In 1954, James Stewart starred in his favorite of films with director Alfred Hitchcock. Back Window, which hit cinemas 68 years ago today, was filmed entirely at Paramount Studios and saw the much-loved Hollywood legend star opposite Grace Kelly.
According to Stewart: “Everyone just sat and waited [Grace] to come in the morning, so we can just watch it. She was kind to everyone, so considerate, just awesome and so beautiful.
The 46-year-old also praised his 25-year-old wife’s instinctive acting talent and her “complete understanding of how cinema is performed”.
Hitchcock enjoyed working with his leading man, compared to the “difficult and demanding” Cary Grant, as he found Stewart to be easy-going and a hard-working performer.
However, their relationship was both oddly intimate and slightly distant, as they didn’t really socialize off set. Even on the field, they barely spoke other than through the occasional knowing gaze.
According to the Rear Window star, Hitchcock wouldn’t discuss a scene with an actor, but preferred to hire stars who instinctively knew what to do when he said “action.”
Apparently, at most the director said to Stewart something along the lines of “the scene is tired”, which would mean that his timing wasn’t quite right.
READ MORE: Alfred Hitchcock ‘tricked’ North by Northwest star out of lead role
Almost a decade later, Stewart starred alongside John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, directed by the infamous John Ford.
The filmmaker was well known for regularly lambasting his actors for better performances, including baiting Duke for not fighting in World War II.
Near the end of filming for the western, Ford asked Stewart what he thought of Woody Strode’s costume for the beginning and end of the film when their characters were portrayed as being 25 years older.
The Rear Window star said: “It sounds a bit like Uncle Remussy to me.” It was a reference to the controversial fictional narrator of 19th century African-American folk tales, who was later the title character in the 1946 Disney film Song of the South – a film that Disney does not make available today due to of its racist stereotypes.
In response, Ford said, “What’s wrong with Uncle Remus?” The director then caught the crew’s attention and yelled, “One of our players doesn’t like Woody’s costume. Now, I don’t know if Mr. Stewart has a bias against niggers, but I just wanted you all to know.
Stewart later said he “wanted to crawl down a mousehole” after that and Wayne told him, “Well, welcome to the club. I’m glad you made it.