The Truth About Jimmy Stewart's Friendship With Henry Fonda

Friendship is one of the most important relationships that people have in life, but it can also be one of the most complex. Making friends often involves finding other people with whom you have some sort of connection. Generally you both have some kind of common interests, enjoy spending time together, and trust each other. Sometimes, though, you can be the opposite of each other and still be the best of friends. This scenario happened to be the case with two of Hollywood's leading men, Jimmy Stewart (per Biography) and Henry Fonda (via Britannica).

When you are a famous person, genuine friendships can be harder to come by. However, actors Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart were lucky enough to find each other, despite ending up as two of Hollywood's biggest stars. According to an article from Politically Speaking (posted at Medium), the men met in 1932, while they were both broke actors looking for their big break. Over the next 50 years, the men experienced a lot together, including World War II and their mutual rise to stardom.

Model airplanes and a romantic rivalry

When Stewart and Fonda met, it was the early 1930s, and both were at the very beginning of their careers. They ended up sharing an apartment while they were trying to make a name for themselves. In addition to their similar physical appearance, the men also discovered that they shared a handful of interests. Both of the actors had a serious love of model airplanes, so much so that they bought the biggest model plane kit that Macy's carried as a Christmas gift to each other (per Closer Weekly). In addition to their hobbies, the men had similar taste in women. Both fell in love with fellow actress Margaret Sullavan, and despite Fonda marrying the girl (albeit temporarily) the bond the men shared appeared to be unbreakable.

Through the next decade, their friendship persevered, despite the ups and downs of Hollywood and their personal lives. Their connection even survived World War II, when they both served in different branches of the military (per The Dallas Morning News). Upon their returns from combat, both men had earned their stripes for their service. Fonda earned a Bronze Star and remained in the reserves until 1948 (per the National World War II Museum). Stewart left the active military having achieved the rank of colonel. He went on to serve in the reserves and retired in 1968 with the rank of brigadier general (per National Museum of the United States Air Force).

Life-long friends, despite their differences

While Fonda and Stewart had many things in common, like any friends there were a few areas in life where they differed. For example, their marriage and family structures were almost the exact opposite from each other. Fonda was married five times and had complex relationships with his kids, while Stewart married once to the love of his life and had a great family dynamic. However, their differences ran even deeper than that.

One thing that is often a deal breaker for many folks in both romantic and platonic relationships is the dreaded P word: politics. Stewart was a conservative Presbyterian and a Republican, while Fonda was an agnostic liberal Democrat, according to Politically Speaking. So how did their friendship survive fame, war, and political differences? They just simply didn't discuss the latter. Though they recognized the differences between them, they refused to get into any political discussions. By doing so, two of America's most recognizable film stars sustained an incredible friendship for five decades, until Fonda's death in 1982; Stewart said, "The world has lost a great talent and I have lost a very dear friend" (per Closer Weekly).