection” contains five great films that reflect a greater span of the Jimmy Stewart legacy including Destry Rides Again, Winchester ’73, Harvey, Rear Window, and Vertigo.Rating: C+