Henry Fonda Was a Dark, Dark Man


The classic movie star seemed to always be sucking on the grapes of wrath.

In the memoirs of 1950s and ’60s socialite Slim Keith, which I just caught up with, Slim says:

“For all his poise onstage, Fonda was a loner, with a deep sadness somewhere in him.

“He was definitely not the sort of man you’d want to go to lunch with if you were expecting good fun and to laugh all the way through.

“His was a black humor.

“I remember one of his star turns was a pantomime of seven painless ways to kill a baby.”


Keith adds that when Frances Brokaw, Fonda’s wife, whom he was separated from, killed herself after a long history of mental illness, everyone assumed Fonda would skip the next performance of Mister Roberts and try to recover.

“But he arrived at the theater on time, walked into his dressing room, put on his makeup and costume, walked onto the stage, and played the performance perfectly.

“You could never tell what was happening inside of him.”

Poor Jane and Peter.