HANK & JIM: THE FIFTY YEAR FRIENDSHIP OF HENRY FONDA AND JAMES STEWART by Scott Eyman (Simon & Schuster)
You may think you’ve read all you need to about Henry Fonda and James Stewart. After all, they are two of the most celebrated actors of the 20th century. But being the great biographer he is, Scott Eyman has dug beneath the surface to paint rich, layered portraits of both men, along with the story of their extraordinary fifty-year friendship. This is the latest notch in Eyman’s formidable gun belt, having penned definitive biographies of John Wayne, Cecil B. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, and other Hollywood giants.
Consider these paragraphs from the introductory chapter: “Fonda was a closet intellectual and perfectionist, which inevitably meant he carried a residual sense of disappointment with himself and others that could ascend to seething impatience. If he attempted something, even if it was only a hobby, he had to achieve excellence. He did it with his gardening, his needlepoint, and especially with his painting. Stewart was far more easygoing; he didn’t read much, was outwardly affable, rarely lost his temper.
“But on the deepest level, they shared one crucial characteristic: they were both loners, extremely sparing with the gift of intimacy, reserving themselves for themselves…
“Another similarity involved the essentials of their craft—neither one of them had ever had an acting lesson. They were united in the belief that the best way to learn how to act was to act. Know the lines; don’t be afraid to think; above all, don’t talk about it, do it.”
Writing like that is what separates Eyman from so many well-meaning biographers who can only recite credits and integrate quotes from old clipping files. Like his two subjects, he never lets the hard work show, but you can tell he has read every existing book and article, screened every film, interviewed every friend or colleague who’s still here to tell the tale. That’s what makes Hank & Jim so good.
Available on October 24th. Pre-order from: