Teaching Students About Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda, a legendary American actor born in 1905, made an immense impact on the world of cinema and on society in the 20th century. Fonda not only had a versatile and illustrious career in film, theater, and television, but he also contributed significantly to humanitarian and social causes. This article aims to guide teachers through various aspects of teaching students about Henry Fonda and his impact on the world.
1. The Early Years and Path to Fame
Begin by exploring Henry Fonda’s early life, starting with his childhood in Nebraska. Introduce students to the concept of hard work that developed during his upbringing in modest circumstances. Discuss his initial interest in acting while attending the University of Minnesota, only to drop out later and move to New York City to pursue an acting career.
Emphasize how his determination led him to work menial jobs while learning from experienced theater actors like James Stewart. Talk about Fonda’s breakthrough role on Broadway in “The Farmer Takes a Wife,” which eventually brought him to Hollywood.
2. A Remarkable Film Career
Study the important films of Henry Fonda’s career that spanned over five decades. Discuss movies like “Young Mr. Lincoln,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “Mister Roberts,” “12 Angry Men,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” and “On Golden Pond”. Analyze the themes represented in these films and how they contributed to Fonda’s unique legacy.
Explore the dynamic range of roles that Fonda played as a leading man – from heroes and antiheroes to villains – emphasizing his ability to adapt to various genres such as drama, westerns, comedy, and even film-noir. Highlight the awards he won throughout his life, like two Academy Awards including one for Lifetime Achievement.
3. Engaging with Social Issues
Study the historical context of Henry Fonda’s career and his association with social and humanitarian causes. Educate students about his consistent display of empathy and care for the less fortunate through movies like “Grapes of Wrath” that dealt with social issues directly affecting American society.
Examine his World War II service as a naval officer and his commitment to speaking up against discrimination in the film industry, such as opposing the Hollywood Blacklist during the McCarthy era.
4. Henry Fonda: Beyond Cinema
Discuss Fonda’s activism outside of acting – including helping found the Actors Studio – which influenced the careers of many future talents like Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and Marilyn Monroe. Delve into his personal life, describing its complications and triumphs, as well as its impact on his children Jane and Peter Fonda who went on to have successful acting careers themselves.
5. Teaching Methods and Activities
Employ various educational techniques such as screenings, documentaries, panel discussions, role playing, games or quizzes to make learning about Henry Fonda engaging for students. Encourage them to research more about him, write essays analyzing his filmography or societal influence, or create presentations illustrating different aspects of his life.