US film and stage actor.
Born in Grand Rapids, Nebraska, Fonda had intended to become a journalist, but subsequently abandoned this ambition to join the Omaha Community Playhouse as an amateur actor and manager's assistant. After turning professional, he worked in summer reps until joining the University Players in 1928. Broadway productions followed, including the lead in The Farmer Takes A Wife (1934), which also provided him with his screen debut. Stardom came quickly with such notable films as The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), Young Mr Lincoln (1939), and The Grapes of Wrath (1940), in which he gave one of his most memorable performances (as Tom Joad).
During World War II Fonda served in the US navy, receiving a Bronze Star and Presidential Citation. After the war his career reached new heights with Broadway successes and such films as Clementine (1946), Twelve Angry Men (1957), and Fail Safe (1964). Most successful of his postwar performances was the Broadway production of Mister Roberts, which he repeated on screen in 1955. Throughout the remainder of his career he appeared in numerous films, plays, and on television; he won his only Academy Award for his role in his final film, On Golden Pond (1981), in which Katherine Hepburn and his daughter Jane Fonda also appeared. His son Peter Fonda (1939– ) and his granddaughter Bridget Fonda (1964– ) have also made their mark as film actors.