Edit
Beulah Bondi Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (8) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 3 May 1889Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of Death 11 January 1981Woodland Hills, California, USA  (pulmonary complications due to broken ribs she suffered in a fall)
Birth NameBeulah Bondy
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Character actress Beulah Bondi was a favorite of directors and audiences and is one of the reasons so many films from the 1930s and 1940s remain so enjoyable, as she was an integral part of many of the ensemble casts (a hallmark of the studio system) of major and/or great films, including The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Our Town (1940) and Penny Serenade (1941). Highly respected as a first-tier character actress, Bondi won two Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations, for The Gorgeous Hussy (1936) and Of Human Hearts (1938), and an Emmy Award in 1976 for her turn in the television program The Waltons (1971).

She was born Beulah Bondy on May 3, 1888, in Chicago, and established herself as a stage actress in the first phase of her career. She made her Broadway debut in Kenneth S. Webb's "One of the Family" at the 49th Street Theatre on December 21, 1925. The show was a modest hit, racking up 238 performances. She next appeared in another hit, Maxwell Anderson's "Saturday's Children," which ran for 326 performances, before appearing in her first flop, Clemence Dane's "Mariners" in 1927. Philip Barry's and Elmer Rice's "Cock Robin" was an extremely modest hit in 1928, reaching the century mark (100 performances), but it was Bondi's performance in Rice's "Street Scene," which opened at the Playhouse Theatre on Jamuary 10, 1929, that made her career. This famous play won Rice the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was a big hit, playing for 601 performances. Most importantly, though, it brought Bondi to the movies at the advanced age of 43. She made her motion picture debut in 1931 in the movie adaptation (Street Scene (1931)), recreating the role she had originated on the Broadway stage. The talkies were still new, and she had the talent and the voice to thrive in Hollywood.

Bondi appeared in four more Broadway plays from 1931 to 1934, only one of which, "The Late Christopher Bean", a comedy by Sidney Howard, was a hit. Her last appearance on Broadway for a generation was in a flop staged by Melvyn Douglas, "Mother Lode" (she made two more appearances on the Great White Way, in "Hilda Crane" (1950) and "On Borrowed Time" in 1953; neither was a success). For the rest of her professional life, her career lay primarily in film and television.

She was typecast as mothers and, later, grandmothers, and played James Stewart's mother four times, most famously as "Ma Bailey" in It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Her greatest role is considered her turn in Leo McCarey's Depression-era melodrama Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), in which she played a mother abandoned by her children.

Beulah Bondi died on January 1, 1981, from complications from an accident, when she broke her ribs after falling over her cat. She was 92 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Trade Mark (1)

Often played kind if ill-fated mothers

Trivia (8)

Died in her California home of injuries she sustained after tripping over her cat.
Portrayed James Stewart's mother in four films: It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Of Human Hearts (1938) and Vivacious Lady (1938), as well as on an episode of his television series, The Jimmy Stewart Show (1971).
Made her stage debut at age 9, in the title role of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Always said her greatest regret was being passed over for the role of Ma Joad in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940).
Beulah changed the spelling of her last name from Bondy to Bondi so the letters would all fit on one line for top billing on movie marquees. The "y" in Bondy was problematic since it would fall below the other letters and cause spacing issues. It was reported that the name change was due to A. O. Bondy's (her father) ill feelings towards Beulah's acting career. Quite the contrary. A. O. Bondy was manager of the Memorial Opera House at the time Beulah got her big break as Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Though she often played loving mothers and wives, she never married nor had children.
Beulah Bondi was born Beulah Bondy to Adolph O. Bondy and Eva M. Marble in Chicago, IL.
Biography in "Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties" by Axel Nissen.

Personal Quotes (4)

I'm very cooperative, and if you'll just tell me exactly what you want, I'll always try to do it.
What distinguishes the real actor from the pseudo is the passionate desire to know what is going on in the hearts and minds of people.
[on her goal in life] Ideals were set and wishes made, but training and work were intensive - which resulted in opportunities presenting themselves at seemingly the right moment. Wishes, with work, do come true!
[on her favorite role] It has always been the one I was playing at the moment that I liked best.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page