The man who made acting seem as natural as real life died not long after receiving his only Oscar. Henry Fonda, who never had any formal training as an actor, died on August 12, 1982. He was 77.
Fonda was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, May 16, 1905. The son of a printer, Fonda had hopes of being a journalist, but after two years of studying journalism, a family friend persuaded him to try the stage. Fonda went to Omaha where he appeared for several seasons with the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Then it was on to Cape Cod, Massachusetts where he joined a stock company of actors. It was here he met his life-long best friend Jimmy Stewart. After receiving recognition for his performances in New Faces and The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935), Fondaís movie career was on the rise.
His performances in such movies as Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Oxbow Incident (1944), Mister Roberts (1955), and Twelve Angry Men (1957) made Fonda an icon of the silver screen. His portrayal of dust bowl farmer Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath won him an Oscar nomination, but he lost out to Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story.
Fonda had to wait over 40 years to get another Academy Award nomination. For his performance in 1981ís On Golden Pond, Fonda won his only Oscar. One of his co-stars in that movie was his two-time Academy Award winning daughter Jane. Itís said that their strained relationship was soothed by their participation in this movie.
Fonda reportedly had problems relating to his children, Jane and Peter. He once said he was more comfortable acting, because he could put on a mask and be someone he wasnít in real life.
When he died in 1982, a film critic said of Fonda, ďAs a leading man, he was always a character actor, and as a character actor, always a leading man.Ē