What Jimmy Stewart's Daughter Had To Say About The Famous Actor

Actor Jimmy Stewart portrays one of the most famous fathers in movie history in the Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life." But how was he as a real-life father? 

According to his daughter, Kelly Stewart Harcourt, he actually had something in common with the morally upstanding George Bailey. "Dad as a father was great, because he never lectured us on how to be good ... He taught us by the way he lived," Harcourt told ABC10 in December 2021. 

Harcourt also spoke about how the film helped her father get back into acting after serving in the military during World War II. Stewart was prouder of his service than any other accomplishment in his life, Harcourt said, but he had nightmares after he returned and wasn't sure how to return to the screen after the horrors of war. Then director Frank Capra approached him. "Capra came to him with this film, and it was the vehicle for him to get back into filmmaking ... He couldn't have made just a straightforward fun comedy, for instance," Harcourt said, noting that she thought her father was proud of the end result. 

Stewart's wonderful family life

James Maitland Stewart was born in 1908 and began his film career in 1935, when he signed a contract with MGM studios, according to The Jimmy Stewart Museum. In 1949, he married Gloria Hatrick McLean, who already had two sons named Michael and Ronald. The couple then had twin daughters: Kelly and Judy. 

Harcourt told Boomer that Stewart rarely brought work home with him. The closest he came was reading scripts in his designated armchair. "When he was working on a movie, he would sit with the script in his hands and his lips moving, saying his lines to himself. He never said anything out loud. I have that image of him burned into my mind," she said. 

Stewart was not always a traditional father, but he was a loving one. "He wasn't a hands-on dad — he didn't help us with our homework, and I doubt he ever changed a diaper. But he taught by example and just had a very quiet way about him," she said.

Unfortunately, the family suffered two major tragedies: First, Ronald died in the Vietnam War. Then Gloria died in 1994, and it hit Stewart hard, Harcourt told Boomer. Three years later, Stewart followed his wife. Still, Harcourt thinks the good outweighed the bad. "At the end, I believe he appreciated his wonderful life and knew he was loved," she told Boomer.