How often did Jimmy Stewart play the villain?

Originally published at: How often did Jimmy Stewart play the villain? | Boing Boing


I am not at all certain Stewart wasn’t a villain in Vertigo.


Maybe not a bad guy in Rope, but he sure set some on the path…


Before I clicked on the video, I immediately thought of After the Thin Man, and there it was.

Edited to remove another movie.


I heard an interview with Tom Hanks a while back reflecting on his long career playing “good guys” and he pointed out to the interviewer that his character murdered like 50 people in The Road to Perdition. The interviewer’s response was “yeah, but you seemed like such a sweet guy while you were doing it!”


And rear window. The point of the video was that actually most of his career was spent playing morally ambiguous characters. Hitchcock used him to add an air of identifiability, of harmlessness, to people whose actual actions should not lead you to sympathise with them.

Which is kind of why Vertigo didn’t work for me and I was mystified why people regularly (e.g. Sight and Sound’s 100 greatest movie list call it a great movie. I utterly missed the sense of moral queasiness due to me finding him at first sight to be a disgusting creep.

They all watched a better movie than I did and I missed the point entirely. But thems the breaks.

The movie I watched would be like watching the Sopranos or Breaking Bad with no empathy for Walter or Tony from the get go. His aw shucks schtick was, for me, ruined as a possibility by Reagan and Bush. He just seemed evil like them and it was incomprehensible to me how he wasn’t obviously so to everyone.


He definitely wouldn’t be welcomed back to the Mission at San Juan Bautista. “Why is it that every time you visit here a blonde lady falls to her death from the bell tower??”


ETA Airport 77 was the the movie I was thinking about. He wasn’t a villain per se, just a bit of rich jerk.

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That coroner is going to be especially sarcastic too…


Also Bell, Book, and Candle.


That one where he convinced three generations of Americans that the filibuster was an important democratic principle, that was pretty nefarious


But how else was the lovable idiot untainted by democracy supposed to secure funding for his Hitler Youth program?

Of all the movies on God’s green earth that is the one I hate most.


I vaguely remember Dana Carvey doing a Jimmy Stewart impression where he admitted he was a serial murderer. He was chatting in that folksy voice about how much he enjoyed killing people in the same way he would wax rhapsodic about sitting in a rocking chair drinking hot cocoa. I’m laughing just thinking about it.

I love seeing an actor known for playing nice guys portray a villain. As a teenager it was a revaltion for me to see Fred MacMurray, who I’d always known as the kindly dad on “My Three Sons”, as the sleazeball killer in “Double Indemnity”. I liked to think that Walter Neff somehow escaped justice and re-built his life as Walter Douglas, taking in old jailbirds like Bub and Uncle Charley as part of his redemption.

Henry Fonda still stands as the best example for me, though. He portrays the depravity and sadism of Frank in “Once Upon a Time in the West” (mentioned in the video) so well that the viewer enjoys both the shock value of the casting against type and also appreciates Fonda’s talent and acting range.


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