Jane Fonda details her relationship with her late father Henry
During the filming of On the golden pond, actor Henry Fonda created a watercolor painting of the three hats he wore in the film. “Sometimes I find it hard to believe that a painting is mine when I’ve finished it,” said the humble star, who was also a talented artist.
Once the film was wrapped, Henry made 200 lithographs of his hats while painting. Everyone who worked on On the golden pond received a signed and numbered print, accompanied by a personalized thank you note.
When someone coined the phrase “loud, quiet guy”, they might have been talking about Henry. The Nebraska-born actor, who won his only Oscar for acting On the golden pondgrumpy patriarch, spent his life as a man of few words. “Dad was a very shy and withdrawn person,” says Jane Fonda84. “He always said acting provided that mask behind which he could express the emotions he couldn’t in real life.”
Introduced to theater by Dorothy Brando, Marlon Brando’s mother, Henry thrived at the Omaha Community Playhouse. He moved to New York to seek his fortune and became roommates with another hopeful young actor, Jimmy Stewart. “Their friendship was based on being comfortable in silence,” Jimmy’s daughter Kelly Stewart Harcourt recount Closer. “These guys could spend time together building a model airplane and not really say anything.” It was a friendship that would last until Jimmy passed away in 1997.
In theater and on screen, Henry would find great success playing men with a strong sense of morality. Off-screen, he didn’t like the attention or care about accolades. “He wasn’t ego-driven and was about as down-to-earth as he could get,” says biographer Robert Matzen.
But in his private life, the quintuple married actor has experienced a lot of heartache. His second union, with socialite Frances Ford Seymour, mother of Jane and Peter Fonda, was tragically troubled. Frances suffered from depression and viewed Henry’s silences and multiple infidelities as rejection. She killed herself on her 42nd birthday, just months after Henry told her he was leaving her for another woman.
Guilt-ridden, Henry withdrew from his children, who only found out the truth about their mother’s death years later. “I don’t think I was a particularly good father,” admitted Henry, “but I was lucky.”
Jane, who had always looked up to her father, tried to get closer before Henry died in 1982, but she kept her expectations in check. “You don’t become someone you never were at the end of your life,” she notes. “My dad was not a communicative person. He just didn’t know how.
But like On the golden pond‘s Norman and Chelsea, they found a way to express their love. “All I could do was tell her, ‘I’m sorry that there were times when I made you unhappy. I’m sorry that I haven’t always been a great girl. totally forgive you for not always being a good dad. I know you did your best,” Jane recalled. “I was sitting at his feet and he started crying – and my dad didn’t cried, especially in front of people. So I know he understood what I told him.