Of course James Stewart had a phenomenally long (nearly 60 years in all) and successful career. He remains and always will be an iconic presence of the classic Hollywood era.
Sensitive question: in his final years, especially on TV with Johnny Carson, he seemed a bit too old and feeble to be out in public.
It was a long way from his commanding Alfred Hitchcock incarnations in 1948’s Rope, 1954’s Rear Window, 1956’s The Man Who Knew Too Much and 1958’s Vertigo. The fact that the latter title was named by international movie critics in a Sight & Sound poll a few years back as the best movie ever made (supplanting Citizen Kane) owes much to Stewart’s magnificent performance.
By the late 1970’s, Stewart was making odd choices for one reason or another. For example, he appeared with Mickey Rooney in 1978’s The Magic of Lassie. (His last outing was a voiceover part in a 1991 animated title about a group of emigre mice; Stewart died six years later at the age of 89.)
Stewart certainly didn’t need to keep going for the money. Thanks to his canny talent agent, Lew Wasserman, who negotiated groundbreaking salary and percentage-of -box office deals on Stewart’s behalf, he died a multimillionaire many times over.
Perhaps it’s best to chalk it up to a superbly talented actor adjusting to advanced age, and taking whatever projects appealed to him. There’s no shame in the sad fact that the elderly often lose a step or two.
As for us, we will take Jimmy Stewart in anything at any age.