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SCOTT EYMAN Q & A on "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

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SCOTT EYMAN Q & A on "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby moira finnie » December 14th, 2017, 8:08 am

Here's the thread to post questions for Scott Eyman, our guest author today & tomorrow!


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We think we know them as they have flickered across the screen in black & white ever since we can remember in classics such as The Grapes of Wrath, Mister Roberts, Twelve Angry Men, and On Golden Pond; and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Destry Rides Again, The Philadelphia Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo, and Rear Window.

Yet, Henry Fonda & James Stewart were flesh and blood, determined and uncertain, as well as boys and men who seem to stumble into acting, setting a standard for seamless naturalness in a series of matchless performances. The Guest Author series at The Silver Screen Oasis is delighted to have Scott Eyman as our guest on Sat. Dec. 16th & Sun., Dec. 17th, for an online Q & A about his latest book, HANK & JIM: THE FIFTY YEAR FRIENDSHIP OF HENRY FONDA & JAMES STEWART (Simon & Schuster).

Scott Eyman has brought his understanding eye and gift for choosing just the right anecdote to illustrate how human, contradictory, complex and endearing this pair of iconic actors were as individuals whose friendship began in their twenties and extended until death parted them. Scott brings Stewart and Fonda alive again on the page as he explores the thread of their bond over time in a moving and often funny chronicle that has been called "remarkably absorbing, supremely entertaining joint biography of two Hollywood legends"

Please join us this weekend at the link below to participate in the Q & A with Scott Eyman about this book. All are welcome!
viewforum.php?f=127

Links to places to purchase this book are below as are links to Scott Eyman's previous visits to the SSO:

Hank & Jim Publisher:
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/H ... 1501102172

To read reviews & purchase a copy of Hank & Jim:
https://tinyurl.com/yc6gtw9v


Previous Visits to the SSO by Scott Eyman:

Q & A on John Wayne:
viewtopic.php?
f=36&t=6684

Q & A on John Ford:

viewtopic.php?f=36&t=1092
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby moira finnie » December 16th, 2017, 8:21 am

Welcome to Scott Eyman! We appreciate your visits so much. Please accept my congratulations on your newest achievement with this book, which has the freshness of a memoir but the bibliography of a well-researched dual biography.

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Having read biographies of both Henry Fonda & Jimmy Stewart in the past, I felt that your book brought these two individuals to life much more vividly than others.

What prompted you to focus your latest book on these two actors?

Were you able to interview many people who knew them?

Did Fonda & Stewart learn anything about acting from one another?

Thanks in advance for your replies!
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » December 16th, 2017, 10:24 am

Scott, We are so happy you're here!
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I thoroughly enjoyed your "dual biography" of Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. Their highjinks and high-spirited, youthful pranks illuminated many of the reasons why they enjoyed each other's company. Were there any stories that you can share that you had to omit from your book?

How do you feel that their friendship strengthened their professional choices?

As a seasoned researcher, what source or sources became invaluable to you during the creation of Hank & Jim?

Thanks in advance for your responses!
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Trilby65 » December 16th, 2017, 3:18 pm

Scott, could you address how the 2nd World War affected Fonda & Stewart?

In your book you cite many friends who felt that Henry Fonda had a great sense of humor. Why did he appear in so few comedies? I thought he was great in THE MOON'S OUR HOME with Margaret Sullivan.

I know they shared many experiences as roommates, but did their abiding love for the difficult but alluring Margaret Sullavan affect their ability to move on in life?

Did Stewart and Fonda make each other laugh?

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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Scott_Eyman » December 16th, 2017, 4:20 pm

Hi there.Sorry for the delay.

I realized when I started thinking about the book that I’d never written a book like this before. More importantly, I’d never read it either. Books about intimate friendships between famous people are usually about politicians. Roosevelt and Churchill and so forth. This was a chance to do something new.


I was able to get to almost everybody that was still alive.All the children, almost all of their surviving friends such as Brooke Hayward and Jane Alexander, and Shirlee Fonda, Hank,s widow.

Honestly, I don’t think they had much to teach each other. They were such individualists as actors. They agreed on certain basic principles like learn your lines, respect the script and so forth. But Stewart was a very emotional actor and Fonda was much more recessive. They started out with different intentions.

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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Scott_Eyman » December 16th, 2017, 4:32 pm

Their hobbies were essentially boys hobbies. Model planes, kites, practical jokes. I think each of them served as a pressure release for the other on the emotional level. Professionally, they both had a great deal of integrity. There simply aren't a lot of paycheck movies in either of their filmographies. Fonda didn't have much use for a lot of his movies simply because he didn't lime or repect Darryl Zanuck's choices for him. It should be said that I think he was harsh. Zanuck gave him The Grapes of Wrath, The Ox-Bow Incident and lent him out for The Lady Eve. I also like Chad Hanna. Zanuck should have done as well for Tyrone Power.
For both of these men, I think that integrity was present at the creation.


The interviews with the family were crucial, as was the Library of Congress. They had all the interviews that were done for Fonda's autobiography, almost 1000 pages with family and friends and Fonda. That material gave me the foundation, while the interviews furnished the house.

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Re: SCOTT EYMAN to Discuss "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Scott_Eyman » December 16th, 2017, 4:46 pm

The war was the making of Stewart as an actor. With the exceptions of The Shop Around the Corner and maybe Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stewart's deepest work comes after the war. It gave him the anxiety and fear he accessed in It's a Wonderful Life, the Anthony Mann westerns, Vertigo. He couldn't have played any of those parts without the experience of being a bomber pilot and commanding men.
Fonda was fully formed as an actor earlier, with The Grapes of Wrath and so forth. What the war gave him was a sense of men in groups, which informs 12 Angry Men and a few other pictures like The Best Man. Of course, he specialized in men who are alone, but he understood what a man alone has to go up against.
Mostly, he was frustrated by the war. He wanted to see action and kill the enemy and he saw very little action and never fired a shot.

