Henry Fonda is an Academy Award winning American actor. He is the father of famous actress,
. He went to Omaha Central High School and graduated in 1923. He was studying Journalism at the University of Minnesota and working four jobs at the time. He would often come home to relax, and by prodding of his family friend, Dorothy Brando, he started going to the town playhouse. Dorothy is the mother of veteran, Marlon Brando.
Back in Omaha, he used to act in scenes and backstage works at the theatre. He tried his hand at the New York Broadway, but to no avail. He served during as a seaman, then promoted up to Lieutenant and then up to Private. He won a Bronze Star for his service. He also received the prestigious Presidential Citation Award. Henry’s first big break was the Broadway production of “New Faces” opposite Joan Tompkins in 1934. However, his Hollywood debut was in the 1935 movie, “The Farmer Takes a Wife”. He had a certain guy-next-door simplicity and boyish charm, which he held on to throughout the 50 long year span of his acting career.
The actor was in “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” (1936), “You Only Live Once” (1937), and “Jezebel” (1938). His iconic portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in the John Ford directed biopic, “Young Mr Lincoln” (1939) was critically acclaimed. His first Oscar nomination came for the role of Tom Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath”. The movie was about an Oklahoma family that moved West during the Dust Bowl. He has acted in over 80 movies. He left films for a while and went back to Broadway.
His performance in the show, “Mister Roberts”, a comedy, as a junior navy officer who starts a fight against his captain, bagged him a Tony award the next year in 1958. In the show he wore his actual old Navy uniform. This film was later made into a feature film directed by John Ford. During the shoot, there was some bitterness between Fonda and Ford, and Fonda swore never to work with the director ever again. But in the documentary about John Ford, Henry Fonda had only good things to say. In 1956, Paramount Pictures made a film of the Leo Tolstoy epic, “War and Peace”, under the same name. Henry starred opposite Audrey Hepburn in the role of Pierre Bezukhov.
He donned a producer’s hat in 1957 and produced “12 Angry Men”, which he also acted in. The film was based on a teleplay written by Reginald Rose. The entirety of the film is set in a closed room with 12 angry jurors deciding the judgement of a Puerto Rican man who has been accused of murder. Henry got an Oscar nomination for the Best Producer. His role as Juror number 8 bagged him the BAFTA award in 1958 for the Best Actor category. Alfred Hitchcock made a unique semi-documentary based on a true story about a man who was falsely accused of robbery called “The Wrong Man”, in 1956, and Fonda played the lead role in it.
Henry had been battling heart disease for some time. In 1974, he had a pacemaker installed following cardiac arrhythmia provoked by prostate cancer. In 1978, he was awarded A Lifetime Achievement Award of American Film Institute. His final appearance was in the movie, “On Golden Pond”, in 1981, opposite Katherine Hepburn. His character was that of a fragile and emotionally distant father who makes himself more available towards the end of his life. Both Jane, his daughter, and Henry, himself, confessed that the film was a lot similar to their real life relationship. Henry couldn’t tolerate expressions of feelings or emotions and would often burst out in anger when his children tried to connect with him. Jane Fonda said that the movie was a gift to his father. Both the Fondas agreed that they reconciled a lot after this film. This movie had a total of 22 nominations for the Academy Award.
Henry won Best Actor Academy Award for this movie at the age of 76, being the oldest person ever to be awarded. He was too sick to attend and was substituted by his daughter at the ceremony. Following the Academy Award, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Golden Globes in 1981. He died in his Los Angeles residence in 1982, at the age of 77, due to chronic heart disease.