A Tribute to Henry Fonda
In more than 100 films over a career that lasted 45 years, Henry Fonda was one of the most believable actors in Hollywood. So believable was he, in fact, that some have even speculated that he could have been elected President on the strength of his various Presidential portrayals, including a young Abraham Lincoln in 1939, a calm but agonized unnamed leader in the riveting Fail-Safe 25 years later, and almost the same role in the unsatisfying Meteor 15 years after that. He also played a Presidential candidate who should have won in The Best Man (1964).
Perhaps his most believable role was that of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), for which he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. He would certainly have won had The Philadelphia Story not swept every award in sight that year, including a Best Actor Oscar for Fonda’s buddy Jimmy Stewart. He also played characters with great inner strength inMister Roberts (1955) and 12 Angry Men (1957).
Fonda invariably played a thoughtful good guy, but he was flexible enough to play a great villain, too. In fact, he won a poll last year on the Classic Movies Forum which asked for the best villain by an actor who is usually the good guy, for his role in Once Upon a Time in the West (1969).
The father of actors Jane and Peter Fonda continued to appear in films throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, with few parts that reached the level of his performances in the 40s and 50s. However, he finished out his career with two stand-out roles in Gideon’s Trumpet (1980-TV) and finally On Golden Pond (1981), for which he won his first Best Actor Oscar, presented in absentia only two months before his death. The previous year he was given an honorary Oscar, naming him “The consummate actor, in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures.”
As we celebrate what would have been Henry Fonda’s 100th birthday on May 16, 2005, it’s a good time to look back on his life and career with links to tribute sites, biographies, reviews, posters, and more.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Henry Fonda Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books, Photos, Art, and Posters