The genuine Last Boy Scout, actor Jimmy Stewart, died Wednesday and with him died the era of Hollywood's bigger-than-life heroes.
Stewart was the son of a hardware store proprietor in tiny Indiana, Pa. He appeared in more than 75 films during his lifetime and most of his roles, such as George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life and the young, idealistic senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, seemed drawn from the middle-American values he learned as a young boy. For many of us, he was everyman; we saw ourselves in the roles he played, which embodied all of our fears and weaknesses. But those characters, drawing on innate decency and courage, always overcame adversity.
The actor, whose personal life was marked by courageous military service and a steadfast devotion to his wife, is stark contrast to many of today's entertainers. Stewart was a genuine article. He lived the life he portrayed in the movies.
The earnestness and gentility Stewart displayed, both on and off the screen, somehow convinced us we could become the kind of genuine, honest and courageous people we wanted to be.
President Clinton called him a national treasure. In death, he is a national legacy. His exemplary work Ä and the values he epitomized Ä remain on film and will continue to inspire not only us, but generations to come.