Happy 112th Birthday, Henry Fonda!

Henry Fonda was born Henry Jaynes Fonda 112 years ago today in Grand Island, Nebraska. Here are 10 HF Did-You-Knows:

  • 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. From his debut on the Great White Way in 1929 to his final stage appearance in 1978, Fonda appeared in 16 Broadway productions.
  • 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.
  • Fonda won one Best Actor Academy Award (he was nominated another time), a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and one Tony award. He also won honorary lifetime achievement awards from the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Tonys and the American Film Institute.

Happy birthday, Mr. Fonda, wherever you may be!

Henry Fonda

This story originally appeared in a slightly different form in May 2016.

Happy 96th Birthday, Gene Tierney!

The lovely Gene Tierney was born 96 years ago today in Brooklyn, New York. Here are GT Did-You-Knows:

  • Tierney’s childhood was one of privilege. Her father was a successful insurance broker, her mother a former teacher. She sometimes lived with her grandparents in Connecticut, attending St. Margaret’s School in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Unquowa School in Fairfield. She later attended finishing schools in Switzerland and Farmington, CT.
  • At 17, Tierney visited Los Angeles. Her striking beauty caught director Anatole Litvak‘s eye during a visit to the Warner Brothers studio (her cousin worked there) and she was offered a contract. Her parents urged her to turn it down, due to the low salary and the fact that they envisioned a more high-society path for her.
  • Gene Tierney was a debutante, making her society debut in September 24, 1938, but society life didn’t interest her and she resolved to be an actress. She began theatrical studies and was a protégée of Broadway producer-director George Abbott.
  • She made her Broadway debut in a small role in What a Life! (1938) that saw her carrying a bucket of water across the stage. A Variety reviewer wrote of her performance, “Miss Tierney is certainly the most beautiful water carrier I’ve ever seen!”
  • Tierney went on to appear in a handful of other Broadway shows, garnering larger roles and positive reviews each time. In 1939, she signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures and was slated to star in National Velvet (1944), but when the picture was delayed, she returned to Broadway to star in The Male Animal, which was a big hit and led to a contract with 20 Century-Fox and her motion picture debut, in The Return of Frank James (1940), opposite Henry Fonda.
  • Tierney wrote poetry throughout her life; she first saw one of poems published in her high school newspaper.
  • Tierney struggled with manic depression throughout her adult life. While shooting The Left Hand of God (1955), her costar, Humphrey Bogart, whose sister had struggled with mental illness, urged her to seek medical help.
  • Tierney spent time in various institutions and underwent multiple shock treatments against her will. She was thereafter an outspoken critic of shock treatment therapy.
  • Tierney was married twice—to fashion designer Oleg Cassini and oil baron W. Howard Lee—and had romantic relationships with many other prominent men, among them John F. Kennedy, Prince Aly Khan and Tyrone Power.
  • Tierney, who took up smoking to lower her voice—“I sounded like an angry Minnie Mouse,” she is reported to have said after seeing herself on screen for the first time—remained a heavy smoker throughout her life and died of emphysema in 1999.

Happy birthday, Gene Tierney, wherever you may be!

Gene Tierney

Happy 111th Birthday, Henry Fonda!

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!

Henry Fonda