Sunday, May 16, 2010

Remembering Henry Fonda

Henry Jaynes Fonda was born on May 16, 1905 in Grand Island, Nebraska. His father was a printer and Henry worked for him during his youth and dreamed of becoming a journalist. He attended the University of Minnesota's school of Journalism but did not graduate. He left school and took a job at the Retail Credit Co. At 20 he started acting at the Omaha Community Playhouse on the recommendation of his mother's friend Dodie Brando, Marlon's mother. He overcame his shyness and opened up through the characters he played on stage. He then traveled East and to Cape Cod and joined the University Players where he met his first wife Margaret Sullivan and lifelong friend James Stewart. Fonda divorced Sullivan and went to New York City and Broadway. He was later joined by Stewart. He was offered a film role in Hollywood's “The Farmer Take's a Wife” (1935). His career took-off after his appearance in “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” (1936). This was followed by “Jezebel” (1938) with Bette Davis. He married Frances Ford Seymour in 1937 and a daughter Jane was born in 1937. 1940 brought “The Grapes of Wrath” and an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Son Peter was born also born that year. Henry served in the Navy during World War II. After the war he appeared in “My Darling Clementine” (1946) and “Fort Apache” (1948). He returned to Broadway appearing in “Mr. Roberts” along with a rookie actor named Lee Van Cleef. Fonda brought the play to film in 1955. His career continued to prosper and he turned down Sergio Leone's offer to play the lead in “Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”. Sergio was finally able to acquire his talents when he appeared against type as the villain Frank in “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) and again as an aging gunman in “My Name is Nobody” (1972). He reached the pinnacle of his career by winning an Academy Award for best actor in 1981's “On Golden Pond” with Katharine Hepburn and his daughter Jane He died shortly afterward on August 12, 1982 from heart failure. Today we celebrate what would have been Henry Fonda's 105th birthday.

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