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Henry Fonda Was No Hero After All, He Had Dark Secrets

Henry Fonda was a Golden Age idol known for his oftentimes-heroic appearance on the big screen, but the actor was no hero in real life. On the contrary, Henry was a tragic figure in his own story, and those closest to him often suffered as a result. Though Henry found incredible success in his acting endeavors, he never seemed to find happiness. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Henry Fonda was no hero after all, he had dark secrets.

Henry Fonda Had a Sheltered Upbringing

Henry Fonda was born in 1905 to a family of Christian Scientists. As one might imagine, this resulted in Henry having a fairly sheltered upbringing. Henry was an incredibly shy child, though he grew up to be quite the physical specimen. Girls gave Henry plenty of attention, but he didn’t know how to reciprocate it. Henry’s sheltered upbringing wasn’t the only thing working against the future star upon his coming of age. The young man had also witnessed a lynching as a child that left him scarred for life.

The lynching that Henry Fonda witnessed as a child would cast a shadow of death and despair over his life that the future actor would never be able to escape from. Despite all that Henry accomplished on the screen, he was always a scared child in his personal life. Still, the quality of Henry Fonda’s work on the big screen can’t be denied.

As Henry Fonda grew into a teenager, he practiced sports and spent his spare time working with his father. However, the young man found an entirely different passion after entering into college. It was while attending the University of Minnesota that Henry first got the acting bug. He began performing in productions on the stage at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Though Henry had no previous experience acting, he took to it fast. The actor was a natural, and it wasn’t long before he was onto bigger and better things.

Henry Enjoyed Performing on the Stage

After performing in productions at the Omaha Community Playhouse, Henry Fonda went on to join a theatre troupe by the name of the University Players. It was here that Henry met the woman that was to become the first of his five wives. That woman was Margaret Sullavan. Henry and Margaret tied the knot while working together with the theatre troupe, though their marriage only lasted for a very short time.

Henry Fonda and his first wife got married on Christmas Day of 1931. At the time, Henry was 26 years old and Margaret Sullavan was only a few years his junior. Both of the burgeoning stars would go on to become big deals in Hollywood, though that wouldn’t occur until well after their divorce. Henry and Margaret divorced in 1933, though they actually separated a mere few months after their wedding. In fact, it seems that Henry and Margaret didn’t make it past the honeymoon stage of their marriage. This was merely the first of several failed marriages that Henry would suffer over the course of his lifetime, adding to this tale of despair.

During the short time that Henry and Margaret were together, they did not get along very well. Henry was bottled up after his traumatic upbringing, and Margaret had a hot temper. The contradictory personalities clashed, with the emotional Margaret not taking to her new husband’s ice-cold demeanor. Though Henry tried to keep his emotions bottled up, there were times when Margaret managed to get him to give up this guise. Henry and Margaret were said to have had massive arguments that gave any other Hollywood couple at the time a run for it’s money.

Henry Became a Star After His First Divorce

It wasn’t long after divorcing from his first wife that Henry Fonda started making waves in the entertainment industry. Around the same time, Henry befriended fellow future star James Stewart. In 1935, Henry and James moved together from New York City to Hollywood, where they both became stars on the big screen. With James by his side, Henry had no problem getting in with the ladies. However, the star had more than sleeping around on his mind. Henry wanted to get married again, though his second marriage would be even less successful than his first. In fact, Henry’s second marriage was so devastating that it had consequences that affected the actor well after it ended in divorce.

Henry Fonda married for a second time in 1936, a mere few years after his marriage and divorce from Margaret Sullavan. This time, Henry was a little bit more invested. However, this investment wasn’t going to pay off. Henry’s second wife was a woman by the name of Frances Ford Seymour Brokaw. Though Frances wasn’t a celebrity in the same since as Henry, she was a notable socialite. Frances was also a widow, with her husband having recently passed away at the time that she met Henry. Henry and Frances proved an even greater mismatch than Henry and Margaret.

