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MR ELIOT GOES TO MARS


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If you've read the interview with Marc Eliot, author of the new biography of Jimmy Stewart, in the latest TCM newslatter, then you may have the same misgivings as I over some of Mr Eliot's assertions, particularly the following

 

Jimmy's support of Vietnam caused severely strained family ties with one of his sons, and also led him to want to make certain movies, like Strategic Air Command and The Pride of St. Louis.

 

Obviously, the Vietnam War, and the U.S.'s involvement in it, occurred years after STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955) was made; far more troubling, as far as Mr Eliot's grasp of his subject, is that THE PRIDE OF ST LOUIS stared Dan Dailey; Eliot's obviously confusing it with Stewart's baseball film THE STRATTON STORY, (1949) which is even farther removed from the Vietnam conflict than the Dailey film is.

 

Unlike others, Capra, for instance, and Fonda, Jimmy never took public stands on sensitive political issues (other than attending war rallies prior to and, as a soldier, during World War Two). In fact, one of the reasons I believe he distanced himself from Capra after It's a Wonderful Life was the trouble the director got into with HUAC and other congressional authorities during the Cold War, was due to Capra's left-wing leanings. It also affected his friendship with the quite liberal Henry Fonda. I don't think Jimmy Stewart saw the deeper implications of Mr. Smith, nor anticipated the problems Capra had with that film, particularly with an outraged congress. He and Capra made It's a Wonderful Life out of a certain desperation -- both needed work -- but when the film failed at the box-office they never worked together again.

 

Joseph McBride, author of the definitive biography of Frank Capra (Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success) makes the convincing case for Capra's lack of any real political moorings. Early in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, protagonist Peter Carter (David Niven) describes his (Britsh) politics as "Conservative by nature; Labour by experience." That kind of political schizophrenia also tends to describe Capra: Capra's head told him to hew to the conservatism of the Protestant Establishment the little Italian immigrant kid always aspired to join, whereas his heart led him to hire Liberal writers like Robert Riskin and Sidney Buchman, whose '30s Progressivism produced the screenplays to MR DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, and MEET JOHN DOE.

 

In a way, Capra, like John Wayne and Stewart, were fairly typical of Americans then and now: their politics were largely am atter of gut reactions to what they liked and disliked, but were only half-formed. It's doubtful that any of these men thought too deeply about issues, the shades of gray involved in most of them, and the real-world consequences of the political policies of which they approved.

 

As for Stewart's never working with Capra after IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, it should also be noted that the apex of Capra's career was over by 1940; he'd had a tremendous run from the Oscar-winning IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT in 1934, to MR SMITH, but the delayed release of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, Capra's military service in World War II, and the poor reception of WONDERFUL LIFE put that career on a permanent downward trajectory (his films, derided as "Capra-corn" even in his heyday, were seen as decidedly old-fashioned in Post-War America).

 

Still, Stewart was certainly game to follow that up with another "Capra picture," even if it were under another director; 1947's MAGIC TOWN whimsy-with-a-message tale (story by Robert Riskin) Capra had perfected, but without the "Capra touch," MAGIC TOWN proved a deadly dud. One can also see a couple of Stewart's choices in the early 1960s -- MR HOBBS TAKES A VACATION and DEAR BRIGITTE as a calculated attempt to remake his image closer to his days with Capra, after nearly fifteen years of dark, neurotic characters that stretched from WONDERFUL LIFE's George Bailey to VERTIGO's Scottie Ferguson and ANATOMY OF A MURDER's Paul Biegler.

 

Some of the blame for the interview in the TCM newsletter clearly must be laid at the feet of interviewer Jeff Stafford, and the website's proofreading staff (who probably don't exist, anyway, since the stories run here are often rife with errors of fact and style).

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Your conclusion:

 

Some of the blame for the interview in the TCM newsletter clearly must be laid at the feet of interviewer Jeff Stafford, and the website's proofreading staff (who probably don't exist, anyway, since the stories run here are often rife with errors of fact and style).

 

yet within your own post:

 

1. If you've read the interview with Marc Eliot, author of the new biography of Jimmy Stewart, in the latest TCM newslatter

 

2. far more troubling, as far as Mr Eliot's grasp of his subject, is that THE PRIDE OF ST LOUIS stared Dan Dailey

 

3. Early in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, protagonist Peter Carter (David Niven) describes his (Britsh) politics

 

4. In a way, Capra, like John Wayne and Stewart, were fairly typical of Americans then and now: their politics were largely am atter of gut reactions

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was looking for the film Mr. Eliot goes to Mars, it sounds like a great movie, now you say it's about a guy who goes to Mars and Unites the Candy Cane men with the Butterscotch tribe and they revolt against the Licorace soldiers and rescue Queen Frostine from the Gummy swamp? I've got to own this movie, where can I get it? Really, aren't we being a bit harsh about the TCM newsletter? When we get down to everyone knows that Stewart never stood for anything, he was a studio yes man, which is o.k. He had bills to pay, he never turned anyone in for being leftist, unlike Reagan, or Kazan, so the guy gets a pass on this one. To try and figure out what he was thinking by subtle actions is an impossible task, and as far as a friendship with Fonda goes, Fonda didn't have friends, he stayed aloof and emotionally detatched from close friends, could have been the struggle with alchohol. So the subjective material may be true but there can be other explanations also.

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