Stewart, Jimmy: Jimmy Stewart and His Poems
(researched by Daniel Goff)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy Stewart and His Poems. 201 East 50th Street, New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1989. Text copyright 1989 by James M. Stewart. Illustrations copyright 1989 by Cheryl Gross.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first American edition is published in trade cloth binding.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

16 leaves. 32 pages. Pp. 4, 14-15, 18, 20-21, 28-29, 31-32 not numbered.

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

Pp. 5-6, 12, 16, 24-26 all contain informal introductions to the various poems, both the poems and their introductions written by Stewart. The book does not contain a dedication.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

There are illustrations inserted directly into the book by Cheryl Gross. These are found on [3] (a miniature version of the illustration on the dust cover), 8-9 (fish jumping in a stream with a sign reading "Argentina"), 10-11 (a man carrying suitcases and fishing gear ascending a stylized staircase), [14-15] (a silhouette of a man in a frozen tent thinking of playing golf in a tropical setting), [18] (a video camera in a gift box), [20-21] (what is presumably a leopard approaching the same camera lying abandoned in a sahara landscape), [28-29] (a partially hidden woman walking a dog), [31] (a dog and boy laying in bed), [32] (full-page illustration of the dog laying behind a food dish labeled "Beau").

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The two-page title spread [2-3] features the book's title in large, light-blue font, and a miniaturized version of the cover caricature as referenced in #6. The titles of each poem are written in the same light-blue font, and in larger font than that of the poem. Both the first letters of the poems and the first letters of Stewart's introductions are written in a similar, large, light-blue font. The illustrations within the book are colored with a similar light-blue wash.

The typeface is serif. 266.7 R. The book is 381MMx152.4MM.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is smooth and white, appearing to be of a heavier stock. It is in excellent condition. There are no visible chainlines or wiremarks.

11 Description of binding(s)

The pages are glued in.

The cloth of the cover is of a reddish-brown hue, while the endpapers are light blue and have a marbled appearance. The print on the cloth is a light blue similar to the shade found in the text of the pages and of the illustrations. There is what is presumably Stewart's signature embossed in this blue on the cloth cover, while the spine contains the same text as the spine of the jacket, except that all of this text is light blue. In the back right corner is an ISBN number in the same light blue.

12 Transcription of title page

Jimmy Stewart and His Poems / by Jimmy Stewart / Illustrations by Cheryl Gross / Crown Publishers, Inc. / New York.

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings


15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

The dust jacket is made of paper with a glossy coating. On the cover of the dust jacket is a stylized caricature of the author, sitting in a green armchair next to his sleeping dog Beau (whose name is implied by a labeled food dish). The illustration appears to be done in pen and colored pencil. On the general upper left side of the cover is the title, written in maroon, and across the bottom of the cover is the author's name. On the back cover of the dust jacket, there is a black-and-white photograph of the author framed in maroon trim, with an identical drawing of Beau in the lower left corner. The spine of the dust jacket reads: JIMMY STEWART AND HIS POEMS/BY JIMMY STEWART/CROWN. The slashes denote spaces. The first two portions are written in the same shade of maroon, while "CROWN"" is written in black.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

After conducting research on AbeBooks and WorldCat, it appears as though my copy of Jimmy Stewart and His Poems is a first edition, but not a first printing. My copy appears to be a first edition, fifth printing, which, judging from the stock found on AbeBooks, is the first printing which features a caricature of Stewart on the dust jacket rather than the original cover. The original cover features a photograph of Stewart smiling and facing the camera, on a tan background, with the title and author in maroon and black font.

Crown Publishing published a third edition (see #5 for the second edition) in 1997. Judging from the photos provided, this edition was not distinguishable from the first edition, fifth printing cover (featuring Stewart's caricature).

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

My research on this component of the assignment has still proved inconclusive. Worldcat did not provide the information I needed. The best source I have found so far is AbeBooks, which, judging from the available stock of this book, suggests that there are at most ten printings of the first edition.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

From what I could find on AbeBooks, the first edition was followed by an audiobook format published by Random House Audiobooks in 1990. This consisted of one 30-minute casette, recorded in the author's voice.

