After graduating from Omaha Central High School in 1923, Fonda entered the University of Minnesota to study journalism. William Fonda insisted that his son hold a job while in college, and Fonda held two. He worked as a physical education instructor at a settlement house and for the telephone company. The strain of maintaining two jobs may have contributed to Fonda's dropping out of school after about two years. In 1925, Fonda returned to Omaha, to look for a job in journalism. A friend of his mother's, Dorothy Brando (mother of famous American actor Marlon Brando), offered him a chance to audition for a part at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Dorothy Brando was an amateur actress and very involved with the group. Despite his inexperience, Fonda was cast as Ricky in You and I. Though initially unsure of himself, Fonda grew to love the experience. Soon he was spending a significant amount of time at the Playhouse, performing odd jobs such as ushering and set building.
Fonda's father did not approve of his son's new career choice. He made Fonda take a job as a clerk in a credit company to support himself. Still, Fonda was cast in the lead role of Merton of the Movies at the Playhouse in 1926 or 1927. When William Fonda attended a performance, he recognized his son's talent. Fonda got an early break in 1927 when he wrote a sketch for George Billings, a leading impersonator of former president Abraham Lincoln. The sketch featured a role for Fonda as Lincoln's secretary. He toured on the vaudeville circuit with Billings for three months. When he returned to Omaha at the end of the tour, Fonda became the assistant director at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Stunningly, Henry Fonda was only nominated twice for acting Oscars, once for 1940's 'The Grapes of Wrath' and once for the 1981 film 'On Golden Pond'. He won for the latter, a story about a crotchety old man who must reconcile his love for his estranged daughter. Fonda also won an Honorary Award from the Academy for being 'The consummate actor, in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures.
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