It may have been for an audience of two, but Jimmy Stewart gave one of his best performances in a Hawaiian hotel room on Christmas morning in 1958.

“My dad dressed as Santa Claus and came into our bedroom – my sister and I were astounded,” his daughter Kelly Stewart Harcourt, who was seven-years-old at the time, tells ‘Closer’ of a fond childhood memory.

Though Kelly, with her twin sister, Judy, realized it was their dad – after she spied his pajama sleeve sticking out from under his Santa suit – Jimmy never broke character, even when she tried to bust him. “I slapped him on the back and nudged him, but he just carried on as Santa,” she recalls.

jimmy stewart kids

Jimmy with his wife and twin daughters in 1951.

For the actor, who became a key part of America’s holiday traditions through his portrayal of George Bailey in the perennially popular, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ spending time with his family – the twins, their mom, Gloria, and his stepsons, Michael and Ronald – always came first.

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They even watched ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ together! “He often said his favorite movie was ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ but dad was very critical of his performances,” remembers Kelly.

jimmy stewart 'it's a wonderful life'

Jimmy in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in 1946.

Jimmy’s perfectionism spilled over into Christmas celebrations, which were usually held at the family’s home in Beverly Hills. “We always spent a long time decorating the tree. Dad was very particular about hanging the tinsel,” Kelly recalls.

“We’d come down for breakfast and mom and dad would be there with big smiles on their faces and presents under the tree. It was very warm and happy,” she says.

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