Henry Fonda was born 111 years ago today in Grand Island, Nebraska. Here are some fun facts about Mr. Fonda:
- Fonda and James Stewart were roommates early in their careers, first in New York and later in Hollywood, and were both known as ladies’ men. Their political views were diametrically opposed—Fonda was liberal, Stewart conservative—and after a argument over Hollywood blacklisting threatened to end their friendship in 1947, the pair agreed never to discuss politics again.
- As a young man in Omaha, Henry Fonda studied acting with Marlon Brando‘s mother, Dorothy.
- Fonda’s first wife was actress Margaret Sullavan; the two separated after just two months of marriage.
- Henry Fonda’s Dutch ancestors settled the still-extant town of Fonda, New York, in the early 1600s. Fonda also had English, Scottish, and Norwegian ancestry. The town of Fonda is situated 44 miles northwest of Albany, N.Y. and 54 miles southeast of Utica, N.Y.
- Among Fonda’s hobbies were bee-keeping and building model airplanes.
- Henry Fonda enlisted in the Navy in World War II, saying, “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.” He was a recipient of the Bronze Star, the fourth highest award for bravery or meritorious service in conflict with the enemy.
- Fonda holds the record for the longest gap between acting Oscar nominations: His first nomination was for The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, his second for On Golden Pond in 1981.
- Though his movie career last more than 50 years, Henry Fonda continued to work in the theatre from time to time, as long as his health allowed it.
- Fonda was offered the role of George in the original Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? His agent turned it down without consulting him, and Fonda was furious.
Happy birthday, Mr. Fonda, wherever you may be!