13 Hands Publications Honors Jimmy Stewart
We came across this Tonight Show gem from 1981 where Jimmy Stewart reads a poem he wrote about his dog Beau. Even Johnny Carson shed a tear. We’re sharing this in honor of Jimmy Stewart for National Poetry Month. After watching it, we’d like to hear your thoughts. Feel free to take the poll and enter any comments you may have.
Kindred, Canine Poetic Souls (Beau & Zuko)
by Michael P. Naughton
“Life is a series of dogs.” -- George Carlin
I miss Johnny Carson. I miss Jimmy Stewart. We’ll never see the uniqueness of talent like that of these men ever again.
Jimmy Stewart left behind a legacy of indelible cinematic work: It’s a Wonderful Life, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Vertigo, Rear Window – these are just a few of my personal favorites – But he deserves credit as a gifted poet as well, and nowhere is his gift more pronounced than in his poem Beau. The structure is rhyming verse mixed with levity and domestic imagery. If you are a dog owner, this poem is a heartbreaker. It’s the day we dread the most… losing one of our best friends and companions.
Stewart shares the good times he spent with Beau and his family. Beau’s love, loyalty and personality. But it is “that stare” that Mr. Stewart shares that really causes us to reflect. What is his dog, which becomes our dog, thinking? What troubles them? Is it loneliness? Do they feel changes in themselves and those around us, our sentient canine friends? Do they understand more than we know? I like to think so with dogs like Beau (and Zuko – my own dog).
Beau is beautiful and separates the celebrity from the poet. Jimmy Stewart could have been an unknown author of this work and it would still stand alone (on four legs) and speak to us. Certainly, it’s his delivery, as Jimmy Stewart, the actor, helps entertain us in the spoken word, but we don’t have to know Jimmy Stewart, the actor, to appreciate his gift of poetry. His experience with man’s best friend is relatable and universal. We all know a dog like Beau. For me, it’s my dog, Zuko.
© Michael P. Naughton
Jimmy Stewart: A Wonderful Life
by Donna Novak
A moment in time was captured and lives on through this video, and I am personally brought to tears every time I watch it. Jimmy Stewart’s sweet reflections in his poem about his dog Beau and his entertaining delivery of Beau’s mischievous nature lent to the audience’s amusement and laughter. The poem clearly shows Jimmy Stewart’s love and fondness of his friend. He takes us through subtle changes in Beau as time passed, and finally his sorrow and longing for moments that were forever gone.
Actors put their heart into a role while the rest of us disappear in the illusion of their creation. As an actor you have the responsibility to bring life into the characters that are written. As a writer, the characters on the page are your responsibility. Some performances are so strong that we can actually identify with them and they inspire us, which has been the case with so many of Jimmy Stewart’s movies and characters he’s played, such as George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Here, as a writer of this poem, he opens the window and allows us a glimpse into his home. In a few brief moments he eloquently sums up a long friendship. In sharing such a personal poem, we get to see beyond the characters he’s played.
Jimmy Stewart’s poem stayed with me all day. Maybe it’s because I have a dog, Zuko, who’s been with me for many years, and he’s older now and I can’t imagine being without him. Maybe it stayed with me because of the impermanence of life– how one day everything must come to an end and all that’s left is what you made of your life and how you made people feel– Maybe it’s because it illustrates how important it is to enjoy even the simplicities of life now. Maybe it stayed with me because it shows how one person, or in this case animal, can make such a difference in the life of someone else.
Those great moments, as illustrated in this poem and even further in the video– and the fact that Mr. Stewart was moved to write about them, are what makes the difference in people’s lives, in the lives of others, and in their inspirations and experiences. Isn’t that what It’s a Wonderful Life was really all about? For me, Jimmy Stewart is much like George Bailey.
© Donna Novak