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Henry Jaynes FONDA

Male 1905 - 1982  (77 years)

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  • Name Henry Jaynes FONDA 
    Born 16 May 1905  Grand Island, Hall County, NE Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Social Security No. 561-14-7670 
    Died 12 Aug 1982  Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, CA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Cause: Chronic heart disease 
    Buried Cremated, ashes scattered Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • (1) "Henry Fonda," Encyclopædia Brittanica, 2010, © 2010 Encyclopædia Brittanica, Inc.:

      Henry Fonda, in full Henry Jaynes Fonda (b. May 16, 1905, Grand Island, Nebraska, U.S. - d. August 12, 1982, Los Angeles, California), American stage and motion-picture actor who appeared in more than 90 films over six decades and created quintessentially American heroes.

      Reared in Omaha, Nebraska, Fonda began acting at the Omaha Community Playhouse at the behest of Marlon Brando's mother, Dorothy, a Playhouse cofounder. After briefly studying journalism at the University of Minnesota and working as an office clerk, Fonda moved to the East Coast in 1928 to pursue his acting career. He soon joined the University Players Guild, a small summer-stock theatre troupe in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where he met, among others, Joshua Logan, Jimmy Stewart, and Margaret Sullavan, who became the first of his five wives. In 1934 Fonda played his first leading role on Broadway in The Farmer Takes a Wife and repeated the role in his movie debut the next year.

      Trained on the stage to project his voice, Fonda quickly adapted to film by underplaying his roles, which gave him a quietly intense screen persona. This reserved approach prevented him from becoming a romantic screen idol, although his good looks and adaptable presence made him a successful leading man in the period drama Jezebel (1938), with Bette Davis, and the romantic comedies The Lady Eve (1941), with Barbara Stanwyck, and The Big Street (1942), with Lucille Ball. Fonda's frequent collaborations with director John Ford produced a gallery of populist American icons, including the gentle, modest Abe Lincoln in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), the dispossessed farmer and ex-convict Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), the legendary sheriff Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine (1946), and the inflexible Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday in Fort Apache (1948). Although the typical Fonda character frequently moves in a world of men - the American West, the army, the navy - he is less a man of action than one of quiet thought. In films such as The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) and 12 Angry Men (1957), his characters embody the voice of conscience and reason. Their integrity and decency, rather than physical strength or athletic grace and exuberance, provide the impetus for their heroism.

      After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Fonda starred in several films and in 1948 made a triumphant return to Broadway in the title role of Mister Roberts, which he played for three years and for which he won a Tony Award. He starred in two more successful Broadway productions - Point of No Return (1951) and The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (1953) - before returning to Hollywood to make the screen version of Mister Roberts (1955).

      Fonda continued to alternate between Broadway and Hollywood and appeared occasionally on television. On the stage he gave acclaimed performances as a Nebraska lawyer involved with a young woman from the Bronx in Two for the Seesaw (1958), as Clarence Darrow in an eponymous one-man show (1974), and as a U.S. Supreme Court justice in First Monday in October (1977). His other notable film roles include those of an innocent man on trial for robbery in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956); an American president in Fail-Safe (1964); a villain (a rare role for Fonda) in Once upon a Time in the West (1969); a bit part in Wanda Nevada (1979), directed by and starring his son, Peter; and a cantankerous husband and father during what may be his last summer in On Golden Pond (1981), his final film, which costarred Katharine Hepburn and Fonda's daughter, Jane, and for which he won an Academy Award as best actor. The previous year he had received an honorary Academy Award "in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures." In 1978 the American Film Institute honoured him with its Life Achievement Award. Fonda published his memoirs, Fonda: My Life, cowritten with Howard Teichmann, in 1981.


      Henry Fonda (1905-1982)

      Henry Fonda made his first appearance in 1905 in Grand Island, Nebraska. His father, William Brace Fonda, proprietor of a printing plant, moved his wife, his son and his presses to Omaha within six months of Henry's birth. After the birth of her son, Herberta Fonda bore two daughters, Harriet and Jayne.

      Henry was healthy throughout the better part of his childhood, but was extremely short. Fonda was a shy boy, eager to please, devoted to his mother and sisters, and in constant awe and admiration of his father. In his senior year of high school Henry Fonda began to grow. In less than 12 months he shot up from being a runt to 6'1". After graduation from Central High School, Henry chose the University of Minnesota. After two years he flunked out.

