The Co-Star That Made 17 Western Movies Alongside Jimmy Stewart
Feb 12, 2024
The Big Picture
Jimmy Stewart and his horse co-star Pie had an extraordinary bond on and off-screen, solidifying them as one of the most legendary human-animal partnerships in Hollywood.
Horses on film sets have had both tragic and comedic moments, but efforts from organizations like the American Humane Association have improved their treatment.
Pie’s legacy goes beyond being Stewart’s co-star, highlighting the versatility and brilliance of animal actors and the profound connection between humans and animals.
Too often, human actors bask in the spotlight, overshadowing the captivating animal performers who breathe life into countless films. Hollywood brims with thrilling tales of actors and their equine co-stars, like John Wayne’s beloved companion Dollor, Gene Autry’s trusty Champion, and the legendary Rex the Wonder Horse, silent film star of the 1920s and ’30s. These enduring partnerships delivered iconic performances that continue to mesmerize audiences. One such collaboration shines exceptionally brightly: Jimmy Stewart and Pie, the horse who shared the silver screen 17 times alongside the Hollywood stalwart. Their on-screen chemistry, though less examined, was undeniable, and their off-screen bond was even deeper. They shared a distinctive language, a connection that transcended ownership despite Stewart’s many failed attempts to buy Pie. This legendary friendship stands as a testament to the profound bond that can develop between humans and animals.
The Cheyenne Social Club An aging cowboy finds to his embarrassment that the successful business he has inherited from his brother is actually a house of prostitution.Release Date June 12, 1970 Director Gene Kelly Cast James Stewart , Henry Fonda , Shirley Jones , Sue Ane Langdon , Elaine Devry , Robert Middleton Runtime 103 minutes Main Genre Western
Jimmy Stewart and Pie Had a Remarkable Relationship
During Jimmy Stewart’s robust career, he became an iconic face in the Western genre, known for classics such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Bend of the River. Out of all the Westerns he appeared in, a remarkable 17 featured him riding the same trusty steed: Pie. As reported by NPR, in a podcast featuring former Hollywood story editor Petrine Day Mitchum, who is also the author of Hollywood Hoofbeats, a book about horses in movies and television, Stewart and Pie’s relationship on and off-screen was the stuff of legendary folklore. According to Tom Hanks’interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where the iconic actor discusses his first Western movie News of the World, Stewart’s regard for Pie was so high that his only piece of movie memorabilia in his house was a painting of Pie, gifted to him by Henry Fonda. Hanks, who had visited Stewart in his final years and had a tour of the legendary actor’s house, said that Stewart’s co-star in 17 movies died a week after Fonda gifted Stewart the painting.
According to Scott Eyman, author of Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart, during the making of the hilarious Western comedy The Cheyenne Social Club in 1970, the then elderly Pie wasn’t feeling well and would sometimes be taken off the shoot for medical reasons. At the time, Stewart’s son had also just died during the Vietnam War, causing Stewart even more grief. Fonda, who was a talented painter, used some of the time Pie was on a break to do an oil painting of him. After the filming of The Cheyenne Social Club, Fonda presented Pie’s oil painting, to Stewart’s amazement.
Related Jimmy Stewart Sheds His Western Persona for This Groundbreaking Legal Drama Stewart plays a lawyer on the hunt for a challenge, not justice.
Unlike the bitter ending of Jimmy Stewart and Anthony Mann’s professional partnership, Stewart and Pie’s bond remained strong until the very end. As per NPR, during the trio’s collaboration on The Far Country, a scene required Pie to walk alone in the street for a long shot that was being dolly-filmed. Seemingly impossible, Mann asked Stewart if Pie could handle it. According to NPR’s archived recording of Stewart himself, Stewart shared: “I said, ‘Pie,’ (laughter) ‘now, this is tough because you’re a horse. But you have to walk straight down there, and I’m not going to be on you, you see.'” As NPR’s archived recording reveals, after this seemingly long chat, to everyone’s surprise, Pie did exactly as instructed. “I loved him. I loved the horse,” Stewart simply said. Although it is only a written transcription, you can hear his voice and feel his soul in these words. As per Eyman, Pie’s painting is under Stewart’s son Michael Stewart’s care, with an illuminating light that never goes off.
Pie Had Broken a Few Actors’ Hearts Before Meeting Jimmy Stewart
According to Steve Hulett, former Disney Animation writer and author of Mouse in Orbit, Stewart’s Pie wasn’t for everyone. War hero Audie Murphy and actors Glenn Ford and Kirk Douglas, among others, rode Pie, with some finding themselves in precarious situations with the equine. Glenn Ford, particularly, had an unforgettable encounter with Pie’s rage. Hulett quotes Stewart, “I saw [Pie] when I started making Westerns. Audie Murphy rode him a couple of times. He nearly killed Glenn Ford, ran right into a tree… But I liked this darned little horse. He was a little bit small, a little quarter horse and Arabian. I got to know him like a friend.” Stewart and Pie’s bond was immediate, a love story on and off-screen. Pie, the horse who almost unseated other leading men, became Stewart’s loyal companion, further solidifying the charm that captivated both film audiences and President Truman, who once declared, “If Bess and I had a son, we’d want him to be just like Jimmy Stewart.”
As per NPR, Pie belonged to a woman named Stevie Myers, who rented him out to various Hollywood clients. One of her most loyal customers was Jimmy Stewart. Though Stewart grew so fond of Pie that he wanted to buy him, Stevie wouldn’t sell. Nevertheless, this didn’t diminish Stewart’s love for the steed. Their bond continued throughout Pie’s life, creating shared memories that, like Fonda’s painting, continue to illuminate our screens. When Pie passed away, Stewart’s attachment to him was so profound that he buried the horse in a secret grave in the San Fernando Valley. Stewart and Pie’s relationship transcended the typical human-animal bond; it was a love story that lasted a lifetime, leaving an enduring legacy.
Horses Have Had Tragic Moments on Film Sets
With the majestic scenes that horses like Pie create, not all has always been rosy behind the scenes for the equines. Some filmmakers employed barbaric methods for cinematic falls. Trip wires snapping under hooves and hidden pits swallowing unsuspecting steeds were some of those methods. As per NPR, one disheartening tale that changed this involved Errol Flynn during the filming of Charge of the Light Brigade.Flynn’s outcry spurred change, bringing the American Humane Association onto sets and ushering in the art of the trained fall, which was an improvement in horses’ acting work environment and a reprieve for co-stars like Pie.
Though often relegated to the role of supporting player, Pie’s legacy extends far beyond being Stewart’s loyal steed. His presence elevated countless Westerns, his intelligence and adaptability allowing him to seamlessly transition between genres, from the comedic heights of The Cheyenne Social Club to the dramatic intensity of Winchester ’73. Pie’s career stands as a testament to the versatility and brilliance of animal actors. Beyond the silver screen, Jimmy Stewart and Pie’s partnership transcends mere movie magic. It signifies the profound connection possible between humans and animals, a bond built on trust, respect, and shared experiences. Their story offers a heartwarming reminder that sometimes, the most captivating scenes unfold not in scripted dialogue, but in the quiet moments of companionship. Pie, like his co-star Jimmy Stewart, is a true legend of cinema who deserves his flowers.
The Cheyenne Social Club is available to rent on Prime Video and Apple TV+ in the U.S.
Rent on Prime Video
Publisher: Source link