Henry Fonda was one of cinema's most beloved "everymen." Like his peers Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper, he was adept at both dramas and comedies and possessed an earnestness, quiet strength and likability that endeared him to audiences for nearly half a century.
During his 45-year film, theater and TV career, Fonda, who died in 1982 shortly after receiving his only best actor Oscar, for "On Golden Pond," made 85 movies and worked with such directors as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Preston Sturges.
Despite his "good guy" screen image, the taciturn Omaha native was often a distant father to his actor children Jane and Peter Fonda and was married five times.
"He was a complicated person," said film historian Robert Osborne. "He had gotten some award and it was rather late in his life and a friend of mine said to him, 'It's well deserved. You're such a nice man.' And Fonda said, 'I am not a nice man. I played nice men,'
Though Fonda seemed incapable of giving a bad performance, he received only two Oscar nominations for his acting — 1940's "The Grapes of Wrath" and 1981's "On Golden Pond." He also picked up a nomination for producing the 1957 best picture nominee "12 Angry Men."
Fonda was an enigma in an industry of egos — a celebrated but self-effacing star. He attributed his successes to coincidences of physique and casting.
His career began in Omaha when he was chosen by Marlon Brando's mother, Dorothy, for a juvenile part in an Omaha Community Playhouse production. His acting continued unabated until his death.
His early successes were in musicals and light comedies such as "I Dream Too Much" (1935), "Trail of the Lonesome Pine" (1936) and "The Moon's Our Home" (1936).
He also starred in "War and Peace" (1956), "The Wrong Man" (1956) and then produced "12 Angry Men" (1957), a highly praised film in which he played a persuasive juror.
His other awards included a special Tony for "unending dedication" to the legitimate theater, a special Oscar for "lifetime achievement" in motion pictures, and the American National Theater and Academy designation as National Artist.
|1940||Best Actor||The Grapes of Wrath||Nomination|
|1957||Best Picture||12 Angry Men||Nomination*|
|1981||Best Actor||On Golden Pond||Win|