Born in Grand Island, Nebraska when the 20th century was just five years old, the young Henry Fonda had absolutely no plans to become an actor in the theater, much less in movies.
He had hoped to major in journalism at the Univ. of Minnesota, and when approached to join the undergraduate dramatic club, I just turned and ran. The whole idea scared me so!
But thanks to the intercession of a well-connected woman — the mother of one of America’s most celebrated thespians — Fonda found himself in the early Twenties at a reading of Philip Barry’s You and I, and gradually became hooked.
The result: an august career on the stage and a 46-year movie career that established Fonda as a premier classic movie star, regarded in some quarters as Hollywood’s “statue of liberty.” 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. (Fonda was also a difficult father.)
Nonetheless, he is ranked among America’s best screen actors of the last century. How much exactly do you know about him? Try 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. Questions today and answers tomorrow.
1) Question: Which of the following was Fonda’s first Hollywood movie? a) The Farmer Takes A Wife; b) Ruggles of Red Cap; c) The Ghost Goes West; or d) Top Hat.
2) Question: The mother of this famous screen performer was most responsible for getting a young Henry Fonda interested in an acting career. Can you identify her? a) Dorthy Brando; b) Beatrice Ives Welles; c) Alice Brazier Cooper; or d) Maureen O’Sullivan.
3) Question: Henry Fonda’s two famous children — Jane and Peter — were mothered by a noteworthy actress who committed suicide. a) True; or b) False?
4) Question: How many times was Fonda married? a) six ; b) twice; c) four times; d) five times.
5) Question: Which of the following was Fonda’s lone movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock? a) Rear Window; b) Lifeboat; c) The Man Who Knew Too Much; or d) The Wrong Man.
6) Question: Fonda had a reputation of a Hollywood ladies man. Which one of the following did the actor strike up a “close relationship” on camera and off? a) Vera Miles; b) Janet Gaynor; c) Lucille Ball; or d) Bette Davis.
7) Question: Which one of the following directors did Fonda NOT get along especially well with? a) John Ford; b) Fritz Lang; c) Hitchcock; or d) Sergio Leone.
8) Question: In perhaps Fonda’s most memorable movie, 1957’s 12 Angry Men, he took on another job in addition to starring in the movie. What was it? a) producer; b) assistant director; c) screenwriter; or d) set designer.
9) Question: Fonda’s most memorable stage-screen role was that of Lt. JG Douglas Roberts in 1955’s Mister Roberts, costarring James Cagney and William Powell. How many times did Fonda play the role on the stage? a) 500; b) 1,400; c) 950; or d) 1,700.
10) Question: Fonda made more movies with John Ford than any other director. a) True; or b) False?