Movie Flashback: Henry Fonda Starred in His Final Movie 31 Years Ago
12.04.12 by Chris
The legendary actor won a Best Actor Oscar for his swan song.
Henry Fonda had a career spanning six decades, starting out on the Broadway stage in 1938. He became a legend of the big screen with memorable roles in The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men, and How the West Was Won, but it took his final role in 1981's On Golden Pond, released Dec. 4, for Fonda to win his one and only Oscar. Winning at the age of 76, Fonda is the oldest actor to win the Best Actor Oscar.
In the movie, adapted from the 1979 play of the same name, Fonda played Norman Thayer, who with his wife Ethel (Katharine Hupburn), spend each summer at their cottage on the lake called Golden Pond. Their daughter Chelsea, played by real-life daughter Jane Fonda, visits them one summer and asks if they'll watch her fiance's son while they travel to Europe. When she returns, her stepson has the relationship with her father that she always wanted.
Jane Fonda purchased the movie rights to the play specifically for her father to play the cantankerous Norman Thayer. Along with Fonda, Hepburn and screenwriter Ernest Thompson would go on to win Oscars. Despite being a small adult drama, On Golden Pond would go on to gross $119 million, making it the second-highest grossing movie of 1981, after Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Fonda died in August of 1982 from heart disease but throughout his career he appeared in more than 106 movies, television programs, and shorts, and ended his epic career on a very high note.