I also found evidence of an edition published by Random House Value Publishing. According to AbeBooks, this published company published a second edition of Jimmy Stewart and His Poems in 1995.

6 Last date in print?

AbeBooks indicates that the last date this book was in print was in 1997.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

This was not available information in Publisher's Weekly. I was able to find, however, that Jimmy Stewart and His Poems was on the bestseller list for 16 weeks, from September 29, 1989 to January 19, 1990.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)


9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)


10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

On July 28, 1981, Jimmy Stewart read "I'll Never Forget a Dog Named Beau" on the Johnny Carson show, a form of one of the works featured in Jimmy Stewart and His Poems. As this aired eight years before the book's publication, I don't know if this could be considered promotion, but it is a widely-known video closely related to the book.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A


13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A


14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

James Maitland Stewart, known popularly as Jimmy Stewart, was born May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He was the only son of Alexander and Elizabeth Stewart, the former of whom supported the family by owning and operating a local hardware store. Virginia and Mary, Stewart’s younger sisters, would join the family by the time Stewart was five.

Stewart first expressed interest in drama while attending Mercersburg Academy, a prep school approximately 100 miles from his hometown. It was here that he performed in a production of “The Wolves.” While attending the academy, Stewart was also involved in football and track, and also devoted free time to musical hobbies.

After graduation from Mercersburg, Stewart enrolled at Princeton Academy, his father’s alma mater. He decided to major in architecture. He also became involved in Princeton’s drama club, where he met other future film and drama stars such as Joshua Logan, an eventual director of Broadway hits, and actor Henry Fonda. After Stewart graduated, Logan offered him a role in the University Players’ production of “Goodbye Again,” which Stewart accepted. This was his first professional acting role, and it marked a career shift for him.

I have found discrepancies in sources over which movie was Stewart’s first acting role—either “Art Trouble” (1934) or “The Murder Man” (1935). Based on the available records, it seems most likely that “Art Trouble” was his first screen role, albeit a small one. Stewart’s role in “The Murder Man” was also small, but 1935 would prove to be an important year for his career. His first major role came in October 1935 with “Next Time We Love,” and fame was soon to follow. From 1935 to 1940, Stewart was featured in dozens of films, many times as the starring role. During this period, he starred in the notable film “The Philadelphia Story” (1940).

In 1941, Stewart enlisted in the Army Air Corps during WWII. This initially entailed hosting radio programs for the war effort, but eventually Stewart flew missions as well—20 in all. After returning to America, he moved in with Fonda and his family.

In 1945, Stewart landed his most iconic role of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Two years later, he met Gloria McLean, a divorcee with two sons, at a dinner party. They began dating and married in 1949. In 1951, Stewart and McLean had twin daughters Judy and Kelly.

Stewart’s acting career continued to thrive in the 1950s, with many notable starring roles. Perhaps the most famous of these were the three Alfred Hitchcock-directed movies in which Stewart starred—“Rear Window” (1954), “Vertigo” (1958), and “North by Northwest” (1959).

“Jimmy Stewart and His Poems” was published in 1989, a period in which Stewart’s acting career was mostly in the past. He had appeared on Johnny Carson to read one of the featured poems eight years earlier. It was a best-seller for 16 weeks.

On July 2, 1997, Stewart died of heart failure due to a blood clot.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

For those who know anything about James Stewart, it may not be a shock to find that his 1989 collection The Poems of Jimmy Stewart, the only book he ever published, was a bestseller for several months. It may be slightly more surprising to find that the major book review sources of the time were also charmed by the slim volume, but reviews were generally positive. In the New York Times review of the collection titled "Aw Shucks," Daniel Pinkwater said of Stewart, "You love the guy, right? Me too."

