Henry Fonda : Why was he such a prick?

Why was he such a prick?

I love Henry's movies and in some interviews he seems like a nice guy, but I'm always reading unpleasant things about him. He appeared to be a god awful father and husband, his aloof, cold, aggressive persona is really difficult to understand.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

The answers to such questions may never be fully known. I've read a lot about Henry Fonda. I've read his autobiography and the books by his children, but there are no real answers as to why he was so moody and distant. I highly recommend Fonda's book 'Fonda On Fonda' [1980] as told to Howard Teichmann. Fonda does not shy away from his darker side.

Fonda appeared to have had a normal upbringing. He did witness the lynching of a black man falsely accused of rape and that incident stayed with him forever and influenced him in two of his best films, THE OX-BOW INCIDENT [1943], and, 12 ANGRY MEN [1957]. He was also painfully shy and that also stayed with him forever.

But that still doesn't tell us the reasons why he was such a difficult husband and father. He was good at bottling up his emotions. Jane recalled that her his basic mood was anger. But what was he angry at? Some people probably couldn't tell you themselves.

I do find that part of his personality perplexing. I know it wasn't as common for a father to be overly expressive and sentimental with their children in his time, but that was no excuse to be cold and aloof.

Fonda's best friend, James Stewart, was not overly expressive with his children either, but he was never cold and distant with them. They always spoke about his good nature, but they admitted that he wasn't the type who went around telling them that he loved them all of the time.

So why was it so hard for Fonda?

There was a sad story that Michael Parkinson told about the Fondas. Parkinson had Henry on his show. Henry expressed his admiration for Jane's performance in KLUTE [1971] and mentioned how he was going to tell her about it "Actor to Actress." Some years later, Jane was on the show and that story came up. Jane, with tears in her eyes, said, "He never told me that. Why didn't he tell me that?"

As he got older, Fonda did learn to open up to his children and finally express to them that he did love them after all.

It also must be pointed out that Fond was not really "a prick." Yes he was a moody person, but there are other stories that show him in a compassionate, warm and sentimental light.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Fonda was a man who did feel very strongly about people, particularly his kids, but was unable to express it. Jane and Peter acknowledge that he had a strict, old-fashioned upbringing and a Christian Science background. However, despite being a bit staid and reserved, Henry's sisters (one of whom Peter lived with for several years after a mental breakdown) were kind, encouraging and loving. Both kids said they never got the heart of what was wrong with the family.

There were instances if Henry saying marvelous things about how brilliant his kids were -- to press. Things he never said to their faces. Both Fonda kids have always seemed to be neurotic, expressive and hypersensitive. With Jane being the greater Stoic and Peter being more open

Re: Why was he such a prick?

But there is the difference between Henry and his sisters. All were reserved, but you say that his sisters were kind and loving. Being reserved was not uncommon back in those days, but there was a difference between being reserved and distant. If his sisters were able to be encouraging and kind, then what was Henry's problem?

Fonda was more than just reserved. He was uptight, repressed, frequently angry, cold, and sometimes just plain cruel. Compare him to other Hollywood fathers who were reserved and you'll see a difference. Parents did not coddle their children as often or say I Love You all of the time, but that didn't mean the love wasn't felt. James Stewart and Fred MacMurray were just two shy and reserved guys in Hollywood, but none of them had the same hangups as Fonda did.

You hear stories about Fonda's lighter side, his warmth and easy going nature when he was around his friends. It seems he was able to relax more with them, but even that was no guarantee.

I have not read the Jane Fonda biography by Patricia Bosworth and don't know how acc 238 urate it is, but one part [from wikipedia] has a description of Henry Fonda from Dr. Margaret Gibson; "He was a cold, self-absorbed person, a complete narcissist."

The root of the problem probably came from Henry Fonda and not his parents.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

What is a Christian Science background? Does it have anything to do with Scientology?

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Christian Science has nothing to do with Scientology. They are two very distinct ways of believing. I refrain from calling either of them a religion as both have been considered cults or cult-like organizations by many.

