Forgotten Details From The Golden Age Of Hollywood
Forgotten Details From The Golden Age Of Hollywood

Forgotten Details From The Golden Age Of Hollywood

Khalid Elhassan - July 10, 2023

Forgotten Details From The Golden Age Of Hollywood
Jimmy Stewart in 1940’s ‘The Philadelphia Story’, a performance that earned him an Oscar. Wikimedia

Jimmy Stewart Was Initially Rejected by the Military for Being Underweight

By the time America joined WWII, Jimmy Stewart was a Hollywood superstar. It would have been easy for him, as others from Tinseltown had done, to avoid service altogether – John, cough, Wayne – or secure a safe military gig that allowed him to be seen in uniform while staying away from danger – cough, cough, Reagan. But Stewart’s grandfather had fought against the South, and his father had fought against both Spain and Germany. When WWII came along, it was thus natural for Stewart to go off to fight. He had been drafted into the Army in 1940, but was medically rejected because he was underweight.

Forgotten Details From The Golden Age Of Hollywood
Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable in WWII. Pinterest

Stewart wanted to fight, however, and figured a way to join the military. He was a flight enthusiast who had secured his pilot’s certificate in 1935. By the time WWII began, he had accumulated over 400 hours in the air. Stewart managed to enlist in the US Army Air Forces in 1941, despite being underweight. After he graduated from a pilot training program 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. Higher ups wanted to shunt him into PR and put his celebrity to use in bonds drives and rally appearances. Stewart, however, wanted a combat assignment. After many travails and clashes with commanders he managed a transfer into a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber group, which joined the US Eighth Air Force in Britain in the autumn of 1943.

Forgotten Details From The Golden Age Of Hollywood
Lieutenant General Martial Henri Valin, the French Air Force’s chief of staff, awards Colonel James Stewart a Croix de Guerre with Palms. US Air Force

Jimmy Stewart Was Also an Air Force General

On December 13th, 1943, Jimmy Stewart flew his first combat mission. He piloted the lead B-24 of the group’s high squadron as they bombed U-boat facilities in Kiel, Germany. A few days later, he flew lead bomber for the entire group as they bombed Bremen. By February, 1944, Stewart had been promoted to major, and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. The following month, he led an entire Bomb Wing in a raid on Berlin, and by the end of March, was assigned as operations officer for a newly formed bomb group. Stewart’s assignment meant he was not required to fly combat missions. However, he sought to inspire and encourage his new unit by personally piloting the lead B-24 on a number of raids deep into the Third Reich.

Forgotten Details From The Golden Age Of Hollywood
Brigadier General James M. Stewart, 1968. National Museum of the US Air Force

Stewart also served as a crewman on other missions. His actions earned him a second Distinguished Flying Cross, a French Croix de Guerre, an Air Medal with three oakleaf clusters, and other decorations. After the war, Stewart returned to Hollywood, but continued to serve with the US Air Force Reserves. He kept current with new bombers, and was certified to pilot B-36 Peacemakers, B-47 Stratojets, and B-52 Stratofortresses. Stewart was promoted to colonel in 1953 and given reserve command of Dobbins Air Force base in Georgia. By 1959, he had been promoted to brigadier general, and continued to serve in the Air Force Reserves until he retired in 1968.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading:


American Air Museum in Britain – Clark Gable

Atlantic, The, December, 2017 – How John Wayne Became a Hollow Masculine Icon

Bassinger, Jeanine – The Star Machine (2007)

BBC – Fatty Arbuckle and Hollywood’s First Scandal

Coe, Jonathan – Jimmy Stewart: A Wonderful Life (1994)

Cracked – 15 Ways Classic Hollywood Sucked Big Time

Daily Beast – When Lana Turner’s Abusive, Gangster Boyfriend Was Killed by Her Daughter

Defense Media Network – Actor Clark Gable Served in Uniform, Flew Combat Missions in WWII

Eliot, Marc – Jimmy Stewart: A Biography (2006)

Film Reference – Star System

Forbes – Site of Rudolph Valentino’s Falcon Lair Sells for $15 Million

Golden Globes – Forgotten Hollywood: Old Hollywood Estates

Guardian, The, February 22nd, 2016 – Last of the Red-Hot Myths: What Gossip Over Rudolph Valentino’s S*x Life Says About the Silents

History Collection – Celebrities in the Ancient World

House Digest – The Fabulous Estates of Old Hollywood

IMDb – Rudolph Valentino

New Yorker, September 18th, 2015 – Charlie Chaplin’s Scandalous Life and Boundless Artistry

Schoenberger, Nancy – Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero (2017)

Smithsonian Magazine, November 8th, 2011 – The Skinny on the Fatty Arbuckle Trial

Tereba, Tere – Mickey Cohen: The Life and Crimes of LA’s Notorious Mobster (2012)

Vice – Charlie Chaplin Was a Sadistic Tyrant Who Fucked Teenage Girls