Hank & Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart

Scott Eyman's engrossing, comprehensive and nuanced dual biography of Henry Fonda (1905-1982) and James Stewart (1908-1997) chronicles the Oscar-winning actors' private lives, careers and 50-year friendship. The two were a study of contrasts: Fonda was a fierce liberal, agnostic and workaholic who wed five times; Stewart was a Republican, church-going family man who was happily married for 45 years. Both were loners who found the right profession. "Acting allowed them to express emotions neither of them could have otherwise expressed, use experiences that they would have blocked," writes Eyman.

The friendship began in 1932, when the two struggling actors became roommates (with actor Myron McCormick and director Josh Logan). Both entered motion pictures in 1935, and within five years had become leading men competing for the same Best Actor Oscar in 1940 (Stewart won for The Philadelphia Story, but he voted for Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath). The two lived on opposite coasts in the 1950s, when Stewart's film career soared (Rear Window, Vertigo) and Fonda abandoned his film career for seven years to return to Broadway in Mister Roberts. In the 1960s and '70s, the duo co-starred in three films.

Thanks to fresh interviews with Jane and Peter Fonda and Fonda's widow, Shirlee, Eyman (Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille) creates a particularly satisfying portrait of the conflicted and remote Fonda. Fans of both actors will enjoy Hank & Jim, a well-researched and absorbing biography that celebrates and humanizes two complex men and their enduring friendship. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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