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Beulah Bondi

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Also Known As: Beulah Bondy Died: January 11, 1981
Born: May 3, 1889 Cause of Death: injuries sustained in a fall
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Chicago-born Beulah Bondi spent many years appearing in theatrical stock companies throughout the USA before making her Broadway debut in 1925 as a 70-year old servant in "One of the Family" (while still in her mid-30s!). After creating the role of the slovenly, gossipy neighbor in the stage play "Street Scene", Bondi earned kudos reprising it in the 1931 film version. With her plain, undistinguished but malleable features, the actress was often cast in older parts: At age 45, she offered a heartbreaking performance as an elderly woman in a nursing home in "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937). One of Hollywood's truly priceless character players, Bondi was twice Oscar-nominated for her supporting performances in "The Gorgeous Hussy" (1936, as the backwards wife of President Andrew Jackson) and in "Of Human Hearts" (1938, as the doormat wife of stern minister Walter Huston). In the latter, Bondi played mother to James Stewart, which she would later do in the classics "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), and "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), both for director Frank Capra. Whether as the Puritan mother of troublemaking Bonita Granville in "Maid of Salem" (1937), or the mother of the ill-fated Emily Webb in...

Chicago-born Beulah Bondi spent many years appearing in theatrical stock companies throughout the USA before making her Broadway debut in 1925 as a 70-year old servant in "One of the Family" (while still in her mid-30s!). After creating the role of the slovenly, gossipy neighbor in the stage play "Street Scene", Bondi earned kudos reprising it in the 1931 film version. With her plain, undistinguished but malleable features, the actress was often cast in older parts: At age 45, she offered a heartbreaking performance as an elderly woman in a nursing home in "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937). One of Hollywood's truly priceless character players, Bondi was twice Oscar-nominated for her supporting performances in "The Gorgeous Hussy" (1936, as the backwards wife of President Andrew Jackson) and in "Of Human Hearts" (1938, as the doormat wife of stern minister Walter Huston). In the latter, Bondi played mother to James Stewart, which she would later do in the classics "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), and "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), both for director Frank Capra. Whether as the Puritan mother of troublemaking Bonita Granville in "Maid of Salem" (1937), or the mother of the ill-fated Emily Webb in the 1940 screen adaptation of "Our Town", Bondi personified not just the American maternal ideal as the backbone of the culture, but also the common woman of dignity and great strength.

As she aged, Bondi grew into playing the types of parts in which she had often been cast. She played the grandmother of "On Borrowed Time" in three different media in two different decades: in the 1939 feature film and the 1953 Broadway revival and the 1957 NBC adaptation. She remained a frequent presence on the small screen, including a memorable series of commercials for Oxydol detergent, until her 1963 "retirement" following her appearance in "Tammy and the Doctor". Bondi was lured back before the cameras in the 1970s, though, first for the TV-movie "She Waits" (CBS, 1972), which reteamed her with "A Summer Place" co-star Dorothy McGuire, and later for an occasional guest role on the CBS family drama "The Waltons" from 1974 to 1976. For her latter appearance, the actress earned an Emmy award. She died from injuries sustained in a fall in her California home in January 1981.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 She Waits (1972) Angela Medina--Mrs M
2.
 Tammy and the Doctor (1963) Mrs. Call
4.
 Tammy Tell Me True (1961) Mrs. Call
5.
 A Summer Place (1959) Mrs. Hamilton Hamble
6.
 The Big Fisherman (1959) Hannah
7.
 The Unholy Wife (1957) Emma Hochen
8.
 Back from Eternity (1956) Martha Spanger
9.
 Track of the Cat (1954) Ma Bridges
10.
 Lone Star (1952) Minniver Bryan
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1895:
Moved to Valparaiso, Indiana
:
Made stage acting debut as a child in the title role of local production of "Little Lord Fauntleroy"
1919:
Professional stage debut as member of Stuart Walker's stock company in Indianapolis, Indiana; remained with company until 1921
:
Acted in stock companies in Cincinnati, Toledo, and Dayton, Ohio, Baltimore, Maryland and Denver, Colorado; during this time altered spelling of last name
1925:
New York stage debut in "Wild Birds"
1925:
Broadway debut in "One of the Family", playing a 70-year old servant
1931:
Feature film debut, recreating stage role of the slovenly, gossipy tenament resident in "Street Scene"
:
Returned to Broadway to appear in "The Late Christopher Bean"; recreated role for the 1933 film
1936:
Earned first Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for "Gorgeous Hussy", playing the wife of US President Andrew Jackson
1937:
Offered a rich, beautifully nuanced performance as an elderly woman ignored by her children in "Make Way for Tomorrow"
1938:
Received second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod as James Stewart's mother in "Of Human Hearts"; also played Stewart's mom in "Vivacious Lady"
1939:
Played Granny in the film version of "On Borrowed Time"
1939:
Portrayed James Stewart's mom in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
1940:
Cast as Mrs. Webb in the film version of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town"
1943:
Appeared in "Watch on the Rhine"
1946:
Again cast as James Stewart's mother in "It's a Wonderful Life"
1948:
Was featured in "The Snake Pit"
1953:
Made TV debut in episode of "Medallion Theatre" (CBS)
1953:
Played Granny in Broadway revival of "On Borrowed Time"
1954:
Portrayed a bigot in "Track of the Cat"
1957:
Reprised role of Granny in the NBC "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production of "On Borrowed Time"
1959:
Cast as Dorothy McGuire's aunt in "A Summer Place"
:
Made a series of TV commercials for Oxydol detergent
1963:
Made final screen appearance in "Tammy and the Doctor"
1972:
TV-movie debut, "She Waits" (CBS)
1974:
Acted in "Sandburg's Lincoln" (NBC)
:
Played occasional guest role of Martha Corrine Walton in episodes of the CBS family drama "The Waltons"; won 1997 Emmy for episode "The Pony Cart"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Hyde Park High School: Chicago , Illinois -
Valparaiso University: Valparaiso , Indiana -
Francis Shimmer Academy: Mount Carroll , Illinois -
Convent of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary: Montreal , Quebec -

Notes

Bondi tested for the role of Ma Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) and was led to believe she had the part. The actress donned appropriate garb and went to live in a migrant camp in Bakersfield, California as research only to return to discover that the role had gone to Jane Darwell.

Bondi also did a couple of days shooting as Aunt Polly replacing an ill May Robson in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1938) but Robson recovered and resumed the part.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Eva Marble Bondy. Poet. Lived with Bondi from 1935 until her death in 1941; Bondi managed to get a volume of her mother's poems published in the early 1960s under the title "Worldkins".

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