      Marlon Brando was still a baby when his mother [Dorothy "Do" (pronounced "Doe") Brando] coaxed 20-year-old Henry Fonda into trying out for the Community Playhouse. The 1925 season was about to start and the company needed a juvenile actor. Fonda read for the part and got it. He was too painfully shy to say he didn't want to do it or didn't know how to do it. He tucked the book under his arm and headed home to memorize his part.

      Henry Fonda didn't receive rave reviews on his opening night, but he was smitten with the magic of the theater.

      Fonda subsequently appeared in more than 80 films. In 1978 he received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. He won the 1982 Academy Award as best actor for "On Golden Pond" (1981).

      (3) Fonda - My Life, by Henry Fonda, as Told to Howard Teichmann (1981):

      P. 21:

      "As a matter of fact, Fonda says, "my whole damn family was nice. I don't think I've imagined it. It's true. Maybe it has to do with being brought up as a Christian Scientist. Half of my relatives were Readers or Practitioners in the church."

      P. 28:

      "At the end of my sophomore year [at the University of Minnesota] I was so exhausted that when they passed out the blue books for the final exams, I just sat in class and drew pictures instead of answering the questions. That did it! I flunked out of Minnesota."

      P. 116:

      "Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Ford Seymour of 315 East Sixty-eighth Street and Fairhaven, Mass., have announced the engagement of their daughter Frances Seymour Brokaw of 6464 Park Avenue to Mr. Henry Jaynes Fonda of California."

      (4) Obituary published in The New York Times on August 13, 1982, Copyright © The New York Times:



      Henry Fonda, who exemplified for nearly half a century a man of honesty and decency in more than 100 film and stage roles, died early yesterday of chronic heart disease in Los Angeles. He was 77 years old.

      Mr. Fonda had battled heart disease since 1974, when a pacemaker was placed in his chest. But his dedication to his craft kept him on a strenuous schedule until last year, when his worsening health forced him to be hospitalized often and to move about in a wheelchair.

      For the last 18 months, breaking a lifetime practice, he was forced to forgo key appearances, including the ceremony last March at which he won his first Oscar for best actor, for his poignant portrayal of a crotchety professor facing death in the movie ''On Golden Pond.''

      Mr. Fonda entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Sunday, and his family, including his wife, Shirlee, and his children Jane, Peter and Amy, were at his bedside most of the time. A family spokesman said the actor had simply stopped breathing while asleep.

      The actor, who retained a boyish candor and a gentle but firm manner, had long been a quintessential American hero. His image of a prairie Galahad was enhanced by his clean-cut features and firm jaw, tall, lean frame, loping stride and dry wit, expressed with a distinctive Middle Western twang.

      'Of the Highest Order'

      He was one of the most celebrated and enduring American performers. From 1934, when he appeared as the hero in the Broadway play ''The Farmer Takes a Wife,'' he was rarely out of the limelight, starring in more than 80 movies, more than 15 plays and in many televised dramas, series and specials.

      In ''On Golden Pond,'' Mr. Fonda gave one of his finest characterizations. Katharine Hepburn, who portrayed his bright, spunky wife of nearly 50 years, also won an Academy Award for her performance, and his daughter, Jane, who co-produced the movie, was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as their anxious daughter.

      Vincent Canby of The New York Times termed Mr. Fonda's acting ''of the highest order,'' seemingly distilled from hundreds of performances. And Mr. Fonda was the overwhelming choice of the motion-picture academy for the best-acting Oscar.

      Early Movie Roles

      Mr. Fonda's early movie roles included the backwoodsman in ''The Trail of the Lonesome Pine'' (1936); the youth driven by poverty into crime in ''You Only Live Once'' (1937); the dispossesed farmworker Tom Joad in ''The Grapes of Wrath'' (1940); the upright ordinary man in both ''The Ox-Bow Incident'' (1943) and ''12 Angry Men'' (1957), of which he was co-producer, and the noble extraordinary man as both ''Young Mr. Lincoln'' (1939) and Wyatt Earp, the frontier marshal, in ''My Darling Clementine'' (1946).