I think Fonda got typecast as the conscience of man early and simply got very few offers for comedies. Our loss. He was brilliant at playing the fool.

I hate to be apocalyptic about these things, but I think it's entirely possible that Fonda never got over Margaret Sullivan. She was his first love, and he couldn't hold on to her, which is a devastating thing to happen when you're desperately in love. However deeply Stewart's involvement with Sullivan was, it was glancing, in between other affairs and never as serious as other involvements such as Olivia de Havilland.

They broke each other up all the time. They shared a puckish sense of humor and a sense of the absurd in which they were often the butt of life's jokes.

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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby moira finnie » December 16th, 2017, 5:41 pm

Thanks for persevering and filling us in on the work that went into this story.

Your book mentions that both men had intense relationships with their fathers. How did their examples and values shape their careers and private lives?
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Lzcutter » December 16th, 2017, 5:43 pm

Scott!

It's great to have you back at the Oasis.

One of my fondest TCM Film Festival memories is your wonderful interview with Peter Fonda about his dad a few years ago. Peter Fonda brought us to tears and had us rolling with laughter.

Given that, did the Fonda and Stewart children hang out together when they were younger?
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Scott_Eyman » December 16th, 2017, 6:04 pm

Not that much. They knew each other, but Fonda's kids were 13 or 14 years older than Stewart's kids, which is an eternity. Fonda's kids might as well have been adults as far as Stewart's kids were concerned. Also, Fonda's rotation of wives mitigated against a lot of family time until late in their lives, when he married Shirlee in the early '60s and settled down. Then they did more things as couples, but by then the kids were all grown and living their own lives.

Yes, that was a great interview, wasn't it? Peter adores his dad and it comes through in everything he says.

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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Scott_Eyman » December 16th, 2017, 6:10 pm

Stewart's dad was a demanding guy, the biggest presence in the small town. He was quietly appalled at his son's career choice and subtly or not so subtly demeaning about his son's movie career. Stewart never felt he lived up to his father's expectations except in his service in the war. Then he knew he had surpassed his father's expectations.

Fonda's father died just as his son left for Hollywood, so he never saw his son become famous. His main contribution seems to have been a grudging approval of his son's acting, and instilling a hatred of racism when he took 14 year old Hank to witness a lynching in Omaha. After that Fonda had no illusions about what human beings are capable of, and it informed a lot of his choices as an actor.

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Re: SCOTT EYMAN to Discuss "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby moira finnie » December 16th, 2017, 6:42 pm

Scott_Eyman wrote:They broke each other up all the time. They shared a puckish sense of humor and a sense of the absurd in which they were often the butt of life's jokes.


I suspected that they cracked up on-screen together in the delightful performances they gave in On Our Merry Way (it was also easy to believe that the pair of them had a few beers during their brief scenes, just as the characters did). For anyone who hasn't had a chance to catch this little known little flick, here's a taste:
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » December 16th, 2017, 6:42 pm

Thanks for your responses, Scott.

Lynn and I were both in attendance for your wonderful interview in Club TCM with Peter Fonda. It was magical, and his adoration of his father was heartwarming. How do you prepare for such an in-depth person-to-person conversation like that? How does it compare to interviewing someone for your biographies? And were there any surprises during the Club TCM interview for you?
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby moira finnie » December 16th, 2017, 7:25 pm

Scott_Eyman wrote:Stewart's dad was a demanding guy, the biggest presence in the small town. He was quietly appalled at his son's career choice and subtly or not so subtly demeaning about his son's movie career. Stewart never felt he lived up to his father's expectations except in his service in the war. Then he knew he had surpassed his father's expectations.


One of the most moving moments in the book is when Jimmy Stewart's father sent him a letter with the 91st Psalm just as his son went to war. Yet, as you point out, he really didn't seem to respect his son's choices in life. Was there a quietly rebellious streak in Jimmy? Where do you think the urge to act come from in him when his life could have been so easy (in one sense) running a prosperous hardware store or becoming an architect after Princeton?

One of the life rules that Alex Stewart seemed to impose on his son (when his son was married & in his forties!) was regular church attendance. There is a definite spiritual struggle and introspection in some of Stewart's performances, but did he have strong formal religious beliefs of his own?

Yet spirituality seemed to make Henry Fonda uneasy (one reason why playing the priest in Graham Greene's THE FUGITIVE directed by John Ford may have been a mistake). You quote Jane Fonda that "Dad hated process and emotions and probing. He lumped religion, psychoanalysis, and Method acting under the category of crutches."

Stewart and Fonda each differed so much in their political and religious beliefs yet they found a way to be civil with one another despite this. Did they simply avoid the topics and concentrate on their experiences as friends and actors?
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Re: SCOTT EYMAN TO DISCUSS "HANK & JIM" ON 12/16 & 12/17

Postby Scott_Eyman » December 16th, 2017, 9:32 pm

You have to remember that Fonda's mother was a Christian Scientist; there's a family legend that indicates it might have been a contributing factor in her early death. Fonda ended up an atheist, although his widow told me it was hell to get him to go to the doctor, but that could have been the typical male reluctance as much as a residue of his Christian Science upbringing.
Fonda thought religion was childish, while it was a pillar of Stewart's life. He thought one of his greatest failures in his entire life was his inability to convince his wife or children to go to church. I suspect religion was adjoined to politics as a subject that was off limits for the two men, but not as stringently observed as the banishment of political conversation. The thing of it is that they didn't just love each other; they deeply respected each other as well, which is something we've lost in America today.


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