The subject of our Monday Quiz — Henry Fonda — had an august career on the stage and a 46-year movie career that established him as a premier classic movie star, regarded in some quarters as Hollywood’s “statue of liberty.”
And, sure, he had his failings. Despite his gently liberal onscreen personna, Fonda was no angel: a difficult husband, cold and aloof off-camera and a star given to angry outbursts.
Nonetheless, he is ranked among America’s best screen actors of the last century. How much exactly do you know about him? We hope you tried our Monday Quiz to find out. We were inspired here by a rambling , fascinating Fonda interview in author Mike Steen’s Hollywood Speaks: An Oral History, published in 1974.
To review our quiz questions, just scroll down to yesterday’s blog. Ok, here are the answers:
1) Answer: (a) Fonda’s screen debut was in the 1935 movie version of Marc Connelly’s stage play The Farmer Takes A Wife, directed by Victor Fleming. Also in the cast were Charles Bickford and Janet Gaynor (that’s the young Henry with Janet above). The movie, a romantic comedy, was remade in 1953 as a musical costarring Dale Robertson and Betty Grable.
2) Answer: (a) Dorothy (“Dodie”) Brando, the mother of Marlon. After dropping out from the Univ. of Minnesota after two years, Fonda was at loose ends until Ms. Brando called his mother and if young Henry would be interesting in joining her theatrical troupe, the Omaha Community Playhouse, in Fonda’s Nebraska home town. A initially reluctant Fonda didn’t want to disappoint a family friend, and signed on. The rest is…….
3) Answer: (a and b). Ok, this was a trick question. The mother of Jane and Peter Fonda — Henry’s second wife, Canadian-born socialite Frances Ford Seymour — committed suicide in 1950. But she wasn’t an actress. Fonda’s first wife — Margaret Sullavan — was, and she committed suicide in 1960.
4) Answer: (d) Fonda was married five times: to Sullavan (1931-1933); Seymour (1936-1950); Susan Blanchard (1950-1956); Afdera Franchetti (1957-1961); and to Shirlee Fonda (1965-his death in 1982).
5) Answer: (d) 1957’s The Wrong Man, in which Fonda plays a working stiff musician at New York’s old Stork Club wrong accused of a robbery. A terrific picture, highly recommended.
6) Answer: (c) Lucille Ball. She and Fonda costarred in the 1968 family comedy Yours, Mine and Ours. Although Ball was married to her second husband, Gary Morton, at the time, Fonda supposedly fell hard. The two dated for a time, and became close. Initially Fonda was reluctant to join the movie’s cast, but he eventually did since his career then was not flourishing. The family comedy turned out to be a box office hit, Lucy’s biggest movie success. An earlier film they’d done together (1942’s The Big Street) propelled Ball from “B” actress at RKO to “A” actress at MGM. Another highly recommended pic.
7) Answer: (b) Fritz Lang, who directed Fonda and Sylvia Sidney in the 1937 crime drama You Only Live Once. Fonda felt Vienna-born Lang was more “a master puppeteer” than a director sensitive to actors. Sidney got along “just fine with him . I didn’t. I fought all the way,” Fonda recalled.
8) Answer: (a) Fonda was also a co-producer of 12 Angry Men, his first and only venture in that role. The reason: to lower his taxes on the movie’s expected profits. The modestly-budgeted picture not only became a classic, but made money — at Fonda’s lower tax rate.
9) Answer: (d) As Fonda recalled: I did it (‘Mister Roberts’ on the stage) for almost seventeen hundred times over a period of four years. And the last performance was as much fun as the first.
10) Answer: a) True. Fonda made seven movies directed by John Ford. The relationship wasn’t always cordial but it worked.