"Christian Science is sometimes confused with Scientology, New Age practices, faith healing, and Eastern religions. It has also been called un-Christian or labeled a cult. Actually, Christian Science is none o 5b4 f the above. The inspiration it offers runs deeper than positive thinking. It is deeply Christian. Christian Science teaches that it’s never God's will for anyone to suffer, be sick, or die. Instead, it shows how God is entirely good, and therefore His will for each of us is only health and life. To see how Christian Scientists relate to other faiths and backgrounds, refer to the ecumenical and interfaith dialogue community on this site for blogs and discussions. Still have questions? Keep reading and/or feel free to ask someone."

The above excerpt is from the Christian Science site @:


Developed by L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.

Scientology addresses the spirit—not the body or mind—and believes that Man is far more than a product of his environment, or his genes.

Scientology comprises a body of knowledge which extends from certain fundamental truths. Prime among these are:

Man is an immortal spiritual being.

His exper 1c84 ience extends well beyond a single lifetime.

His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized.

Scientology further holds Man to be basically good, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself, his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.

Scientology is not a dogmatic religion in which one is asked to accept anything on faith alone. On the contrary, one discovers for oneself that the principles of Scientology are true by applying its principles and observing or experiencing the results."

The above excerpt is from the Scientology site @:

Christian Science is based on the bible as far as I can discern but Scientology is a "new age religion" at best and has sometimes been described as science fiction. I personally have not delved into either one enough to be an expert but do occasionally access their sites to read and learn about what other people believe. I just included these excerpts and links so you may also read and learn if you choose. I find both sects to be very odd but to each their own I suppose. I am kind of of the "live and let live" frame of mind when it comes to religion and spirituality but I do like to educate myself on what others believe so I can better understand what kind of person they are all around.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Hey, thanks for taking the time to answer my question!

Re: Why was he such a prick?

But being painfully shy seems to contradict his reputation as a ladies man?

As for his basic angry mood, perhaps he was suffering from depression or he learned such behavior from a parent and didn't know any other way to act normally. I know someone who's basic mood was angry but was otherwise an exceptional and good human being.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Maybe Fonda had the women chase him.

Fonda was many contradictory things. He was moody, angry, a loner, funny and compassionate. I don't think anyone ever really knew him.

And if anyone's BASIC mood is angry, then that defines them as angry people.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

I think he definitely had depression and anxiety problems. Something easily treatable today for most wasn't spoken of, even to family at the time. I think his friendship with Stewart says something. For them to put aside politics to maintain their friendship shows a deep caring and respect for the other and the friendship. I also believe he had a low self-esteem. Even with women, talent and wealth he seemed to need a pat on the shoulder. That might have come from his own childhood but it's no excuse for repeating it with his kids. If he had an unhealthy parental relationship he should've strived to improve that misery for his own family. Perhaps he simply didn't know how. I feel great compassion for him and his family.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

He wasn't. You are thinking of Bing Crosby not Henry Fonda.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

You are mistaken, both Fonda and Crosby were known to be poor examples of father's and difficult people.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

There was someone [I forget who] who said that Fonda was a modest man when he worked with him on THE WRONG MAN. This person said that Fonda did not have movie star attitude. No doubt, Fonda was a complex man.

Bing Crosby wasn't a saint, but he wasn't a monster.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Fonda was also compassionate when it came to racial discrimination and tried to present this in his screen work. While he was an angry and distant man, he was also a loyal and modest one.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

"Henry Fonda could do anything you asked him to do as an actor, but he was a cold, removed man. He was not, for instance, a very good father. He had an access to his unconscious when he was acting that he didn't have in day-to-day life. He executed anything professional without problems, but socially he was difficult. He didn't want to reveal himself, didn't want to expose who he really was. He came out of Omaha, the ultimate white-bread place, but I always felt his talent was Jewish. His personality and his heritage were WASP, but his talent was Jewish." - Mark Rydell

Re: Why was he such a prick?