      The decades transformed his country-innocent image to that of a protective father figure as the Navy executive officer in ''Mister Roberts'' (1955), the principled Presidential candidate in ''The Best Man'' (1964), the President striving to avert a nuclear war in ''Fail Safe'' (1964) and as innumerable military commanders and guardians of justice.

      In 1978 Mr. Fonda received the sixth Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute. At the presentation ceremony he was praised by Jack Lemmon as ''the definitive American actor'' and by Richard Widmark as ''the frontier American - part history, part folklore, part mythology.''

      Stage Commitment, Too

      Mr. Fonda was a meticulous and modest craftsman - dedicated and intense - who thoroughly enjoyed his profession. From the start of his career, reviewers invariably praised his portrayals as ''refreshingly natural'' and ''immensely winning,'' and in later years, the consensus was that he was one of the few great American actors.

      He achieved fame in movies, but gained his deepest professional satisfaction in a career-long commitment to the stage, keeping his roles fresh for hundreds of performances.

      His plays included the long-running ''Mister Roberts,'' which opened in New York in 1948; ''The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial'' (1953), ''Two for the Seesaw'' (1958), revivals of ''Our Town'' (1968) and ''The Time of Your Life'' (1971); ''Clarence Darrow,'' a 1974 one-man tour de force, and ''First Monday in October'' (1978).

      'A Minor Miracle'

      When ''The Farmer Takes a Wife'' opened, Brooks Atkinson, then the drama critic of The Times, wrote that ''Henry Fonda, who has his first big opportunity here, gives a manly, modest performance in a style of captivating simplicity.''

      Seventeen years later Mr. Atkinson wrote that the actor, in ''Point of No Return,'' had given the role of an upward-striving banker ''one of those unbelievably easy and engaging performances that do not seem like acting at all.'' Mr. Fonda, the critic concluded, ''is our most ingratiating male star, and his effortless, modulated style of acting is a minor miracle.''

      The role on which he put his most distinctive stamp was that of Mister Roberts, the avuncular and idealistic Navy lieutenant aboard a cargo ship in the backwash of the Pacific during World War II. He played the title role for more than three and a half years on Broadway and on tour, winning many awards, and he repeated his success on film.

      'Dignity and Power'

      Citing his ''superb'' acting in the play, Mr. Atkinson wrote that Mr. Fonda ''gives a perfect human performance that in turn gives the whole narrative perspective as a romantic tale of youth rebelling against boredom.''

      In welcoming the film adaptation, A.H. Weiler of The Times wrote that the actor had given ''a beautifully lean and sensitive characterization, full of dignity and power,'' adding that ''it now appears as though he is Mister Roberts.''

      Mr. Fonda, who never formally studied acting, described his approach to his craft thus: ''My goal is that the audience must never see the wheels go around, not see the work that goes into this. It must seem effortless and real. I don't do anything very consciously except that my end results must never be obvious in any way.''

      Audience as Inspiration

      Mr. Fonda acknowledged the ''box-office'' necessity to keep making films, even potboilers when major vehicles were not available, and to appear often on television. But he cited the unmatchable rewards of acting on the stage, where a role can be created and developed ''from beginning to end'' in contrast to the disjointed, out-of-continuity shooting of movies.

      ''It's as if an artist were to paint different parts of a picture on separate pieces of canvas and then have someone else fit them together,'' he said to an interviewer, adding:

      ''In the theater, the actor does a complete job at each performance, inspired by the audience, whose response prevents his job from becoming tiresome. For in the theater the audience is constantly changing, while in pictures the same director is the only audience and the sole judge of the performance. I prefer acting for a lot of different people rather than for one man.''

      Relations With His Children

      In the 60's, Mr. Fonda's two elder children, the actors Jane and Peter, generated wide controversy, Jane particularly for her assertive advocacy of liberal and radical causes and Peter for his identification with the drug and motorcycle cult. The father usually reacted stoically, defending them, but occasionally expressed annoyance over their flouting of conventions. Their rebelliousness moderated in the 70's, and his relationship with them grew deeper than ever before.

      ''I don't think I've been a particularly good father,'' he conceded, ''but I've been lucky.'' Mr. Fonda, who said he had often objected more to his daughter's aggressive activism than her views, described himself as a liberal Democrat but invariably maintained a low political profile. In 1968, however, he backed the unsuccessful anti-Vietnam War campaign of Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, Democrat of Wisconsin, for the Presidency.