Though Henry’s marriage to his second wife lasted for over a decade, it wasn’t a successful one. Those years were fraught with dark times, and the marriage would have consequences that would haunt Henry well after the divorce. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

Henry’s Second Marriage Was Disastrous

Henry Fonda and second wife Frances Ford Seymour Brokaw found difficulty early on in their marriage. As had occurred in his previous marriage, Henry got on his new wife’s bad side by being emotionally distant. Frances was in need of support, as she was still dealing with the emotional trauma of losing her husband. The two tried to force their marriage to work, and one of their ways of doing so was to introduce children into the equation. Henry and Frances had two children while they were married, and those two children both became stars in their own right. The first child was Jane Fonda, who is still around today at the age of 84. The second child was Peter Fonda, who passed in 2019.

The year of Peter Fonda’s birth marked the year that Henry Fonda reached the peak of his career success. That was the year that the actor appeared in The Grapes of Wrath. Henry earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in the film. However, things took a dark turn in the actor’s life when World War II came around in the ensuing decade.

Although Henry Fonda had a family to take care of back home, he insisted on serving during World War II. This may have simply been Henry’s way of getting away from his family, as it seems that things weren’t going very good between him and his wife. When Henry returned from the war, things only got worse domestically. Both Jane and Peter would go on to accuse their father of being emotionally abusive during this time period, though it was arguably the star’s wife who got it the worst. Nonetheless, Frances Ford Seymour Brokaw wasn’t completely innocent. The former widow suffered from bipolar disorder.

Harry Married His Mistress After His Wife’s Tragic End

Towards the end of his second marriage, Henry began cheating on his wife with a woman by the name of Susan Blanchard. Susan would go on to become Henry’s third wife, though this transition certainly didn’t go off without a hitch. When Henry announced to his second wife that he wanted a divorce, she had herself committed to an insane asylum. During her stay, she committed suicide. This suicide is what finally put an end to Henry and Frances’ marriage.

When Frances committed suicide, it was said that she left personalized notes to everyone close to her besides Henry Fonda. Henry didn’t want to tell his two kids that their mother had committed suicide, so he lied to them by telling them that she had died of a heart problem. He also prevented the children from attending their mother’s funeral. Both Jane and Peter would go on to figure out the truth about their mother’s death sooner rather than later, with Jane Fonda having shared that she found out about her mother’s suicide while reading a gossip magazine at her school.

Henry Fonda wasted no time in marrying third wife Susan Blanchard. The two married in 1950, the same year of Frances’ suicide. In order to seal the deal on their marriage, Henry and Susan adopted a daughter by the name of Amy. As was the case in Henry’s previous marriage, forcing children into the mix didn’t help the chemistry. Henry and Susan divorced in 1956, though this divorce thankfully didn’t include any suicides. Nonetheless, Susan went on to claim that Henry was abusive to her during the marriage. It seems that Henry expected too much of his wife, and she couldn’t keep up with his housekeeping demands.

Did Henry Ever Find Happiness?

Around the same time that he divorced from his third wife, Henry Fonda got into a fight with his longtime friend John Ford. The legendary filmmaker was directing Henry in a picture by the name of Mister Roberts. The old friends got into a fight during filming that their friendship never recovered from. Henry Fonda went on to marry two more times, with his fourth wife being a baroness by the name of Afdera Franchetti. True to form, this marriage lasted for a handful of years. Henry’s fifth and final wife was a woman by the name of Shirlee Mae Adams, and they remained married until Henry’s 1982 passing. Henry passed away shortly after making a feature with daughter Jane Fonda that commented on their estranged relationship. The film received awards recognition, but Henry was too sick to attend that year’s Academy Award ceremony. He passed away shortly after.

Though Henry Fonda was one of the most successful big-screen protagonists of Hollywood’s Golden Age, he was never truly satisfied in his personal life. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Henry Fonda was a friend of James Stewart’s before either of them were stars, and that Henry’s third wife committed suicide because he wanted a divorce? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

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