Henry Fonda

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Henry Fonda during World War II

Henry Jaynes Fonda (born May 16, 1905 in Grand Island , Nebraska , † August 12, 1982 in Los Angeles , California ) was an American film actor . Between 1935 and 1981 he made 115 film and television appearances. He is considered one of the most important American character actors and was voted number 6 in the list of the 25 greatest male film legends of all time by the American Film Institute .

Fonda was mostly cast as an upright, morally sound American in film classics such as The Fruits of Wrath and The Twelve Jurors ; a departure from this role was his appearance as the unscrupulous killer in Spiel mir das Lied von Tod . In 1981 he received an honorary Oscar , and a year later Fonda was awarded an Oscar for Best Actor for his last film Amolden See . He is the father of Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda and the grandfather of Bridget Fonda .


Early years

Henry Fonda - son of William Brace Fonda and Elma Herberta (Jaynes) Fonda - initially planned a career as a journalist. In the mid-1920s he joined an amateur theater company led by Dorothy Brando (mother of Marlon Brando ). At the University of Minnesota , Fonda met James Stewart , with whom he would become a lifelong friend. Stewart and Fonda played theater in New York and shared a small apartment. In the mid-1930s, the two actors received their first offers from Hollywood. From 1931 to 1932 Fonda was married to his colleague Margaret Sullavan for the first time .

First successes

In 1935 Henry Fonda made his first film: The Farmer Will Marry was the adaptation of a play with which he was already successful on Broadway. From 1936 Fonda was married to Frances Seymour Brokaw - from the marriage the two children Jane and Peter emerged, who later also became successful as actors. The handsome, highly talented Fonda quickly became a popular star in Hollywood and immediately starred under such renowned directors as Fritz Lang and William Wyler . In Jesse James, Man Without a Law , he appeared alongside Tyrone Power in the role of Frank James . John Ford starred Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and hired him in 1940 for his Steinbeck film adaptation of The Fruits of Wrath , in which Fonda played the role of Tom Joad . Fonda was nominated for an Oscar for the latter , but the award went to his friend James Stewart for his lead role in The Night Before the Wedding .

Character actor

The success of Fruits of Wrath established Henry Fonda as one of the great character actors of his generation. While most Hollywood stars only appeared in motion pictures, Fonda worked regularly as a stage actor throughout his film career. In the 1940s he played important roles under directors such as Fritz Lang and John Ford in western classics such as Ritt zum Ox-Bow (1943), Faustrecht der Prärie (1946) or Until the Last Man (1948). Fonda's image was that of the upright, morally upright American.

During the Second World War, Fonda volunteered for a three-year service in the United States Navy from 1942 . There served, among other things, as quartermaster with the rank of NCO on the destroyer USS Satterlee and later as an officer in the military intelligence service in the Pacific. For his service he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal , among other things .

In 1950, Fonda's second wife in psychiatry cut her throat on her 42nd birthday after he had announced a divorce three months earlier in order to marry Susan Blanchard (* 1928). Years later, treating psychiatrist Margaret Gibson described Fonda as a "cold, selfish, and complete narcissist ". His next cast in a film did not follow until five years later: in 1955 he played a naval officer in the film adaptation of the play Mister Roberts , after having appeared on the stage for years in this role. Fonda played for Alfred Hitchcock in The Wrong Man in 1956 . In 1957 he shot the court drama The Twelve Jurors, directed by Sidney Lumet, based on the play by Reginald Rose , for which he was also responsible as a producer. In this he shone as a skeptical juror who convinced everyone else of the doubts about the guilt of the young defendant and thus saved him from being sentenced to death.

He played the role of the American president in the Cold War drama Target Moscow (1964). In 1965 he took on the lead role in the World War II flick The Last Battle . In 1968, director Sergio Leone radically cast him, contrary to his previous image, for the cult western Spiel mir das Lied von Tod , in which Fonda took on the role of the ice-cold contract killer Frank, who is not afraid to wipe out entire families.

From 1959 to 1961, Fonda played the leading role of the Marshal in Silver City in a total of 76 episodes in the television series The Second Man (The Deputy) , of which 24 episodes were broadcast on West German television from June 6, 1964 . He also appeared in the early 1960s as a presenter on the television series The Big Picture , which was produced by the United States Army for propaganda purposes .

Late years

In the 1970s, the aging character actor was no longer so picky about his choice of roles and appeared in many exclusively commercially oriented films. His better-known Hollywood films of the 1970s include Battle for Midway (1976) and Meteor (1979). In 1973, Sergio Leone, who worked as a producer, gave him the role of a legendary western hero who befriends a young admirer ( Terence Hill ) in the amusing western comedy My Name Is Nobody . In 1981 Robert Redford presented the actor with an honorary Oscar for his outstanding life's work. In 1982 Fonda received an Oscar just a few months before his death for a role he played in the generational drama On the Golden Lake , which he could no longer accept himself. Next to Katharine Hepburn and for the first and only time next to his daughter Jane, he showed the character study of an old man who played over his incipient senility and fear of death with grim humor.

In the last few years of his life, Fonda expressed himself deliberately disparagingly about the policies of his former colleague Ronald Reagan , who was elected President of the White House in 1980 .

Henry Fonda, who was married five times, died of a heart condition on August 12, 1982 in his Los Angeles apartment . Fonda's wife, Shirlee, his daughter Jane and his son Peter were by his side that day. Prostate cancer is noted on the death certificate as a further disease that does not cause death.

Acting performance

Henry Fonda is considered one of the most important actors in film history . Over the decades, he has become an American icon adored in unprecedented ways by his compatriots. In his haunting portrayal of morally infallible men who always acted responsibly, he embodied the American virtues in their purest form. He has portrayed American presidents several times. Fonda admitted, however, that it was impossible in reality to lead a life as honorable as his screen characters.

Henry Fonda has earned a unique reputation among critics and audiences alike . The slim, aristocratic-looking actor with the striking blue eyes, attractive even in old age, was known for his naturalistic style of representation. He played deliberately straightforward and withdrawn and convinced with the extraordinary intensity of his roles. Fonda thought little of the psychologizing acting method of method acting , which the acting teacher Lee Strasberg propagated and whose most outstanding representative Marlon Brando is considered. Strasberg, on the other hand, described Fonda as "the best method actor of all of us".



Fonda was mainly dubbed by the German actor Wilhelm Borchert . In addition, he lent, Siegmar Schneider , Jürgen Thormann , Friedrich Schoenfelder , helmo kindermann and Ernst Fritz Fürbringer their voices.



  • Michael Kerbel: Henry Fonda. His films - his life. (Original title: Henry Fonda ). (= Heyne film library. Volume 56). German translation and additions by Bernd Eckhardt. Heyne, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-453-86056-X , p. 262.
  • Tony Thomas : The Complete Films of Henry Fonda. Citadel Press, Secaucus (NJ) 1983, ISBN 0-8065-1189-3 . (Paperback 1990)
  • Henry Fonda, Howard Teichmann: Fonda: My Life. London 1984, ISBN 0-491-02866-0 .
  • Peter Collier: The Fondas. A Hollywood Dynasty. Putnam Pub Group, 1991, ISBN 0-399-13592-8 .
  • Andreas Kern: The fondas. Campus, 2001, ISBN 3-593-36531-6 .
  • Devin McKinney: The man who saw a ghost: the life and work of Henry Fonda. St. Martin's Press, New York 2012, ISBN 978-1-250-00841-1 .

Web links

Commons : Henry Fonda  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Patricia Bosworth : Jane Fonda, The Private Life of a Public Woman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011, p. 67. (books.google.com)