Margaret Sullavan - James Stewart

James Stewart

Sullavan's co-starring roles with James Stewart are among the highlights of their early careers. In 1935, Sullavan had decided on doing Next Time We Love. She had strong reservations about the story, but had to "work off the damned contract". The script contained a role she thought might be ideal for Stewart, who was best friends with Sullavan's first husband, actor Henry Fonda. Years earlier, during a casual conversation with some fellow actors on Broadway, Sullavan predicted Stewart would become a major Hollywood star. By 1936, Stewart was a contract player at MGM but getting only small parts in B-movies. At that time Sullavan worked for Universal and when she brought up Stewart's name, they were puzzled. The Universal casting-people had never heard of him. At Sullavan's suggestion Universal agreed to test him for her leading man and eventually he was borrowed from a willing MGM to star with Sullavan in Next Time We Love.

Stewart had been nervous and unsure of himself during the early stages of production. At that time he had only had two minor MGM parts which had not given him much camera experience. The director, Edward H. Griffith, began bullying Stewart. "Maggie, he's wet behind the ears", Griffith told Sullavan. "He's going to make a mess of things". She believed in Stewart and spent evenings coaching him and helping him scale down his awkward mannerisms and hesitant speech that were soon to be famous around the world. "It was Margaret Sullavan who made James Stewart a star", director Griffith later said. "And she did, too", Bill Grady from MGM agreed. "That boy came back from Universal so changed I hardly recognized him". Gossip in Hollywood at that time (1935–36) was that William Wyler, Sullavan's then-husband, was suspicious about his wife's and Stewart's private rehearsing together.

When Sullavan divorced Wyler in 1936 and married Leland Hayward that same year, they moved to a colonial house just a block down from Stewart. Stewart's frequent visits to the Sullavan/Hayward home soon restoked the rumors of his romantic feelings for Sullavan. Sullavan and Stewart's second movie together was The Shopworn Angel (1938). "Why, they´re red-hot when they get in front of a camera", Louis B. Mayer said about their onscreen chemistry. "I don't know what the hell it is, but it sure jumps off the screen". Walter Pidgeon, who was part of the triangle in The Shopworn Angel later recalled: "I really felt like the odd-man-out in that one. It was really all Jimmy and Maggie ... It was so obvious he was in love with her. He came absolutely alive in his scenes with her, playing with a conviction and a sincerity I never knew him to summon away from her". Eventually the duo made four movies together between 1936-1940 (Next Time We Love, The Shopworn Angel, The Shop Around the Corner and The Mortal Storm).

Read more about this topic:  Margaret Sullavan

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