This is the 1983 Kennedy Center Honor for James Stewart. And it's a good one. That seems to be rare when the honoree is an actor, since it generally tends to be difficult to build a good foundation of entertainment. And the entertainment, as far as most presentations go, is indeed low-key. But even without that, they pull it off. Low-key as it is, what what do with it, is choice.
Make no mistake, the entertainment in memorable. In fact, though this is from 34 years ago, I still remember watching this live when Carol Burnett brings out her backup singers. The emotional reaction from Jimmy Stewart is memorable. Over the years, the Kennedy Center Honors has done something like this a few times. And it's always been pleasant. But I think this was the first time, and specifically because of how it relates to Jimmy Stewart's overall career and life, this is pretty much the one time when it really worked so movingly.) Actually, "emotional" is what is the centerpiece of making this presentation so good.
(A quick side note. Throughout her appearance, Burnett repeated apologizes for not being a real singer. In fairness, part of her saying that is as a set-up for bring out her back-up singers. However, she later keeps repeating it. But it's worth noting that she starred in two Broadway musicals, Once Upon a Mattress and Fade Out-Fade In.)
For starters, Burt Lancaster is the host of the segment. Then, far more than most (which is understandable, given the honoree), when they get to the filmed biography, it is just overloaded with great clips. And then later when Carol Burnett (who has long been public about idolizing Jimmy Stewart) sings another song, which is related to a Stewart movie, you wonder if she'll make it through. And she's preceded by an impressive guest, who stays around and joins her for the song.
It's all pretty wonderful.