Published On: Sun, Jun 5th, 2022

James Stewart’s devastating ‘betrayal’ of Marlene Dietrich after on-set affair | Films | Entertainment


James Stewart became known as one of America’s best-loved leading men from the 1930s through to the 1960s. His filmography is exceptionally impressive, having starred in such iconic pictures as It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Harvey. He even won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story.

His films are still being shown to this day – with How The West Was Won hitting screens on BBC 2 at 1:30pm.

But, behind the scenes of the American hero’s life was a scandal. He dated many of the women who worked on his movies. And in 1939, things went wrong for the star.

Stewart was cast opposite Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again. At the time, this was a match made in heaven, as the German-born actress was also on a path to success in Hollywood.

Although she was only ever nominated for one Oscar award, in 1999 she was named the ninth “greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema” by the American Film Institute. And when Dietrich arrived on set for Destry Rides Again, Stewart locked his sights on her.

The pair reportedly indulged in a “steamy” affair that took hold of both actors throughout their time on set. But, looking back on the relationship, Stewart didn’t think much of their time together.

He said years later: “That was such a long time ago, in another lifetime. But yeah, we had some fun together. Nothing too serious, just horsing around.”

But it was a lot more serious than that. And this was proven during their scenes together in the movie.

Stewart looked “visibly” excited at one point during filming, according to the movie’s director, George Marshall.

He noted that, during one passionate love scene shoot, Stewart became “obviously aroused” by Dietrich. The director had no choice but to call for a “cut” during the filming so Stewart could compose himself.

READ MORE: James Stewart’s heartbreaking final words on Henry Fonda

Stewart was apparently forceful in his suggestions to Dietrich that she should go to a doctor and get an abortion.

Orson Welles – a friend of Dietrich and fellow Hollywood star – took Dietrich to have the procedure.

It was around this time that Stewart broke up with Dietrich. An act that she deemed “sinful”.

According to Michael Munn’s book, Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind The Legend, Dietrich was furious about their break-up.

And she even made up some stories about him.

Dietrich’s friend, Burgess Meredith, who died in 1997, said in the book: “The person who started those rumours was Dietrich. I think she considered it an unpardonable sin when Jim told her it was over.”

After Dietrich and Stewart split, they worked together in some other movies, but never reignited their flame.

Ten years after their relationship, Stewart married for the first and only time. He married Gloria Hatrick McLean, with whom he had four children. Gloria died in 1994. Stewart died just three years later, in 1997, due to a pulmonary embolism.

Dietrich died just a few years earlier, in 1992, after suffering kidney failure aged 90.

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