Jimmy Stewart made three feature films in 1952. The Greatest Show on Earth, Bend of the River, and this movie. For Stewart, this film served to reunite him with director Richard Thorpe. The two had worked together on Malaya in 1949. Additionally, this film would connect Stewart with Wendell Corey, who would work with him on the hit film Rear Window in 1954. This film was also part of a huge year for Jean Hagen. She would go on to be nominated for an Oscar for her role in Singin’ in the Rain which was also released in 1952.
Carbine Williams is based on the true story of David Marshall Williams, designer of the M1 carbine rifle. This film was directed by Richard Thorpe (Jailhouse Rock), based on the story and screenplay by Art Cohn (Stromboli). In addition to Jimmy Stewart, the cast of this film includes Jean Hagen (Adam’s Rib) and Wendell Corey (The Search).
The story follows “Marsh” Williams from his youth through his turbulent early adulthood, when his decisions landed him in prison. As he seeks to come to terms with the lengthy sentence he’s been given, Williams seeks a way to create something. Soon he’s working to develop a weapon unlike any that has ever been seen. This isn’t for use on the prisoners or the guards, but for revolutionizing the weaponry of the military.
Carbine Williams is one of several biographical films Stewart starred in throughout his career. In addition to David Marshall Williams, Stewart would portray men like Glenn Miller, Monty Stratton, and Charles Lindbergh. As with much of his work after World War II, Stewart portrayed a more flawed character. While he had established himself with films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, his post-war work proved that he was far more versatile.
The movie isn’t one of Stewart’s better films from a visual standpoint. The straightforward visuals work with the movie of the week style of the story. Thankfully, Stewart, Hagen, and Corey all do nice work that elevates the story. The movie was filmed on location, which does add a certain authenticity to the whole experience. As a whole, this might not be a memorable film, but it’s another good example of the versatility of James Stewart.
The following year Stewart would find success with two Anthony Mann films, The Naked Spur and Thunder Bay. These would be the third and fourth films that the two would collaborate on. His next biographical film would come in 1954 with The Glenn Miller Story.