A New SYBIL'S "WHO'Z DAT?"... BEULAH BONDI (May 3, 1889 – January 11, 1981)

BEULAH BONDI Collage.jpg

Darlings! Mummy has made a decision! After reading dozens of posts and having hundreds of conversations with well-meaning folks who just don't know about the great CHARACTER actors who gave films the depth and genius that surrounded and supported the so-called "stars", I am going to post a regular, special entry called "SYBIL'S WHO'Z DAT?"....there'll be photos and a mini-bio, and the next time you see one of those familiar, fabulous faces that you just "can't quite place".......well, maybe these posts will help. Some of these actors worked more, had longer and broader careers, and ended up happier, more loved, and even wealthier than the "stars" that the public "worships". (I think there may be a metaphor in that! What do you think???).                                

Here's our next guest!! Make way for a great lady of Hollywood! Beulah Bondi (May 3, 1889 – January 11, 1981). Bondi was born as Beulah Bondy in Valparaiso, Indiana, the daughter of Eva Suzanna (née Marble), an author, and Abraham O. Bondy, who worked in real estate. Bondi began her acting career on the stage at age seven, playing the title role in the play LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY in a production at the Memorial Opera House. She graduated from the Frances Shimer Academy in 1907 and gained her Bachelors and Masters degrees in oratory at Valparaiso University in 1916 and 1918. She made her Broadway debut in Kenneth S. Webb's ONE OF THE FAMILY at the 49th Street Theatre on December 21, 1925. She next appeared in another hit, Maxwell Anderson's SATURDAY’S CHILDREN in 1926. It was Bondi's performance in Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-winning SREET SCENE, which opened at the Playhouse Theatre on January 10, 1929, that brought her to Hollywood at the advanced age of 43 for her movie debut as "Emma Jones" in (1931), in which Bondi reprised her stage role. This was followed by "Mrs. Davidson" in RAIN (1932), which starred Joan Crawford and Walter Huston.

She was one of the first five women to be nominated for an Academy Award in the newly-created category of "Best Supporting Actress" for her work in THE GORGEOUS HUSSY (1936), although she did not win. Two years later, she was nominated again for OF HUMAN HEARTS (1938) and lost again, but her reputation as a character actress kept her employed. She would most often be seen in the role of the mother of the star of the film for the rest of her career, with the exception of MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1937) as the abandoned Depression-era 'Ma' Cooper. She often played mature roles in her early film career even though she was only in her early 40s. Some of her favorite and most popular performances included THE SNAKE PIT (1948) and ON BORROWED TIME (1939).

For folks doubting the range of a "character" actress, you have only to watch her in Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946). Bondi plays the ideal and iconic mother to Jimmy Stewart in several scenes and then transforms into a veritable psychopathic crone when she no longer recognizes him in the nightmare sequence. She appeared in many Oscar-nominated films over the years and played James Stewart’s mother four times: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939), OF HUMAN HEARTS, and VIVACIOUS LADIES (1938).

In addition to consistent film work throughout the 1940s, she made the transition into television. Her television credits included Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Howard Richardson’s Ark of Safety on the Goodyear Television Playhouse. She made her final appearances as Martha Corinne Walton on The Waltons in the episodes "The Conflict" (1974) and "The Pony Cart" (1976). She received an Emmy award for her performance in the latter episode. When her name was called, it first appeared that she was not present, but she was given a standing ovation as she walked slowly to the podium, where she thanked everyone for honoring her while she was still alive.

Despite the fact that she was known for playing mother figures, Bondi never married nor had children in real life. Tragically, she died from pulmonary complications due to broken ribs suffered when she tripped over her cat on January 11, 1981. She was living in Los Angeles at the time and was 92. She was given a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1718 Vine Street in Hollywood, California. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.

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