      Henry Jaynes Fonda was born May 16, 1905, in Grand Island, Neb., to the former Herberta Jaynes and William Brace Fonda, owner of a small printing company in Omaha. The youth was brought up there and in the suburb of Dundee and graduated from the Omaha Central High School in 1923.

      Prodded by Brando's Mother

      He attended the University of Minnesota, studying journalism while working in two jobs, as a physical-education instructor at a settlement house and as a troubleshooter for the telephone company. In his sophomore year, he later said, he was exhausted and returned home for a rest.

      While supporting himself with a series of unsatisfying jobs, he was persuaded by Dorothy Brando, a family friend and the mother of the future star Marlon Brando, to join the Omaha Community Playhouse, where Mr. Fonda acted, painted scenery, became assistant director - and resolved on his career.

      He later recalled the ''breathless'' way he had felt while playing the juvenile title role in ''Merton of the Movies'' as ''like being 10 years old and playing cops and robbers.''

      After two years at the playhouse, he decided to try his luck in New York - to no avail. He went on to Cape Cod, Mass., where he joined the University Players, composed of college students, including Joshua Logan and Bretaigne Windust, who had founded a summer theater at Falmouth. They were later joined by James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, who was to become Mr. Fonda's first wife.

      Leland Hayward Was Agent

      Over the next four summers and one winter season with the group, Mr. Fonda played a wide variety of leading roles, becoming a seasoned actor. On Broadway, meanwhile, he got a walk-on part and bit roles in two short-lived plays, and he appeared in comedy skits in the 1934 hit revue ''New Faces.''

      Those performances impressed Leland Hayward, who became his agent and negotiated a contract with the Hollywood producer Walter Wanger, providing a salary of $1,000 a week, 10 times what he had been earning, and permitting time for stage appearances.

      In the succeeding decade, the actor alternated easily between films and the theater. He won particular praise in the title role of the movie ''Young Mr. Lincoln,'' with Frank S. Nugent of The Times concluding that ''his performance kindles the film.'' Mr. Fonda's stirring characterization in ''The Grapes of Wrath'' was considered by many critics the best performance of 1940, one for which he should have won an Oscar, but it eluded him. However, a cascade of later honors from the motion-picture academy, the American National Theater and Academy and many other professional organizations more than compensated for the oversight.

      Occasional Comedies

      Hollywood first made its amends in April 1981, when it awarded him an honorary Oscar for career-long achievement. A thundering ovation by members of the movie academy seemed endless, and Mr. Fonda - white-haired, wearing thick glasses and grasping a cane - seemed shaken by its fervor.

      ''It's been a very rewarding 46 years for me,'' he said, ''and this has got to be the climax.'' A year later Hollywood underscored its esteem by awarding him the Oscar for ''On Golden Pond.''

      Drama and adventure were his fortes, but he also made occasional film comedies, including ''The Lady Eve'' with Barbara Stanwyck in 1941 and ''The Male Animal'' with Olivia De Havilland in 1942.

      In World War II, Mr. Fonda enlisted in the Navy as a seaman, rising to lieutenant and receiving a Bronze Star and Presidential citation for his work as an operations and air-combat intelligence officer in the Pacific.

      Worked Despite Illnesses

      A capstone of his later stage achievements was his strenuous two-hour performance as ''Clarence Darrow,'' America's great trial lawyer and liberal magnet of landmark controversies. In The Times, Clive Barnes described Mr. Fonda's performance as ''consummate,'' and Walter Kerr termed it ''perfect.''

      Mr. Fonda continued acting despite major illnesses. After a performance of ''Clarence Darrow'' in 1974 he collapsed from what doctors called ''total exhaustion,'' and a pacemaker was implanted in his chest because of a heart-rhythm disorder.

      On television, the actor appeared in many specials and in two series, ''The Deputy'' and ''The Smith Family,'' and he worked for years in commercials for a manufacturer of photographic and other products. He explained that he had accepted the ''soft-sell script'' after years of rejecting similar offers because ''the money is out of sight'' and ''I think good exposure in a commercial is better than bad exposure in a film or play.''