After reading this thread, I see some connections regarding Henry Fonda's behavior at times and that of his co-star and friend, Glenn Ford. Ford's son (who is also named Peter) has described his father has having "Canadian reserve", and the motto, "If you don't have anything to say, say nothing." The reason why acting worked so well for him (and I suspect for Fonda as well) is that it enabled him to express himself in ways he found difficult to do in his personal life. Peter Ford said that his father could be moody; there were times when he was humorous and fun to be with but when he got into a dark mood or a situation arose that he didn't want to deal with, he would withdraw into himself. He would lock himself in his study for hours and sometimes would go days without speaking to anyone. I don't think either of these men realized how cold and distant this behavior made them seem to others, and they may have taken for granted that their children knew that they loved them. Ford suffered from depression much of his life, was possibly bi-polar, and later, alcohol became a huge problem. He sought affection and love from women, and when he didn't have a woman in his life he became lonely and longed for companionship. Ford had his positive qualities and many friends; he was a devoted friend and confidante to Rita Hayworth, even as her behavior became increasingly erratic due to alcoholism an Alzheimer's disease. And like Fonda, Ford supported the civil rights movement and was an advocate for the rights of Native Americans.

It should also be put into perspective that both Fonda and Ford lived in an era where many of these issues - addiction, mental illness, etc - were simply not discussed. And the studio contract days in Hollywood unfortunately didn't leave much time for family life. Actors in those days worked very long hours, six days a week, and were often required to promote the films they appeared in by going on publicity tours. Many problems in these households were due to miscommunications and misunderstandings. Both Fonda and Ford seemed at peace with themselves at the end, and their children and grandchildren loved them, flaws and all.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

That's an interesting comparison [Fonda and Ford]. I've recently started looking at Ford's life more in depth, so I can't add more except that I agree with what you have written.

As for Fonda, he at least became aware of his moodiness and imperfections as he grew older.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Fonda seems to have a had a normal upbringing and didn't suffer from any abuse [emotional or physical] from anything he ever said or what I have read.

It's almost like he went along being normal until he divorced Margaret Sullavan. After that it seems Fonda became cold, aloof, closed off and moody. Maybe she was the reason. Maybe he had depression and couldn't get over her. He mellowed out in his later years with his last marriage.

Reading stories about Fonda and including the latest book 'Hank and Jim', it appears Fonda sometimes went out of his way to be rude to some people.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Fonda's co-workers considered him to be rude when filming THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB. They had nice things to say about James Stewart, but Fonda was cold and often ignored their greetings in the morning. Of course, Fonda was kind to his best friend and painted a portrait of Stewart's favorite horse, Pie.

Mae Clarke once asked Fonda to consider her for a bit part in any production, but he got up and walked away without a word to her.

When filming THE ROUNDERS [1965] with Glenn Ford, there was a young publicity man named Bob Crutchfield working on the movie. He approached Ford first. Ford looked at him in surprise but was gracious and told him that if needed anything to just let him know.

Crutchfield then approached Fonda. Fonda said, "You want to know anything about me ask my agent."

Crutchfield was annoyed and focused his attention on Ford. One day Ford was having his photos taken when Fonda approached. "Hi, guys. Whatcha doin'?" He was told they were taking publicity photos. Fonda looked it over and said, "Well, if you need me for anything, I'll be right over there." From then on Fonda was cooperative and terrific to work with.

A very complex guy.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

I should also mention that Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford were close friends and enjoyed working with each other.

Re: Why was he such a prick?

I'll be glad when all the Fonda's are dead.

Bing.. Wobbledy wobble, wo-wo-wobble, wobbin'

Re: Why was he such a prick?

So you are not so fond a the Fonda's huh?

Is it creative to have an uncreative signature such as this one?

Re: Why was he such a prick?

I'll be glad when his cunt daughter Hanoi Jane is dead!

😺 Schrodinger's Cat walks into a bar, and doesn't. 😠 Let's go, Brandon!

Re: Why was he such a prick?

He was overrated.

Really bad actor and with a whiny, annoying voice.

Is it creative to have an uncreative signature such as this one?

Re: Why was he such a prick?

Cuz his big fat grandaughter Bridget ate all his fewd and he was hangry?

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