James Stewart was so “visibly excited” with a co-star that the director had to stop filming | Movies | Entertainment

On screen and to his adoring audience, Stewart was the classic nice guy, a clean-lined gentleman. In 1949 he married socialite Gloria McLean, relatively late in life at age 41, and the couple remained devoted for 44 years. Before that, the actor had many high-profile (but hush-hush) lovers and scandalous affairs. Ten years before his wedding, he had a steamy, short-lived affair with one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons that consumed the actor so much he was unable to control himself while filming a passionate scene. The director’s fury at the time paled next to the actress’s when Stewart ended the affair.

1939’s Destry Rides Again was billed as “A vigorous saga of a vigorous age”. Its two stars have certainly taken this to heart, with a passionate and tumultuous affair.

Stewart was on a Hollywood high at the time, but her leading lady had been called “box office poison” after a string of flops. A wild western adventure wasn’t what most would expect Marlene Dietrich to do next, but it was exactly what she needed for her career.

As a tramp Frenchie saloon singer, the sophisticated German-born star gets into bar fights and performs iconic numbers like See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have. Backstage, she was up to her usual tricks with an initially bewitched Stewart.

When what was happening became very apparent, director George Marshall was forced to step in. He immediately stopped filming, saying he told Stewart to control himself while “waving his finger reproachfully.” It might have been permissive Hollywood, but time spent in Tinseltown still meant money.

But it was when Stewart ended the affair that the real drama began. Dietrich was furious, deeply hurt, and (probably most importantly) her pride was deeply hurt.

It didn’t help when Stewart later dismissed him: “That was so long ago, in another life. But yeah, we had a lot of fun together. Nothing too serious, just riding. “

The actress quickly got her revenge. It wasn’t just with her husband that she shared inappropriate personal details about her lovers.

The popular story has always been that Dietrich was pregnant with Stewart’s child, but he forced her to end it. Orson Welles apparently accompanied her to the hospital.

Whether or not it’s true, the story has caught on in Hollywood, painting Stewart in a ruthless light. And it came straight from the source.

The actress’ friend, Burgess Meredith, who died in 1997, said: “The person who started those rumors was Dietrich. I think she considered it an unforgivable sin when Jim told her it was finished.”

After Dietrich and Stewart parted ways so acrimoniously, they worked together again in 1951 on No Highway In The Sky. By then he was married but she would continue to have affairs until she was seventy.

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