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For the Movie Fan on Your List. We’re Talking 20th Century Movies.

November 8, 2012 by Reader's Connection

The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda

I always liked Henry Fonda, but I never gave him much thought. He was never a charismatic favorite. When I saw the title The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda, and read the critical blurbs on the jacket about how haunted Fonda had been, I was puzzled.

Because he hadn’t been a favorite, though, I hadn’t bothered to learn about his marriages, and the sorrowful ends met by some of his wives; or about his career on the live stage, which continued through his movie stardom; or about the dark projects he sometimes pursued on stage and screen; or about a horrific event he witnessed as a child in Omaha–an account of which author Devin McKinney doesn’t give us until near the book’s end.

Any list of gift suggestions should have at least one movie-related title. If you give The Man Who Saw a Ghost to someone, she might not agree with all of McKinney’s pronouncements about history and politics, and she might think some of his prose is oveheated. But I feel that way, too, and I loved the book.

There’s not room here for one of McKinney’s discussions of a major Fonda film, so I’ll settle for his affectionate dismissal of a western that I remember enjoying at the drive-in.

As an aging cowpuncher in 1965′s The Rounders, Henry has a nice drunk scene, and shows a talent for rising sleepily from a bunk, crossing to a table, picking up a rooster, and tossing it out a door. The movie lacks subtlety or beauty, but it has a soul . . .

It has a soul are words that can be used when speaking of this fascinating biography.

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