[Congressional Record Volume 144, Number 65 (Wednesday, May 20, 1998)]
[Pages S5215-S5216]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. HELMS. Mr. President, when Jimmy Stewart died last July, less 
than a year shy of his 90th birthday, which would have been today, 
millions of Americans of all ages felt they had lost a dear friend. 
They had grown up with great films such as ``It's a Wonderful Life,'' 
``Harvey,'' ``The Philadelphia Story,'' and the one that's probably 
many Americans' personal favorite, ``Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.''
  I was fortunate to get to work with Mr. Stewart during the 1970s when 
we were on the campaign trail across North Carolina. Dot and I will 
never forget travelling with him introducing him to the citizens who 
felt that they already knew him.
  Perhaps what I like most about ``Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'' is 
the manner in which Jimmy Stewart and director Frank Capra captured the 
timeless principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence. In 
describing the them of the picture, Capra said: ``The more uncertain 
are the people of the world, the more their hard-won freedoms are 
scattered and lost in the winds of change, the more they need a ringing 
statement of America's democratic ideals.''
  Jimmy Stewart, Mr. President, in a sense was playing a character 
modeled after Abe Lincoln. According to Capra, Jefferson Smith was 
``tailored to the rail-splitter's simplicity, compassion, ideals, humor 
and unswerving moral courage under pressure.''
  A year ago, on the occasion of Jimmy Stewart's eighty-ninth birthday, 
John Meroney of Advance, N.C., wrote a Wall Street Journal essay, ``A 
Hero Larger Than Those He Portrayed,'' celebrating Jimmy Stewart's life 
and career. I learned about John Meroney when he was a student at Wake 
Forest University. I am persuaded the reason Jimmy Stewart appeals to 
John and other young people isn't simply because Mr.

[[Page S5216]]

Stewart made some of the greatest pictures of all-time. I believe, Mr. 
President, that it's the contrast between Jimmy Stewart and so many of 
those who live and work in Hollywood today. It's hard to imagine anyone 
out there capturing America's heart the way Jimmy Stewart did, and via 
his countless films, still does. It's as John Meroney put it, it isn't 
because Jimmy played great characters. It's because of the way Jimmy 
Stewart lived his life.
  So, Mr. President, in commemoration of the birthday of an American 
original, James Maitland Stewart, I ask unanimous consent that the text 
of Mr. Meroney's column be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the column was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

              [From the Wall Street Journal, May 20, 1997]

                 A Hero Larger Than Those He Portrayed

                           (By John Meroney)