This sentiment seems to have been the general consensus of the reviewers of Jimmy Stewart and His Poems—namely, that Stewart is well-liked enough to release a minor volume of poetry and to profit from it. Patrica Smith of the Chicago Sun-Times declared, "There's only one man in the world who could get away with it," calling Stewart's poetry "cursed with cuteness and sodden with sophomoric rhyme." One of the harshest critiques of the book, Smith's review is largely good-natured to the author himself, acknowledging that Stewart is profiting off his own likeability but not seeming to judge him much for it. In "Jimmy Stewart, the Poet," a Boston Globe review by Diane White, a more broad critique of modern poetry is offered: "Stewart's verses are poems for our times, times in which no one has a moment to waste, times in which no one wants to sit around reading poetry when they could be out someplace, making money, or spending it. Is it any wonder the book leaped onto the best-seller list within minutes of publication?"

It seems clear that none of these reviewers think of Stewart's verse as anything terribly profound, but rather, they classify the volume as a piece of ephemera for fans of the actor—not fans of poetry.

Used here: Pinkwater, Daniel. "Aw, Shucks." The New York Times (24 Sept. 1989). Smith, Patricia. "Fans agree 'it's a wonderful book' - Jimmy Stewart publishes poetry and winds up on best-seller list." Chicago Sun-Times (1 Oct. 1989). White, Diane. "Jimmy Stewart, the Poet." The Boston Globe (4 Oct. 1989).

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Five years after Stewart's collection was published—or even one year after—reviews were much rarer. After the contemporary reception history, the next mention of the collection was in the 1997 New York Times obituary for Stewart. Other obituaries failed to mention Stewart's poetry.

Aside from this small appearance, The Poems of Jimmy Stewart showed up in a few publications in the early 2000s, in a few different contexts. A Q&A portion of the Anderson Independent-Mail reprinted the text of Stewart's poem "Beau," titled after the actor's dog. The reprinting was in response to a reader whose own dog was near death. The Anderson's editor said of the collection in which "Beau" appears, "The book may be available at Ebay, elsewhere on line [sic], or in used bookstores, though it is hard to find." Gary Dexter's 2006 review in The Spectator is perhaps best summed up by its title "Surprising Literary Ventures." Other than these minor reviews and mentions by comparatively minor publications, The Poems of Jimmy Stewart quickly fell into obscurity.

Used here: "James Stewart, the Hesitant Hero, Dies at 89." The New York Times (3 July 1997). "Poem celebrates the love of a dog." Anderson Independent-Mail (15 Feb. 2009). Dexter, Gary. "Surprising literary ventures." The Spectator (28 Oct. 2006).

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

            Jimmy Stewart and His Poems does not fall into a category of bestsellers known for their radical themes or controversial topics, such as Lolita or The Satanic Verses do. For one, it is not even a novel, but rather a collection of poetry (as the title suggests). For another, these poems, when viewed as a whole, fail to make any sort of passionate or convincing argument—indeed, it seems fair to say that no argument exists in this collection at all. Of the four poems included in Jimmy Stewart and His Poems, topics ranging from vacation trips to movie cameras to Stewart’s favorite dog are discussed, evidently with no common thread aside from the author’s consistently happy-go-lucky writing style. How he writes bears similarities to how he acts—as the inside flap of the book claims, “The book confirms what we all expected—that the real Jimmy Stewart is every bit as endearing as the film characters he’s portrayed.” With this in mind, then, it becomes clear that Jimmy Stewart and His Poems is less a collection of poetry than it is a piece of ephemera. It enjoyed success solely on the basis of name recognition—not as a Stephen King novel would do so, but because Jimmy Stewart is (or at least was) a household name for the vast majority of Americans. The content of the book itself is not important—only the name and face attached to it.

            When considering a 32-page book, many of whose pages are filled with illustrations rather than text, the most logical approach to take may be considering what the book lacks rather than what it actually contains. It cannot be said that the book contains political themes; on the contrary, the poems collected in it are glibly apolitical. This is a theme somewhat at odds with the real-life Stewart, who was a vocal Republican during his lifetime, campaigning personally in support of figures such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. He also served as a flier in World War II, ultimately being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Reagan himself. It is not much of a surprise that Jimmy Stewart and His Poems avoids the topic of war, though it was something about which Stewart felt very passionately. This is not a collection in which a poem about war would make sense. Stewart had distinct personas based on various aspects of his life, with his film star personality being more widely appealing than his wartime personality. It is his film star personality that appears in Jimmy Stewart and His Poems—“the consummate Everyman,” as the book jacket accurately declares.

