The surprise gift of his geneology made him really beam!
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“Mr. Krueger’s Christmas” was originally produced as a TV special to be broadcast in December 1980 and in 22 countries the next year. By Dec. 21, 1980, more than 40,000 persons had requested the free brochure and Tabernacle Choir recording offered on the program.
According to an article in the Nov. 29, 1980, Church News, after making the film, Mr. Stewart said, “I like it because it tells the real, true reason Christmas is celebrated — the birth of Jesus Christ.”
The other major star of the production was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, directed by Jerold D. Ottley. After filming the scene where Mr. Stewart directed the choir, choir members gave him a standing ovation, according to the Church News article.
Classic Movie Star, Jimmy Stewart, was in semi-retirement when he was approached to do this film. He later confessed that it had been one of his life-long dreams to conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
“We were working on different ideas, (we, meaning Bonneville Communications) and we were looking for a way to get the message of Christ and Christmas over, and I‘ve forgotten who it was but one of the Bonneville people came up with this idea of Mr. Kreuger’s Christmas and we said, ‘Who would we like?’ And we said, ‘Well, there‘s only one man in this world who could do justice to that. His name is Jimmy Stewart. He‘d be perfect, but he doesn‘t do it anymore.’
And so we went to his agent and he told us later, he said, ‘You know I don‘t do this stuff anymore. I‘m too old.’ But he said, ‘When my agent told me he had a program where I‘d have the opportunity to conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,’ he says, ‘You knew that‘d get me, didn‘t you?’ Stewart looked me right square in the eye. I said, ‘Yeah, I sure did.’ He says, ‘Well it did, and thank you very much.’ And then he was magnificent. We got hundreds of thousands of letters requesting what we were offering and then, after it was all over, we decided: What can we do to thank Jimmy Stewart? Because he doesn‘t need money, you know. And finally some guy, (and this is the way the Lord works; it‘s really interesting), and he said, ‘Heber, I understand you‘re trying to figure out something to give Jimmy Stewart for a gift. He said, ‘We‘ve been working on his genealogy for years, he said, ‘Why don‘t you give him his genealogy? And I said, ‘Well, that‘s wonderful. How much will it cost me? I could be wrong but I think he said, ‘Ten thousand dollars. It was either one thousand or ten, I don‘t remember for sure, but whichever it was, it was a bargain and I said, ‘That‘d be great. And so we got his genealogy and then when we were thanking him, we had President Tanner there and President Tanner said, ‘As a little token of our appreciation, we‘d like to give you this, and handed him his genealogy. And he opened it up and started looking at it and said, ‘Where‘d you get that? That‘s where I was born.’ He was absolutely thrilled to death. He was so thrilled he could hardly speak, and it was just the right thing.
Afterwards, Stewart donated a collection of his memorabilia to BYU in 1983. The quest to get the “Stewart Papers” began with BYU Motion Picture Archive curator James D’Arc writing letters to Jimmy Stewart in 1982.
D’Arc said he was impressed by Stewart and wanted his films, papers, scrapbooks and home movies to be housed in BYU’s special collections because Stewart was “not only a darn good actor, but a tremendous man of character and integrity.”
After a few months of writing to Stewart with no reply, Stewart wrote a “very apologetic letter” to D’Arc and asked him to come and discuss the acquisition of his memorabilia at his office in Beverly Hills. The office was “non-descript, with ho-hum decorations” D’Arc said, which he found surprising because of Stewart’s affluence and status.
According to D’Arc, the two chatted for a while about Stewart’s career working with Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly, and then Stewart “leaned back, looked at the ceiling and said ‘Well, I think I’ll do it.'” Then, D’Arc and Stewart sat on the floor in Stewart’s unpretentious home and packed up the “Stewart Papers” together. “Jimmy Stewart was the real McCoy, the genuine article,” D’Arc said.
In 1985, BYU had a James Stewart week where Stewart and his wife, Gloria Hatrick “came, saw and conquered BYU,” according to D’Arc. They met with the First Presidency, toured BYU campus and concluded their visit by showing one of Stewart’s classic films, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in the de Jong Concert Hall.
Taken from:Jonice L. Hubbard , PIONEERS IN TWENTIETH CENTURY MORMON MEDIA: Oral Histories of Latter-day Saint Electronic Media and Public Relations Professionals , p. 214-215.