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Henry Jaynes Fonda

Also Known As: "Hank"
Birthplace: Grand Island, Hall County, Nebraska, United States
Death: August 12, 1982 (77)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States (Heart Disease)
Place of Burial: Cremated and scattered to the wind
Immediate Family:

Son of William Brace Fonda and Elma Herbetja Jaynes
Husband of Frances Ford Fonda and Shirlee Mae Fonda
Ex-husband of Margaret Brooke Sullavan; Margaret Sullavan; Susan Blanchard and Baroness Afdera Franchetti
Father of Jane Fonda; Peter Fonda and Private
Brother of Private; Herberta Jayne Schoentgen and Private
Half brother of Private and Private

Occupation: Actor
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda was an American film and stage actor with a career spanning more than five decades.

Fonda made his mark early as a Broadway actor. He also appeared in 1938 in plays performed in White Plains, New York, with Joan Tompkins. He made his Hollywood debut in 1935, and his career gained momentum after his Academy Award-nominated performance as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, a 1940 adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel about an Oklahoma family who moved west during the Dust Bowl.

Throughout six decades in Hollywood, Fonda cultivated a strong, appealing screen image in such classics as The Ox-Bow Incident, Mister Roberts, and 12 Angry Men. Later, Fonda moved both toward darker epics such as Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West and lighter roles in family comedies such as Yours, Mine and Ours with Lucille Ball, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 54th Academy Awards for the movie On Golden Pond, his final film role.

Fonda was the patriarch of a family of famous actors, including daughter Jane Fonda, son Peter Fonda, granddaughter Bridget Fonda, and grandson Troy Garity. His family and close friends called him "Hank." In 1999, he was named the sixth-Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute.

Fonda was born in Grand Island, Nebraska to advertising-printing jobber William Brace Fonda and Elma Herberta Jaynes, in the second year of their marriage. The Fonda family had emigrated westward from New York in the 1800s, and traces its ancestry from Genoa, Italy to The Netherlands in the 1500s, and then to the United States of America in the 1600s, settling in the town now called Fonda, New York. Note that this town is in the center of action of the 1939 film, "Drums Along the Mohawk," which co-starred Henry Fonda with Claudette Colbert in a story of the Revolutionary War.

Fonda was brought up as a Christian Scientist and claimed that “my whole damn family was nice”. They were a close family and highly supportive, especially in health matters as they avoided doctors due to their religion. Fonda was a bashful, short boy who tended to avoid girls, except his sisters, and was a good skater, swimmer, and runner. He worked part-time in his father’s print plant and imagined a possible career as a journalist. Later, he worked after school for the phone company. He also enjoyed drawing. Fonda was active in the Boy Scouts of America and was a Scoutmaster, but was not an Eagle Scout as some report. When he was about fourteen, his father took him to observe a lynching, from the window of his father’s plant, of a young Black man accused of rape. This so enraged the young Fonda that a keen social awareness of prejudice was present within him for his entire adult life. By his senior year in high school, he grew suddenly to over six feet but remained a shy teenager. He then attended the University of Minnesota, majoring in journalism, but he did not graduate. He took a job with the Retail Credit Company.

At age 20, Fonda started his acting career at the Omaha Community Playhouse when his mother's friend Dodie Brando (mother of Marlon Brando) needed a juvenile player for You and I. He was both fascinated by the stage, learning everything from set construction to stage production, and also profoundly embarrassed by his acting ability.When he received the lead in Merton of the Movies, he realized the beauty of acting as a profession, as it allowed him to deflect attention from his own tongue-tied personality and create stage characters relying on someone else’s scripted words. Fonda decided to quit his job and go East in 1928 to strike his fortune. He arrived on Cape Cod and soon found a job with the Provincetown Players and Joshua Logan's University Players, an intercollegiate summer stock company, where he worked with Margaret Sullavan, his future wife, and began a lifelong friendship with James Stewart. His first role with Logan was as an Italian nobleman in The Jest, which quickly proved that Fonda had little talent to play foreigners with accents and needed to stick to American roles, as did his friend Jimmy Stewart.

Actor. His motion picture acting career lasted from 1935 to 1981, and included such as "Young Mr. Lincoln," "Mister Roberts," "The Grapes of Wrath" and "On Golden Pond.". Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, he majored in journalism in college, but found acting more to his liking. His early stage stints included the amateur Omaha Community Playhouse, where he met Jocelyn Brando, the mother of future Hollywood icon Marlon Brando. In the late 1920s, he journeyed east to join the Provinceton Players and then the University Players Guild. There, he met fellow actor Jimmy Stewart, with whom he became lifelong friends. Fonda appeared on Broadway theatre in New York City, New York, and then debuted on screen in "The Farmer Takes a Wife." He began a screen partnership with movie director John Ford in 1939's "Young Mr. Lincoln," then "Drums Along the Mohawk" and "The Grapes of Wrath." Henry Fonda won his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination in 1940 for his portrayal of John Steinbeck’s ‘Tom Joad’, the reluctant hero of "Grapes of Wrath." His next significant films were Preston Sturges’ comic romance "The Lady Eve" (1941) and William Wellman’s "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943). He enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II, and served three years on the destroyer “USS Satterlee” (DD-626), being awarded a Bronze Star for his service. Upon his return to acting after his discharge he achieved success again with Ford in "My Darling Clementine" (1946). Dissatisfied with Fox Pictures Studios, Fonda abandoned Hollywood for seven years, appearing on Broadway theatre in the plays "Mister Roberts" and "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial." His 1955 movie return in "Mister Roberts" (1955), with James Cagney, Jack Lemmon and William Powell, was a great success. Fonda followed with "War and Peace" (1956), Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Wrong Man" (1956), and Sidney Lumet’s "Twelve Angry Men" (1957, which Fonda also produced). His portrayal of ‘Juror #8’ in “Twelve Angry Men” helped the film get nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. His work in the 1960s and 1970s included "Fail Safe," "Yours, Mine and Ours," and the 1969 Sergio Leone spaghetti Western "Once Upon a Time in the West," in which he played the villain. Married five times, Henry Fonda in 1979 starred with son Peter Fonda in "Wanda Nevada" and daughter Jane Fonda in "On Golden Pond" in 1981, with the latter film also starring Katharine Hepburn. After being awarded an honorary Oscar the year before, he won the Best Actor Academy Award for "On Golden Pond" but was too sick to attend the ceremony. He passed away only months later in August 1982.

Bio by: LincolnFan

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Henry Fonda's Timeline

May 16, 1905
Grand Island, Hall County, Nebraska, United States
Age 17
Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, United States
Age 17
Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, United States
December 21, 1937
New York City, New York, United States
February 23, 1940
Manhattan, New York County, New York, United States