|* May 16, 1905|
|â€ August 12, 1982|
Born in Nebraska, Henry Jaynes Fonda made his mark in westerns, including his most villainous role in C'era una volta il West, as well as war films, and made frequent appearances in both television and foreign productions late in his career.
Fonda started out as a stage actor, working with an Omaha theater company before moving to the eastern U.S., where he acted on Cape Cod and summer stock. It was during this time he struck up a lifelong friendship with actor James Stewart. He eventually made it to Broadway in the late 1920s
He went to Hollywood in 1935, making his debut as the leading man in The Farmer Takes a Wife, reprising his Broadway role. Fonda's film career blossomed as he co-starred with Sylvia Sidney and Fred MacMurray in a western, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), the first Technicolor movie filmed outdoors.
Fonda soon attracted the attention of director John Ford, who cast Fonda in the title role of Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). He played Frank James in Jesse James (1939) and also starred in Ford's Drums Along the Mohawk and The Grapes of Wrath. Other westerns during this period include The Return of Frank James, The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).
During World War II, Fonda served in the U.S. Navy, initially as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee. He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence in the Central Pacific and was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation and the Bronze Star.
After the war, Fonda got back into acting with John Ford, playing Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine (1946) and was in Fort Apache (1948) as a rigid Army colonel, starring alongside John Wayne.
On the set of the naval-war drama Mister Roberts, Fonda came to blows with Ford, who punched him during filming. Fonda vowed never to work for the director again, but while he kept that vow, he spoke glowingly of the director in Peter Bogdanovich's documentary Directed by John Ford.
Other notable films include 12 Angry Men, the war movies Battle of the Bulge and Midway as well as more Hollywood westerns, The Tin Star (1957), Warlock (1959), How the West Was Won and the NBC TV western series The Deputy (1959–1961).
Fonda appeared against type as the villain Frank in 1968's C'era una volta il West. After initially turning down the role, he was convinced to accept it by actor Eli Wallach and director Sergio Leone, who flew from Italy to the United States to persuade him to take the part. Fonda had planned on wearing a pair of brown-colored contact lenses, but Leone preferred the paradox of contrasting close-up shots of Fonda's innocent-looking blue eyes with the vicious personality of the character Fonda played.
He also appeared in the Hollywood western The Cheyenne Social Club (1973), alongside friend James Stewart.
He filmed three Italian productions released in 1973 and 1974. The most successful of these was My Name is Nobody, which presented Fonda in a rare comedic performance as Jack Beauregard, an ageing gunslinger whose plans to retire are hindered by a "fan" (Terence Hill).
He made a cameo in 1979's Wanda Nevada, starring Peter Fonda, Brooke Shields, Luke Askew and Paul Fix, marking the only time he appeared onscreen with his son.
During the 1970s, he acted in many made-for-television movies as well as a number of disaster films, including 1977 Italian killer octopus thriller Tentacoli, Rollercoaster with Richard Widmark and again with Widmark, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray and José Ferrer in the killer-bee drama The Swarm.
On Golden Pond in 1981 marked one final professional and personal triumph for Fonda, winning him his only Oscar (for best actor, the oldest recipient) and a Golden Globe. It was also the first collaborations between Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, along with Fonda and his daughter Jane.
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