Henry Fonda is born in Grand Island, Nebraska, 1905. The actor made nine films with director John Ford, including The Battle of Midway (1942), a documentary narrated by Fonda and his costar in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Jane Darwell. “He would never rehearse, didn't want to talk about a part,” Fonda said about his frequent director. “If an actor started to ask questions he'd either take those pages and tear them out of the script or insult him in an awful way. He loved getting his shot on the first take, which for him meant it was fresh. He would print the first take—even if it wasn't any good.” Among their collaborations were Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), which Fonda turned down until Ford convinced him otherwise after making him do a screen test in full make-up, My Darling Clementine (1946), with Ford overruling Darryl F. Zanuck’s choice of James Stewart in favor of putting Fonda in the lead and Mister Roberts (1955) for which Ford was replaced by Mervyn Leroy reportedly due to conflict between the director and his longtime star. “He had instinctively a beautiful eye for the camera,” Fonda recalled. “But he was also an egomaniac.”
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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.