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Statue, museum, cinema highlight actor’s life


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Stewart’s hometown honours its star Mitchell Smyth Contributing writer

INDIANA, Pennsylvania—“Harvey and I have things to do. We sit in the bars, have a drink or two, play the juke box.” Thus speaks Elwood P. Dowd (actor James Stewart) in the great 1950 movie Harvey. Harvey, you may remember, is a six-foot-tall rabbit, but we never see him, for he exists only in Dowd’s imagination. If you come to this west-central Pennsylvania town, however, you can see Harvey. You can even sit next to him and cuddle him. This Harvey is a huge stuffed doll and he has a permanent seat in the little movie theatre in the Jimmy Stewart Museum on Philadelphia Street. Indiana was Jimmy Stewart’s hometown and no one would dream of calling him “James” here. Another of Stewart’s best-loved movies is It’s A Wonderful Life, which is set around Christmas and has become a staple of Yuletide television. In many ways small-town Indiana (population 16,000) resembles Bedford Falls, the fictional town in the movie, and for years Indiana renamed itself that for Christmas, putting up a sign reading “Welcome to Bedford Falls.” The practice was discontinued after vandals defaced the sign. Outside the courthouse there’s a bronze statue of the actor. And atop Vinegar Hill stands the two-storey home where James Maitland

IN MANY WAYS SMALL-TOWN INDIANA (POPULATION 16,000) RESEMBLES BEDFORD FALLS, THE FICTIONAL TOWN IN [IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE], AND FOR YEARS INDIANA RENAMED ITSELF THAT FOR CHRISTMAS... Stewart grew up. But the museum is the main focus for visitors. It highlights his boyhood, his career in 80-plus movies and his service in the Second World War, in posters, clippings, photographs and items donated by the actor. There’s a flight suit worn by the man who flew more than 20 bombing raids over Germany and earned six battle stars and a Distinguished Service Medal. The rifle he used in Winchester 73 (1950) keeps company with part of a propeller, autographed by the cast, from the crashed plane in 1966’s Flight of the Phoenix. In the eight-row cinema, Harvey and visitors watch interviews, a career overview and clips from many of the tall, gangly, slow-spoken actor’s films. Continued on page 32

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Vancouver Courier November 4 2011  
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