       Beverly Hills, Calif.--James Stewart turns 89 today, and he 
     will mark his birthday in a fitting manner--quietly at home, 
     without the trappings of celebrity that he has avoided his 
     entire life. It's also fitting that a man whose movies 
     celebrate middle American values has lived in the same, 
     rather plain Tudor-style house on a block absent the typical 
     L.A. glitz for almost 50 years.
       Mr. Stewart is not just one of the greatest American movie 
     actors of all time, he's also probably the last cultural icon 
     from his generation. Although it helps, working with 
     directors like Ford, Wilder, DeMille and Hitchcock doesn't 
     necessarily bring such exalted status. Nor does having your 
     face projected 50 feet tall on movie screens for four 
     decades. Many others have been that fortunate, yet are now 
     forgotten. The parts you play, the message you carry, the 
     life you live--that's what gives audiences what Mr. Stewart 
     calls the ``little tiny pieces of time that they never 
       It was the director Frank Capra, an Italian immigrant who 
     had a love affair with America, who gave Mr. Stewart the 
     roles that stand out as eloquent and intelligent celebrations 
     of American ideals and principles. Perhaps the best of these 
     was found in Capra's 1939 feature ``Mr. Smith Goes to 
     Washington,'' in which Mr. Stewart played Jefferson Smith, an 
     idealistic young man who becomes a U.S. senator only to have 
     his hopes shattered when he discovers that his political 
     heroes are dishonest. In a town where politics is a serious 
     game, he's told, players have to check their ideals at the 
     door. When he challenges this orthodoxy, Smith learns lessons 
     the likes of which Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas could 
     appreciate. But in the end, Smith triumphs, justice prevails, 
     and a political machine is destroyed.
       The establishment wasn't amused. Halfway through the 
     Constitution Hall premiere, senators and congressmen began 
     walking out. Members of the press corps, portrayed as elite 
     snobs with their own agendas, were outraged. The Senate 
     majority leader, Alben W. Barkley, called the movie a 
     ``grotesque distortion, as grotesque as anything I have ever 
     seen.'' Ambassador Joe Kennedy wired Columbia Pictures 
     President Harry Cohn from London and pleaded with him to 
     block the European distribution, fearful it would be used as 
     propaganda by the Axis powers.
       Moviegoers in America and abroad saw ``Mr. Smith'' 
     differently. In France, it was the last English-language film 
     to be shown before the Nazi ban in 1942. Audiences there 
     spontaneously erupted with standing ovations during Stewart's 
     scene at the Lincoln Memorial. Observed one reporter: ``It 
     was as though the joys, suffering, love and hatred, the hopes 
     and wishes of an entire people who value freedom above 
     everything, found expression for the very last time.''
       Like some of his roles, Jimmy Stewart's life also 
     symbolizes the American dream. Born near the Allegheny 
     mountains in the coal mining town of Indiana, Pa., he was 
     raised by parents who instilled in him values Hollywood 
     couldn't corrupt. His father ran the local hardware store, 
     which was, for Mr. Stewart, ``the center of the universe.'' 
     When he won the Best Actor Oscar for ``The Philadelphia 
     Story'' in 1941, he remembers, ``It was 3:45 [a.m.] when I 
     got home and the phone rang. It was my father: `I hear on the 
     radio they gave you a prize or something. What is it, a 
     plaque or a statue?' I told him it was a sort of a statue. He 
     said, `Well, send it home to me and I'll put in the hardware 
     store window.' So the next day, I got it, packed it up, and 
     sent it. It was there for 20 years.''
       Drafted in 1941--``I keep saying that's the only lottery I 
     ever won''--Mr. Stewart became the commander of an Eighth Air 
     Force squadron, and a genuine war hero. After flying some 25 
     missions over enemy territory with a copy of Psalm 91 that 
     his father gave him in his pocket, he returned to Hollywood 
     in 1945 as Col. Stewart, and was promptly decorated with the 
     Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross. Active in the 
     reserves until 1968, Jimmy Stewart retired with the rank of 
     brigadier general. Of his combat experience, and the horrors 
     of war, Gen. Stewart once said, ``Everybody was scared. You 
     just had to handle that. I prayed a lot.''
       During the 1940s and 1950s, while making such popular films 
     as ``It's a Wonderful Life,'' ``Rear Window'' and ``Harvey,'' 
     Mr. Stewart found that his traditional conservative political 
     beliefs were becoming increasingly unpopular among his 
     colleagues. Hearings by the House Un-American Activities 
     Committee and its foray into Hollywood proved troublesome for 
     Mr. Stewart because of his staunch anticommunism. It tested 
     his long friendship with Henry Fonda, an outspoken liberal 
     critical of HUAC. But Mr. Fonda couldn't resist his friend's 
     intrinsic decency, and they agreed not to discuss politics to 
     preserve their friendship. Mr. Fonda also understood that Mr. 
     Stewart's beliefs had not come cheap. Unlike many families 
     here who have escaped making the sacrifices that freedom 
     often demands, the Stewarts lost a son in Vietnam when their 
     oldest was killed in 1969.
       The authenticity in Jimmy Stewart's personal life, so 
     evident in his film career, seems to be a rarity in 
     Hollywood. ``There was something so totally real in his own 
     way,'' Kim Novak, his co-star in ``Vertigo,'' told me. ``How 
     often can you find somebody who's spent his whole life in 
     Hollywood but represents so much of America?''
       Director Ron Howard acted with Mr. Stewart in ``The 
     Shootist,'' a 1976 film that teamed them with the Duke. 
     ``John Wayne was sort of a mythological figure,'' says Mr. 
     Howard. ``Stewart wasn't aspiring to that. He was a character 
     for us to relate to.''
       The way Jimmy Stewart has lived his 89 years is an example 
     today's celebrities--and every American, for that matter--
     would do well to emulate. When asked in a documentary on his 
     life how he wanted to be remembered, Mr. Stewart answered: 
     ``A guy who believed in hard work, and decent values, love of 
     country, love of family, love of community, love of God.''
       George C. Scott, Mr. Stewart's co-star in ``Anatomy of a 
     Murder,'' and now one of his neighbors here, summed it up 
     best, albeit sadly, when he told me: ``They don't make them 
     like that anymore. Hollywood misses them already, I'll tell 
     you that.''