      In April 1980, just before his 75th birthday, he seemed to be more visible than ever as millions viewed his extraordinarily vigorous portrayals of two aging but indomitable heroes in the television productions of ''The Oldest Living Graduate'' and ''Gideon's Trumpet.''

      In 1981, despite his increasingly critical heart ailment, Mr. Fonda, with Myrna Loy, appeared in a widely praised television movie, ''Summer Solstice,'' a sensitive study of a long-married couple.

      The actor was a gifted, self-taught painter, mostly of landscapes and still lifes, and enjoyed organic gardening. He also devoted considerable time to performing in benefit shows without pay for philanthropies.

      Married Five Times

      His first marriage, to Miss Sullavan, ended in divorce in 1933. His second wife, the former Frances Seymour Brokaw, who was the mother of Jane and Peter, took her life in a sanitarium in 1950. His third marriage, to Susan Blanchard, with whom he adopted his daughter Amy, ended in divorce, as did his fourth marriage, to Contessa Afdera Franchetti. His fifth wife was the former Shirlee Mae Adams.

      Throughout his career he refused to discuss his five marriages with interviewers, but, in his 1981 biography, ''Fonda My Life,'' written with Howard Teichmann, the actor disclosed some of his marital turmoil and candidly expressed regrets over his shortcomings.

      In 1970, John Steinbeck, the novelist and close friend of Mr. Fonda, said of him: ''He carries with him that excitement that can't be learned, but he backs up his gift with grueling, conscientious work and agony of self-doubt.''

      Mr. Fonda really lived when he was acting, and just existed when he wasn't, many of this friends agreed. In 1978 Mr. Fonda said he was early committed to his profession ''as therapy for a very self-conscious young man.'' Earlier he remarked to interviewers that ''if I project anything of me into my roles, it's maybe a man with some dignity who tries to be honest'' and that ''I just want to be remembered as a good actor.''

      Besides his wife and children, Mr. Fonda is survived by four grandchildren and a sister, Harriet Warren of Omaha. The actor's wish, a spokesman said, was that there be no service and that his body be cremated. Mr. Fonda willed his eyes to the Manhattan Eye Bank. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Henry Fonda Theater Center Memorial, c/o the Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass Street, Omaha, Neb. 68132.

      (5) Social Security Death Index:

      Name: Henry Fonda
      SSN: 561-14-7670
      Last Residence: 90077 Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
      Born: 16 May 1905
      Last Benefit: 90077 Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
      Died: Aug 1982
      State (Year) SSN issued: California (Before 1951)
    Person ID I3534  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 9 Aug 2018 

    Father William Brace FONDA,   b. 12 Feb 1879, Omaha, Douglas County, NE Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Oct 1935, Omaha, Douglas County, NE Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 56 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Herberta Lamphear JAYNES,   b. 26 Jun 1879, Hudson, St. Croix County, WI Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 Oct 1934, Omaha, Douglas County, NE Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 55 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 10 Jul 1903  Omaha, Douglas County, NE Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F2180  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Margaret Brooke SULLAVAN,   b. 16 May 1909, Norfolk, VA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Jan 1960, New Haven, New Haven County, CT Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 50 years) 
    Married 25 Dec 1931  Kernan Hotel, Baltimore, MD Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Divorced 1932 
    Last Modified 9 Aug 2018 11:01:14 
    Family ID F2182  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Living 
    Last Modified 9 Aug 2018 11:01:14 
    Family ID F2187  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 3 Living 
    Last Modified 9 Aug 2018 11:01:14 
    Family ID F2188  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 4 Living 
     1. Living
    Last Modified 9 Aug 2018 11:01:14 
    Family ID F2189  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 5 Frances Ford SEYMOUR,   b. 14 Apr 1908, Greenwich, Fairfield County, CT Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Apr 1950, Craig House, Beacon, Dutchess County, NY Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 42 years) 
    Married 16 Sep 1936  Christ Church, New York City, New York County, NY Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
     1. Living
     2. Living
    Last Modified 9 Aug 2018 11:01:14 
    Family ID F2196  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Sources 
    1. Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Citation Text: (1) Fonda — My Life, by Henry Fonda, as Told to Howard Teichmann (1981), p. 62.

    2. Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Details: Citation Text: (1) Fonda — My Life, by Henry Fonda, as Told to Howard Teichmann (1981), p. 117.