Lifelong Friends Jimmy Stewart & Henry Fonda Only Fought Once—About This
The celebrated actors were best friends for 50 years.
Maintaining a 50-year friendship is definitely something to brag about, but the rule that kept these two Hollywood stars close would be a hard one for many to follow. Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart first met when they were up-and-coming theater actors in 1932, and they remained friends until Fonda's death in 1982. (Stewart died 15 years later in 1997.)
The two men supposedly only fought once, and that blow-up argument led to them deciding that there was one topic they would never discuss again. Read on to find out more about these Old Hollywood buddies and how they made sure their differences didn't come between them.
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Fonda and Stewart started out as roommates.
According to Turner Classic Movies, Fonda and Stewart first met in 1932 when they were members of University Players, a theater company in Massachusetts. The two were roommates that summer, and they decided to live together again when they moved to New York City and make it there. Later, around 1935, they moved to Los Angeles within a year of each other, and both of their film careers took off.
Stewart would become one of the most famous actors in Hollywood through films including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Vertigo, and It's a Wonderful Life. Fonda would do the same with The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men, and Once Upon a Time in the West.
They had some surprisingly wholesome hobbies.
"They were very much alike," Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe writer Robert Matzen told Closer of the friends. "They were both quiet introverts. Tall guys who were not really comfortable in their own skin."
The two actors enjoyed doing relaxing activities together after being onstage, such as working on model planes. "Both of us were working in shows and every night we'd rush home and start putting the plane together," Stewart once said, according to Closer. "First thing we knew it was 6 in the morning!"
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But, there was one topic they didn't discuss.
While Fonda and Stewart had their similarities, they had very different beliefs when it came to politics and religion. Stewart was a Republican and a Christian. Fonda was a Democrat and agnostic.
According to Closer, they once had a big argument about politics and decided that they wouldn't broach the topic again, which may or may not have gotten physical, depending on which account you're reading. "There were certain subjects we just didn't talk about," Stewart reportedly said.
In an interview with Fox News, director Peter Bogdanovich said that Fonda told him the same thing. "I talked to Fonda once about Jimmy, how they got along so well, considering that they were polar opposites politically. And Hank said, 'We just don't talk about politics. We just don't talk about it.'"
They kept each other grounded.
Accounts of Fonda and Stewart's friendship explain that they could count on each other for support and for a calming presence amid their hectic careers. So, perhaps it's no surprise that they didn't want to talk about politics.
They also were a constant for each other, even though other relationships came and went: While Stewart was married to his wife, Gloria Hatrick McLean, from 1949 until her death in 1994, Fonda was married five times.
In the biography Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart, Scott Eyman wrote (via The Dallas Morning News), "In their friendship they created a safe place for themselves, away from the fears and frustrations of their careers, their domestic problems, the responsibilities of their legendary status."