            Stewart is not the only actor to publish a collection of poetry. A few other notable contemporaries who followed the same route are Suzanne Somers and Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy’s various collections, of which there are several, are heavily concerned with sentimental love poems and have been described as “simple” and “straightforward,” not unlike Stewart’s own works. Nimoy branched out further than Stewart, however, producing a greater output of poetry than Stewart’s underwhelming four poems. He also published two autobiographies and some books of photography. Like Stewart, Nimoy’s collections are “long out of print” and only available through various resale providers, while the autobiographies are still in print, as are most of his books of photography.

            Alternatively, Somers published Touch Me, her one collection of poetry, in 1973, before she had gained fame as a star of “Three’s Company.” Another collection of love poems, though taking a more sensual route than Nimoy’s work, Touch Me was published into near-obscurity and only resurfaced when Somers grew into prominence as a TV star and later, as the author of “self-help books with lengthy titles.” This quote is taken from Jenna Krajeski’s New Yorker article “Touch This,” a review of Somers’ work which incorrectly states that it was published in 1980, not 1973. In 1980, rather, Touch Me returned for its second printing; it was during the fifth season of “Three’s Company,” and Suzanne Somers was a verified celebrity. The review is short and scathing, placing Somers in the realm of “famous people who write bad poetry” and seeming to give her no further thought. Another review of Touch Me on the “Awful Library Books” site says, “It’s awfully sweet and cute and charming; only a little bit nauseating.”

            Whatever else can be gleaned from these celebrities’ bodies of poetry, a trend of nonfiction is clear. Each of these celebrities’ works, whether autobiographies, self-help books, or poetry collections (admittedly the most literary of the three, but still technically nonfiction), feature the celebrity in question speaking directly to the reader as that celebrity, unfiltered by any of fiction’s tropes or techniques. This seems to point towards the notion that the words and thoughts of famous people are somehow more valuable than those of the common masses.

            Proof of this can be found through a study of the two covers, 1973 and 1980, of Suzanne Somers’ Touch Me—though near-identical, their minor differences speak volumes. In the 1973 edition, a photograph of Somers’ face is juxtaposed with a black background, and the words Touch Me: The Poems of Suzanne Somers are written in small black text across the bottom of the book. The 1980 reprint also features a photograph of Somers’ face, but this time, there is no room for a background; her head, complete with bangs cut in the recognizable style of her character on “Three’s Company,” takes up the entire cover. The same words are written underneath, but with this important difference—Suzanne Somers is the largest text on the cover, in an even bigger font than the title.

            Comparatively, there are two existing covers of Jimmy Stewart and His Poems. The first features a large-headed caricature of Stewart sitting in an armchair with a cartoon dog—Beau, the subject of perhaps his most famous poem—at his side. The second has a tan background, at the center of which is a slightly touched-up image of an elderly Stewart beaming out at the reader. The cover featuring Stewart’s caricature is the one which shows up on most printings of the book, which is even more indicative of the subject matter than a photo would be. A caricature, among other things, suggests a happy-go-lucky, unrealistic, cartoonish portrayal of Stewart.

            This theme of celebrity face-recognition is continued through Stewart’s appearance on Johnny Carson in 1981, almost a decade before the collection was published. In the clip, Stewart reads “A Dog Named Beau,” the final piece in Jimmy Stewart and His Poems, and sheds a few tears while doing so. This sort of publicity stunt gave viewers a decent idea of what a book of Stewart’s poetry would be like, while also endearing the actor-turned-author to an eager audience. The gray-haired, submissive Stewart on Carson’s stage is near-identical to the photograph featured on certain editions of the collection, and the Stewart caricature retains the essence of both.

