Hank & Jim is an enthralling double biography by Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne: The Life and Legend, and co-author with actor Robert Wagner on three books, the latest which is I Loved Her In The Movies. Eyman has crafted an entertaining history of unlikely friends who were brought together by the theatre and who further cemented their camaraderie while exploring their expertise as film actors. While Stewart was laid back in his approach to acting and life, Fonda fought to avoid being laid bare and revealing his innermost emotions.
Agent turned producer Leland Hayward, Life photographer John Swope (husband of Fonda protégé Dorothy McGuire), and director Josh Logan all became close friends of Hank & Jim during their salad days in the University Players, “a bunch of stagestruck kids from the Ivy League and Seven Sisters.” Stewart’s and Fonda’s eventual gravitation to Hollywood led them to careers they never envisioned and their existences before World War II in California, like their pre-war films, had galvanized an established profession for both of them. When Stewart and Fonda returned home after the war, each had been deeply affected personally and professionally. Eyman successfully chronicles their twin journeys through the vagaries of Hollywood and the studio system, their personal lives, and professional successes and failures with an even-handed approach to fleshing out the demons and delights of both actor’s experiences.
Exploring the details of such a high profile closeness of two popular figures while meshing details and interviews reveals the author’s adept planning and execution of such an in-depth study. Eyman’s outline for his double biography might have taken a page from the latest October Psychology Today article entitled, “7 Traits of True Friendship” as he explores all aspects of successful friendship and applies the strictures to Fonda and Stewart. Empathy, selflessness, trustworthiness, interest-sharing, differing perspectives, humorousness, and being a team player illuminate all aspects of Hank & Jim. They worked on hobbies together, they both loved gardening and talking about gardening, they socialized together, and they both had penchants for elaborate practical jokes. Even though Stewart was a Republican, and Fonda a liberal Democrat, the two loners both agreed to disagree and not explore politics in polite or formal conversation.
Actress Margaret Sullavan…
One of the most interesting aspects of Hank & Jim is the specter of actress Margaret Sullavan who married Fonda, then Hayward, but also captured the hearts of Stewart and Swope. Her allure seems to light up passages of the book like her spirit must have engaged the men who adored her.
With comments from Kelly Stewart Harcourt, Jane Fonda, Brooke Hayward, Peter Fonda, Mark Swope, Burgess Meredith and other insiders, the lively times and loving bond between Hank & Jim make it worth a couple of lazy afternoons. Enjoying a lovely sunset after reading the last page of any good book would be something Hank and Jim would relish.
*Hank & Jim: Sleek & Slim- The writing is smooth and inviting, but the stories are so fascinating, readers will just want more. Plus, they sound perfect for their nicknames, like comments Barbara Stanwyck might have made…
Resources for more reading…
The Retro Set- More about the Fonda/Stewart buddyship : http://theretroset.com/5-ways-the-jimmy-stewart-henry-fonda-bromance-will-ruin-your-life/
Psychology Today-7 Traits of True Friendship: http://theretroset.com/5-ways-the-jimmy-stewart-henry-fonda-bromance-will-ruin-your-life/
“Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda’s friendship”: A valuable lesson for a divided nation: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/01/jimmy-stewart-and-henry-fondas-friendship-valuable-lesson-for-divided-nation.html
Leonard Maltin reviews Hank & Jim: http://leonardmaltin.com/close-up-on-henry-fonda-and-james-stewart/
Where to purchase this book: https://www.amazon.com/Hank-Jim-Fifty-Year-Friendship-Stewart/dp/1501102176