The Fonda family name comes from Spain, by way of the Netherlands.
Started his acting debut with the Omaha Community Playhouse, a local amateur theater troupe directed by Dorothy Brando. He moved to the Cape Cod University Players and later Broadway, New York to expand his theatrical career from 1926 to 1934. His first major roles in Broadway include "New Faces of America" and "The Farmer Takes a Wife". The latter play was transfered to the screen in 1935 and became the start-up of Fonda's lifelong Hollywood career. The following year he married Frances Seymour Fonda with whom he had two children: Jane and Peter Fonda also to become screen stars. He is most remembered for his roles as Abe Lincoln in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Tom Joad in Grapes of Wrath, The (1940), for which he received an Academy Award Nomination, and more recently, Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond (1981), for which he received an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1982. Henry Fonda is considered one of Hollywood's old-time legends and was friend and contemporary of James Stewart, John Ford and Joshua Logan. His movie career which spanned almost 50 years is completed by a notable presence in American theater and television.
Noticeable for his "cat-like" walk, especially in westerns: moving at a slow but clock-like tempo, throwing forward one feet at time, while letting the arms dangle loosely at his sides.
(October 1997) Ranked #95 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
(1978) American Film Institute Life Achievement Award
Studied acting with 'Dorothy Brando', mother of Marlon Brando
(1948) Tony Award for "Mister Roberts" in the title role.
Eagle Scout and ScoutMaster (Youth and Early Adulthood)
During a Barbara Walters interview, Jane Fonda claims that her father, Henry Fonday was deeply in love with Lucille Ball and that the two were "very close" during the filming of "Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)"
Hobby was making model airplanes and kites.
"I dig my father. I wish he could open his eyes and dig me." - Peter Fonda
"I don't want to just sell war bonds. I want to be a sailor."
Fort Apache (1948) $110,000
Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
The words one associates most often with Henry Fonda are "honesty" and "integrity." He projected those qualities in the characters he played, and audiences came to associate them with Fonda himself. Similarly, those words can be used to describe his approach to acting. You never saw the wheels turning; you simply believed him. Raised in Omaha, the son of a printer, Fonda initially harbored ambitions of being a newspaperman and to that end became a journalism major at the University of Minnesota. He dropped out after two years to get a job, and shortly thereafter started dabbling in amateur theatrics. He eventually quit his office-boy job and worked full-time at the Omaha Community Playhouse. In 1928, while back East, he met several participants of the University Players group, and was persuaded to join them. The company included such future theatrical luminaries as Joshua Logan, Mildred Natwick, Margaret Sullavan, and later, James Stewart. He spent several years with the group, marrying Sullavan in 1931 and divorcing her two years later. (They made an unsuccessful screen test together for MGM in New York.) By 1934 he had reached Broadway and after scoring his first big hit as the rural Romeo in 1935's "The Farmer Takes a Wife," he was invited to Hollywood to reprise the role in a movie version opposite Janet Gaynor.
The lanky, soft-spoken Fonda hit a chord that resonated among picture-show audiences, especially those in America's heartland, where his down-home manner reminded them of ... themselves. He played rural youths in several more films, including Way Down East (also 1935), The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936, third-billed but no less memorable in his first Technicolor film), and Slim (1937). But he wasn't anxious to be typecast as a country bumpkin, and eagerly accepted a variety of assignments. He was teamed with former wife Sullavan in The Moon's Our Home (1936), a lame screwball comedy; with Sylvia Sidney, his Lonesome Pine costar, in You Only Live Once (1937, directed by Fritz Lang), a Bonnie-andClyde-type thriller; with Madeleine Carroll in Blockade (1938), a politically minded romance set during the Spanish Civil War; with Barbara Stanwyck in The Mad Miss Manton (1938), a screwball comedy-mystery; and with Bette Davis in Jezebel (also 1938), a torrid drama of the Old South.
