Henry Fonda Overview:

Legendary actor, Henry Fonda, was born Henry Jaynes Fonda on May 16, 1905 in Grand Island, NE. Fonda appeared in over 110 film and TV roles. His best known films include Jezebel, Jesse James, Young Mr. Lincoln, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Grapes of Wrath, The Lady Eve, The Male Animal, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, Mister Roberts, 12 Angry Men, How the West Was Won, Once Upon a Time in the West and On Golden Pond. Fonda died at the age of 77 on Aug 12, 1982 in Los Angeles, CA and was cremated and his ashes scattered in unknown location.


Patriarch of the Fonda family acting dynasty, Henry Fonda is one of America's most accomplished actors with a career spanning five decades. Fonda was born on May 16th, 1905 in Grand Island, Nebraska. Despite his short stature and gentle nature, Fonda proved to have a talent for athletics, participating in skating, swimming and running. He blossomed in high school, growing past six feet tall, but remained as shy as he had in childhood. When Fonda was 14, his father took him to observe the lynching of a black man accused of rape. This experience would affect him for the rest of his life, creating a strong awareness of prejudice, and shaping his political views from that day on. He briefly attended the University of Minnesota where he studied to become a journalist but he would not graduate.


Upon returning home, Fonda decided to take up acting. His first amateur gig was for the Omaha Community Playhouse, often acting along Dodie Brando (mother of Marlon Brando). He grew to appreciate acting as an escape from his own shy, awkward personality, favoring the idea of creating a new character for the world to behold instead of his own. In 1928, he headed east to further pursue his dream. His first professional acting job came from the Cape Playhouse. Soon he was introduced to the University Players, an intercollegiate summer stock company. While there, he met his future wife Margaret Sullivan and began a life-long friendship with James Stewart. In 1929 Fonda moved to New York City, soon followed by Stewart where the two became roommates, aiding each other in bettering their craft. Fonda's first Broadway appearance was 1929's The Game of Death. However, with the Great Depression in full swing, Fonda found himself out of a job more than he was with one. When not acting, Fonda would also work as set designer to make ends meet. In 1933, following a divorce from his first wife, Margaret Sullivan, he starred in the play The Farmer Takes a Wife. 20th Century Fox was quick to buy the rights and soon, Fonda was off to Hollywood.


The film adaption of Farmer Takes a Wife hit theaters across America in 1935 and with it came Hollywood's newest leading man. Fonda was then loaned out for RKO's I Dream Too Much. Critics praised him as the one of the most likable romantic leads to be newly recruited to tinsel town. In 1936 he starred opposite Fred MacMurray in The Trail of the Lonesome, the first Technicolor production filmed in the great outdoors. He re-teamed with Sullivan for The Moon's Our Home and briefly rekindled their old relationship. Fonda's shining star got brighter as he starred in the 1937 Fritz Lang film You Only Live Once. The next year Fonda would star opposite Bette Davis in the massively popular Jezebel. The film was popular with both critics and audiences alike, becoming one of biggest hits of the year and receiving seven academy award nominations. His next film, 1939's Young Mr. Lincoln, marked Fonda's first of many collaborations with director John Ford. That same year the two released Drums Along the Mohawk, a much larger commercial triumph than their first collaboration. However, a much larger triumph was just around the corner.


In1940, Fonda once again re-teamed with John Ford for the film adaption of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Although the part of Tom Joad has since become his signature role, and Steinbeck himself supported Fonda as the films lead, Producer Darryl Zanuck originally saw Tyrone Power as the wistful migrant farm worker. It was when Fonda signed a seven-year contract that Zanuck agreed to the casting. The film was a hit and Fonda received the best reviews of his life, ultimately being nominated for his first Academy Award. Fonda's adaptability and professionalism allowed him to star in a plethora of projects during the 1940's. He showed his softer, more comical side opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve and in 1942's Rings on Her fingers. In 1943, he starred in the western-physiological drama, The Ox-Bow Incident.

As the U.S committed itself to the allied powers during World War II, Fonda enlisted in the Navy, stating, ?I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio.? He served for three years, first on a destroyer ship before being commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence. For his duty, he was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation and the Bronze Star. Upon his return to Hollywood, Fonda teamed with John Ford once more to star as Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine. The film is still hailed as one of the best filmic interpretations of the famed Gunfight at the OK Corral. In 1948, he played his first truly unsympathetic character in Fort Apache opposite John Wayne and Shirley Temple (in her role as an adult). His final film under contact for 20th Century Fox was Otto Preminger's Daisy Kenyon.


After being released from his contract, Fonda found work scarce in Hollywood and opted to return to Broadway. In 1955, he returned to Hollywood for the screen adaption of Mister Roberts, reprising his Tony Award Winning Broadway role. The film was a huge success and Hollywood was once again inundating Fonda with offers. In 1956 he starred opposite Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer in the big screen adaption of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. In 1957, he starred in the Alfred Hitchcock semi-documentary narrative The Wrong Man. In 1957, Fonda wore the hats of both actor and producer for the courtroom drama 12 Angry Men. He was nominated for his second Oscar, but this time as producer rather than actor.

