When Jimmy Stewart reached the age of 60 in 1968, he had hit the mandatory retirement from the Air Force. Knowing that he had come to the end of his time as someone who could be of use to the Air Force, Stewart accepted the retirement. He had flown during the Vietnam War as a non-duty observer aboard a B-52 bomber on an Operation Arc Light bombing mission in February 1966, but other than that, he had no hand in the war itself.
Upon his retirement, he received the United States Air Force Distinguished Service Medal. Despite being in the military for so long, Stewart rarely brought up his military service. He was interviewed about a disastrous 1943 bombing mission in Germany in the British Documentary series “The World at War.”
A Couple of Failures, a Couple of Successes
Just because Stewart was one of the greats, that doesn’t mean he didn’t still have a bomb here or there. Right after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award, his very next film was called “Dear Brigitte,” which not only had him but French stunner Brigitte Bardot, who played herself. It was a family comedy, but it was also a bomb at the box office.
His next film, “Shenandoah,” was a civil war film, one of the few Stewart would do that centered around war. After that, he took to the skies again in “The Flight of the Phoenix,” another aviation-based film. It had some critical success, but it was a general box-office failure.
More Westerns to Finish Out the Decade
He showed up in “The Rare Breed” in 1966 alongside actress Maureen O’Hara and in “Firecreek” in 1968 with Henry Fonda. Then it was “Bandolero!,” also in 1968, and “The Cheyenne Social Club” in 1970 with Henry Fonda again. Of the four, “Bandolero!” was the most successful – it was helped along by the additions of stars Dean Martin and Raquel Welch.
In 1968, Stewart would receive his second honorary award, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award for “outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.” Stewart was only the sixth to receive it, and he was able to climb on stage to receive it from his good friend Fonda, who was presenting the award. Surprisingly, Fonda would never receive the award, despite all his success.
Few Movies About War
Despite Stewart’s time spent in the military and his support of it, he made very few commercial movies about the military. In general (heh), Stewart wasn’t a big fan of war movies because he rarely found them accurate. He starred in just two: “The Mountain Road” in 1960, which was anti-war though still respectful of the military, and “Shenandoah.” There was also “Malaya” in 1949, which had Stewart as a non-combatant during the war – a reporter.
It’s also more of a war thriller. Aside from these few examples – which certainly weren’t your typical war films – he was in the famous short “Winning Your Wings,” but that was about it for Stewart when it came to war movies. Having actually been in combat, we imagine Stewart would rather things be realistic.
Moving to a New Format
He had done everything the big screen demanded of him, which meant it was time for Jimmy Stewart to do what every aging Hollywood star does eventually – settle into a nice, comfortable television show of his very own. In 1971, Stewart starred in the NBC sitcom “The Jimmy Stewart Show.” Due to bad reviews and a lack of audience, the show was canceled after one week, a move that Stewart was perfectly pleased with.
His next attempt at television came in 1973, in the CBS mystery series “Hawkins.” He played a small-town lawyer who investigated mysterious cases. While it was acclaimed – Stewart won a Golden Globe for it – it was also canceled after one season. He also started making regular appearances on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” to read his poems.