            A somewhat tongue-in-cheek review of Stewart’s collection was published in The New York Times by Daniel Pinkwater, titled, “AW SHUCKS.” It’s another short review, similar to “Touch This,” but is ultimately more forgiving of Stewart’s venture into the world of poetry. Pinkwater uses extreme paraphrasing to describe the already brief poems, such as, “The dog dies, and he misses him. It's a heartbreaker.” To the book jacket’s suggestion that Stewart is “‘every bit as endearing as the film characters he's portrayed,’” Pinkwater responds, “Well, you're not going to hear any argument from me.” The entire review feels slightly chiding towards Stewart and the quality of his verse, while at the same time admitting that many will likely find it charming.

            In a typical essay of this sort, it would be worthwhile to examine the author’s other works to illustrate how they compare and contrast with the bestseller in question. However, Stewart never published another book in his lifetime. He was first and foremost a performer; therefore, some of his most notable performances can instead be analyzed in reference to Jimmy Stewart and His Poems. In a Slate article titled “The Darkness of Jimmy Stewart,” David Haglund has some interesting points of view on Stewart’s aforementioned conflicting personas. He refers to Stewart’s public image as “the Reagan-era icon of homespun American goodness,” in conflict with the “obsessed outcast” with “dark visions” which Haglund attributes to the Stewart of such disturbing classics as Vertigo and The Naked Spur. Haglund suggests that the only remaining Stewart, at least for those who grew up watching his films, is the intensely sweet, slightly stammering old man who writes in simple verse about the most insignificant or inane moments of his life.

            Haglund also cites an interesting SNL skit broadcast in 1989, soon after the publication of Jimmy Stewart and His Poems. In it, Dana Carvey (acting as Stewart) described the inspiration for a nonexistent poem called “Old Rocking Chair.”

            “I was holed up in a Mexico City slum,” Carvey said. “What few pesos I had, I'd spent on alcohol.” He emphasized that, to write good poetry, “you've gotta go through the PAIN."

            This brings to mind a section of Krajeski’s biting review of Touch Me, in which she describes the “dramatic reading by Kristen Wiig” of some of Somers’ most regrettable verses (in the eyes of Krajeski), adding that “Somers’ poems incur laughter.” Again, this raises an interesting parallel between the poetry of two celebrities—namely, when their poetry is ridiculed by famous comedians. While Wiig’s reading is depicted as pure farce, the SNL skit is significant both to Haglund’s argument in the article and to one of the chief arguments of this essay—Stewart adopts a restrictive, inaccurate persona which disregards all other elements of his character.

            Jimmy Stewart and His Poems enjoyed popularity about as long as the author enjoyed life. It had ten printings, the last of these being published in 1997—the same year as Stewart’s death. This seems indicative of the collection’s ephemeral qualities. It was only relevant as long as Stewart was alive and now exists on bookshelves as the reminder of a man long since deceased.

            Stewart is remembered by many fans, arguably too often, as a real-life incarnation of George Bailey, the protagonist of It’s A Wonderful Life, the role for which Stewart is best-known. Bailey is presented as, or at least remembered as the endlessly cheerful, small-town everyman whose morals are just as strong as his will. However, in “The Darkness of Jimmy Stewart,” Haglund asserts that this reading of Bailey is just as inaccurate as the public’s misinterpretation of Stewart himself. “His [Bailey’s] defining characteristic, in fact, is a revulsion at the ordinary, a (repeatedly suppressed) striving toward greatness,” Haglund says. “The failure to realize these ambitions drives him nearly to suicide.”

            However the public image of Stewart and his comparatively darker onscreen presence relate to the man himself is unknown, or at least arguable. In Jimmy Stewart and His Poems, the author seems eager to adopt the harmless, good-natured persona that his fans have assigned to him. “I’m sure I never said to myself, ‘Now, Jim—why don’t you sit down and write a poem,’” Stewart writes in the introduction of the collection. “It’s still a mystery to me, but I think probably it’s something that happened by accident—like a lot of things have happened in my life.” This is the portrait of an elderly man who has enjoyed enormous success in film and has received love from countless fans. These fans didn’t want any controversial or dark-themed poems. They wanted a cute, digestible volume of all of Stewart’s most appealing qualities, and they got it—with color illustrations to match.

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