Henry Fonda’s Birthday

Today, in 1905, Henry Fonda was born in Nebraska. While I have only seen just a sampling of his immense body of work, I think he is one of my favorite actors. Here is a list of the films of his I have seen and my thoughts on them:

  • Jezebel – 1938, William Wyler – A decent film, it leans heavily on Bette Davis’s Oscar-winning performance. I actually do like Fonda here, who actually impressed me a bit more than Davis.
  • Jesse James – 1939, Henry King – I couldn’t stand this movie. The best part was the bank robbery, but the rest was just bad. Fonda has a bit part as Jesse’s brother Frank. It’s not really a bit part since he is given #2 billing, but he’s barely in the film and makes no significant impact. I’d like to see The Return of Frank James, though only because it can’t possibly be as bad as this one was.
  • Young Mr. Lincoln – 1939, John Ford – Really amazing. Like the Ford/Wayne pictures, Ford’s works with Fonda seem to have some kind of connection. Just watch the way Fonda carries himself here as Honest Abe and it’s almost note-for-note repeated as the stern Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine.
  • Drums Along The Mohawk – 1939, John Ford – If there’s one Ford film that I’ve never been impressed with, it’s this one. It’s entertaining, but you can tell that Ford just isn’t comfortable with Technicolor. Fonda and Claudette Colbert are the best parts, though.
  • The Grapes of Wrath – 1940, John Ford – I talked about this here.
  • My Darling Clementine – 1946, John Ford – I talked about this here.
  • Fort Apache – 1948, John Ford – I can’t praise this enough. I went over it here.
  • 12 Angry Men – 1957, Sidney Lumet – Wonderful. Fonda is amazing in this and why he wasn’t even nominated for it, I don’t know.
  • Once Upon A Time In The West – 1969, Sergio Leone – Seeing Fonda in this is like seeing your father beat someone. Still, he is just a force as Frank and an unmatched one at that. Frank is one of nastiest people to grace the screen.

Fonda was truly one of the great stars of our time and I can’t wait to delve more into his career.

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