Beulah Bondi is born in Chicago, 1888. She made her movie debut at age 43 in Street Scene (1931) and went on to play some of the greatest mothers on screen. In particular, she played James Stewart’s mom five times: in Vivacious Lady (1938), Of Human Hearts (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) (above, with Stewart and Guy Kibbee), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and on an episode of television’s The Jimmy Stewart Show in the early 1970s. “What distinguishes the real actor from the pseudo is the passionate desire to know what is going on in the hearts and minds of people,” the actress once remarked. That philosophy was put in motion when Bondi, who had tested for the role of Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), went to live among migrant workers in Bakersfield to get into the proper mindset for the role she thought she had. Bondi experienced her greatest disappointment when she learned that the role had been given to Jane Darwell instead.
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