During the late 1950's and early 1960's, Fonda trekked between coasts, alternating between Broadway and Hollywood. On the Hollywood side of the equation, Fonda starred mostly in war and western epics. In 1962, both The Longest Day and How The West Was Won were released to critical and commercial success. In 1964, Fonda starred as the President of the United Stated in Fail Safe, a cold war drama about the dangers nuclear war. In 1968, Fonda played Frank in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. At first Fonda turned down the role as the cold-blooded killer, feeling that the part was too against type, but he was convinced into accepting it by Leone who flew from Italy to Hollywood to personally persuade him.


In 1970, he teamed with old friend James Stewart to star in The Cheyenne Social Club. The next year, he returned to television for the police drama, Smith. In 1973, he earned an Emmy nomination for his work in the television movie, The Red Pony. He returned to Broadway in 1974 for the biographical drama, Clarence Darrow, and in turn was nominated for a Tony Award. After a health scare, he retired from the exhausting world of the stage but remained active in film and television, including appearing in the mini-series Roots: The Next Generation. Fonda's final project was 1981's On Golden Pond opposite Katharine Hepburn and his daughter, Jane Fonda. In the film, Fonda played an aged college professor coming to terms with both his age and dying while trying to reconnect with his daughter. For his final performance, Fonda received a long-over-do Academy Award for Best Actor. Just a few months later, on August 12th, 1982, Henry Fonda died in his Los Angeles home of heart disease. He was 77 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Henry Fonda was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one for Best Actor for On Golden Pond in 1981. He also won one Honorary Award in 1980 , the consummate actor, in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures .

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1940Best ActorThe Grapes of Wrath (1940)Tom JoadNominated
1957Best Picture12 Angry Men (1957)N/ANominated
1981Best ActorOn Golden Pond (1981)N/AWon

Academy Awards (Honorary Oscars)

1980Honorary Award, the consummate actor, in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures


He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Henry Fonda's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #66 on Jul 24, 1942. In addition, Fonda was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 2005.

BlogHub Articles:

The Wrong Man (1956): The Most Sympathetic of Victims

By 4 Star Film Fan on Apr 14, 2022 From 4 Star Films

I never grew up watching reruns of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but there’s kind of a ubiquitous aura about them. The man himself — the entirety of his portly physique — comes out of the shadows into a family’s living room to narrate some ghastly or unseemly crime with a droll ... Read full article

is “Young Mr. Lincoln”

By Stephen Reginald on Jul 29, 2021 From Classic Movie Man

is “Young Mr. Lincoln” Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) is an American biographical film directed by John Ford and starring . It was produced by 20th Century-Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck and Kenneth Macgowan. The film was photographed by long-time Ford cinematogra... Read full article


By Carol Martinheira on Dec 24, 2020 From The Old Hollywood Garden

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #1: Juror 8 () On December 24, 2020 By CarolIn Uncategorized He is number 28 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest heroes in film history, but he finishes off our year-long 12 Angry Men countdown at number one! Ju... Read full article

Jesse James (1939): Tyrone Power &

By 4 Star Film Fan on Oct 13, 2020 From 4 Star Films

Reputed screenwriting scribe Nunnally Johnson starts off on clever footing by giving his mythic western hero an obvious antagonist. It was the railroad — that lawless iron horse — forcing Jesse James into the position of a criminal. Though he would evolve over time into the complicated h... Read full article

and Dana Andrews in "The Ox-Bow Incident"

By Stephen Reginald on Aug 27, 2020 From Classic Movie Man

and Dana Andrews in "The Ox-Bow Incident" The Ox-Box Incident (1943) is an American western film directed by Wiliam A. Wellman, starring , Dana Andrews, and an extraordinary supporting cast that includes Anthony Quinn, Harry Morgan, Mary Beth Hughes, and Jane Darwell. The... Read full article

See all articles

Henry Fonda Quotes:

Tom Joad: If there was a law, they was workin' with maybe we could take it, but it ain't the law. They're workin' away our spirits, tryin' to make us cringe and crawl, takin' away our decency.

Juror #8: It's always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don't really know what the truth is. I don't suppose anybody will ever really know. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we're just gambling on probabilities - we may be wrong. We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don't know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that's something that's very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it's SURE. We nine can't understand how you three are still so sure. Maybe you can tell us.

[Frank and his gang are standing in front of Timmy McBain, after killing the other family members]
Gang member: What are we going to do with this one, Frank?
Frank: Now that you've called me by name?

read more quotes from Henry Fonda...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Also a Taurus

See All Tauruses >>
Best Actor Oscar 1981

See more Best Actor awards>>
Grauman's Imprints

Also at Grauman's

See All Imprint Ceremonies >>
Henry Fonda on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Henry Fonda Facts
A friendship and collaboration of nearly 20 years was ended when director John Ford sucker-punched him while making Mister Roberts (1955).

Appeared in three movies based exclusively on World War II battles. The Longest Day (1962), Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Midway (1976).

The birth of his daughter Jane Fonda was the cause of some interruptions during his filming of Jezebel (1938) with Bette Davis.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>
Cowboy Museum Hall of Fame

Also in the Cowboy Museum Hall of Fame

See All Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductees >>