Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart

S. & S. Oct. 2017. 416p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501102172. $29; ebk. ISBN 9781501102196. FILM
Renowned for their roles as Abraham Lincoln, Tom Joad, Mr. Smith, and Charles Lindbergh, Henry Fonda and James Stewart met almost by chance, forming a 50-year friendship despite differing personalities, religious and political convictions, and career goals. Here, Eyman (film history, Univ. of Miami; John Wayne: The Life and Legend) crafts a comprehensive dual biography of the two men. Comfortable in his skin, Stewart was mostly content with film acting; Fonda was emotionally shut down (except with Stewart), didn't like himself much, and returned to the stage whenever possible. Fonda was embarrassed by his five marriages; Stewart married Gloria Hatrick McLean later in life and they were together for more than 40 years. Eyman covers Fonda's early life on the Nebraska plains, Stewart's upbringing in small-town Pennsylvania, and the circumstances that brought them together with director Josh Logan and actress Margaret Sullavan. Also covered are Stewart's stints as a B-24 flier and combat leader, and Fonda's service in the navy, which informed his postwar stage smash Mister Roberts. Fonda ultimately found happiness in his final marriage to Shirlee Mae Adams, while Stewart's later years were marked by hearing loss, depression, and isolation.
VERDICT This recommended title includes extensive interviews with family, friends, and coworkers of both men, fleshing out a fully rounded portrait of two complex, contradictory artists. [See Prepub Alert, 4/24/17.]

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