Fonda's career got a major boost from his two-year stint with 20th Century-Fox. During that time he was assigned supporting roles-backing up Tyrone Power in Jesse James (1939, playing brother Frank), Don Ameche in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (also 1939), and Alice Faye in Lillian Russell (1940)-and leads alike. Director John Ford deserves credit for developing and exploiting Fonda's unique appeal as an American Everyman. He first starred the actor in a colorful, colonial-era drama, Drums Along the Mohawk then cast him in the title role of Young Mr. Lincoln (both 1939, Fonda more than rising to the challenge of playing this almost mythical giant of American history in the latter), and finally gave him the plum role of Okie migrant Tom Joad in his sober but brilliant adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1940). It was in the latter characterization, perhaps more than any other, that Fonda, deliberately or not, defined the essential American character: strong but gentle, independent but communal, pragmatic but optimistic, with a firm grasp of reality but a keen appreciation of faith. He was Oscar-nominated for this stirring performance but, amazingly, lost out (to his best friend, no less-Jimmy Stewart, winning for The Philadelphia Story
After starring in The Return of Frank James and Chad Hanna (both 1940), Fonda was loaned to Paramount, where he played the male lead in Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve (1941), proving that he could play deadpan comedy and do pratfalls with the best of 'em. He also played comedic roles in The Male Animal and The Magnificent Dope (both 1942), but it was a drama, The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), that gave him another of his signature roles, in this unforgettable lynch-mob story set in the Old West. He returned to that milieu in 1946, after serving with distinction (winning a Bronze Star and a Presidential citation) in the U.S. Navy during World War 2, to play frontier lawman Wyatt Earp in John Ford's My Darling Clementine Ford, perhaps wisely, ignored the historic Earp and had Fonda limn a character much closer to the stoic Western heroes Ford popularized in the silent era; the result was a classic morality play that still ranks as one of the landmarks of the Western genre.
Fonda worked for Ford again in 1947's The Fugitive a brooding drama set in Mexico, and in 1948's Fort Apache a cavalry-vs.-Indians story that cast him as a mustached martinet. Other postwar film assignments, like 1947's Daisy Kenyon and The Long Night were unexciting (though he and James Stewart had fun together in one segment of 1948's On Our Merry Way Fonda found greater satisfaction on the stage, in a play he came to love, "Mister Roberts," which he later reprised on film in 1955 (though, to his dismay, the movie version injected a great deal of comic horseplay, which led to a bitter-and irrevocable-fight between him and director John Ford; Mervyn LeRoy completed the film). Like many of the men he played on stage and screen, naval officer Roberts was a man of absolute integrity; this was a quality audiences came to associate with Fonda for the rest of his life. It's no accident he played U.S. presidents so often.
Following his triumph in the film version of Mister Roberts Fonda's film career took an upward turn. In 1957 alone, he played the voice of reason in the brilliant jury drama 12 Angry Men (a personal project that he also coproduced), an unjustly accused robbery suspect in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man and a frontier bounty hunter in The Tin Star He then played one of his most sophisticated roles, as an amorous theatrical producer in Stage Struck (a 1958 remake of Katharine Hepburn's Morning Glory There were still some good solid roles to come-in films like The Best Man and Fail-Safe (both 1964)-and opposite Lucille Ball in the engaging family comedy Yours, Mine and Ours (1968). But too many of Fonda's 1960s films offered him glorified cameo roles, or undistinguished leads: Advise and Consent, How the West Was Won, The Longest Day (all 1962), Spencer's Mountain (1963), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), The Rounders, In Harm's Way, Battle of the Bulge (all 1965), A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966), Welcome to Hard Times (1967), Madigan (1968). He made no bones about taking most of these assignments for the money-and to keep busy.
For sheer novelty, nothing could top his icy-cold turn as a hired killer in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He appeared another couple of times in cowboy garb, for 1970's EB> and The Cheyenne Social Club (the latter with James Stewart), and thereafter resigned himself to undemanding guest shots in the likes of Midway (1976), Tentacles, Rollercoaster (both 1977), The Swarm (1978), City on Fire Meteor (both 1979), and a passel of telefilms, the best of which were The Red Pony (1973) and Gideon's Trumpet (1980). His cinematic swan song, thankfully, was the genuinely moving On Golden Pond (1981), which daughter Jane produced so they could star together. His performance as a crotchety old man who is unforgiving of his grownup daughter won him his only Oscar.
Fonda starred in the TV series "The Deputy" (1959-61) and "The Smith Family" (1971-72), and guested on dozens of other shows. His celebrated one-man show on famed trial lawyer Clarence Darrow was broadcast by NBC in 1974. He also narrated many films and TV programs, from The Battle of Midway (1942) to America's Sweetheart: The Mary Pickford Story (1981). His children include actor Peter and actress Jane. In 1978 he was given a Life Achievement Award by the American Film Institute. Friends and colleagues still speak of his work with reverence and respect; he achieved what so few of them ever could on screentotal believability in every performance. His autobiography, "Fonda: My Life" was published in 1981.