Creator / Henry Fonda

Henry Jaynes Fonda (May 16, 1905 — August 12, 1982) was an American actor.

His career lasted from 1935 to 1981, where he was in over a hundred films, television programs, theatre productions and various shorts. He received one Academy Award nomination (The Grapes of Wrath) and eventually won one in 1981 for On Golden Pond. Between 1943 and 1946 his career was blank as he had been enlisted in the Navy during World War II. He was also friends with Jimmy Stewart (despite their opposing political viewsnote ), his former roommate.

In his lifetime, Fonda was typecast as straight-laced, heroic characters like Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath or Juror #8 in 12 Angry Men. His signature role was the beleaguered but sympathetic naval officer in Mister Roberts, which he played for years on stage and later on film. Fonda cemented this image playing Presidents, statesmen, generals and other authority figures in most of his later movies. Ironically, today's audiences probably recognize Fonda from his drastically against-type role in Once Upon a Time in the West as a psychotic gunslinger.

Fonda was married five times. His children from his third wife, Frances Ford Seymour, Jane and Peter, as well as granddaughter Bridget, are also accomplished actors in their own right. Though he often played nice guys in his films in real life he was reportedly very distant and withdrawn from people, even his own children, and by his own admission he was not an ideal parent. He died of heart failure on August 12, 1982 at age 77.

Henry Fonda on TV Tropes:


  • Dogged Nice Guy: His standard role, exemplified by The Grapes of Wrath. Later in his career he typically played Reasonable Authority Figures.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: One of his signatures. Or Creepy Blue Eyes when playing less savory characters.
  • Money, Dear Boy: From the '60s onward the balance of Fonda's roles were cameos in movies of varying quality. Occasionally it was something like The Longest Day or How the West Was Won, sometimes it was The Swarm or Meteor.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Mean might be stretching it, but Fonda was famous for being emotionally distant from his family and all but his closest friends. When his son Peter saw Henry praise one of his performances during a television interview, he broke down crying since his father had never done that in person. Jane further fell out with her father over her political activism in the '60s and '70s (while Fonda was a liberal Democrat, he didn't approve of Jane becoming involved with radical groups and especially disliked her still-controversial trip to North Vietnam). Fonda himself thought that he put so much emotion into his acting that he didn't have much left for his day-to-day life.
  • Odd Friendship: He was good friends with Jimmy Stewart. The two were diametric opposites in personality and political beliefs and even came to blows once because of it. Their children say that the friendship mostly consisted of the two men working on model airplanes in complete silence. He was also friendly with John Wayne, another conservative; Fonda was one of the last people to visit Wayne before his death.
  • Playing Against Type: Fonda almost always played straight-laced heroes, which made his few villain roles extremely effective. See Fort Apache, Advise & Consent, Firecreek and most famously Once Upon a Time in the West.
  • Production Posse: Close friend and frequent collaborator with John Ford. They had a serious falling out while shooting Mister Roberts, where Ford grew so angry at Fonda that the director struck him. They patched up their friendship but never worked together again.
  • Working-Class Hero: His 30s roles in films like The Grapes of Wrath and You Only Live Once made him this. Indeed author and Civil Rights protestor, James Baldwin noted that Henry Fonda was especially popular with African-American audiences who related to him better than they did other W.A.S.P. stars.