James Stewart

Born May 20, 1908, in Indiana, Pa., James Stewart aspired to an architectural career but joined an acting troupe while attending Princeton University and changed his life's trajectory. After small parts on Broadway, he answered Hollywood's call and made his first significant silver-screen appearance in Next Time We Love (1936).

Stewart's breakout film followed in 1939: Playing a young senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the gangly actor snagged a Best Actor nod -- and won the next year for The Philadelphia Story. His distinctive stammer and everyman demeanor had long since won over audiences, but his most endearing role came in 1946 with It's a Wonderful Life.

He starred in several Alfred Hitchcock movies, including Rear Window (1954), and later delivered memorable turns in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and The Shootist (1976). Stewart died from a pulmonary embolism July 2, 1997.