Beulah Bondi

Beulah Bondi (May 3, 1889 – January 11, 1981)[1] was an American actress of stage, film and television.[2] She began her acting career as a young child in theater and, after establishing herself as a stage actress, reprised her role in Street Scene for the 1931 film version. She played supporting roles in several films during the 1930s, and was twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She played the mother of James Stewart in the four films Of Human Hearts, Vivacious Lady, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946). She continued acting well into her later years, winning an Emmy Award for an appearance on The Waltons in 1976.

Beulah Bondi
Bondi in 1961
Beulah Bondi

(1889-05-03)May 3, 1889
DiedJanuary 11, 1981(1981-01-11) (aged 91)
Alma materValparaiso University
Years active1895–1976

Life and career

Bondi was born Beulah Bondy in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Eva Suzanna (née Marble), an author, and Abraham O. Bondy, who worked in real estate.[3][4][5] The family moved to Valparaiso, Indiana when she was three, and Bondi began her acting career on the stage at age seven, playing Cedric Errol in a production of Little Lord Fauntleroy at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso, Indiana. She graduated from the Frances Shimer Academy (later Shimer College) in 1907,[6] and gained her bachelor's and master's 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 Street Scene, which opened at the Playhouse Theatre on January 10, 1929, that brought Bondi to the movies at the age of 43. Her debut movie role was as "Emma Jones" in Street Scene (1931), which starred Sylvia Sidney, and in which Bondi reprised her stage role, 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, although she lost the award to Gale Sondergaard. Two years later she was nominated again for Of Human Hearts 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. In 1940 Bondi played Mrs. Webb in Our Town and Granny Tucker in The Southerner, directed by Jean Renoir and released in 1945.[7]

For her contributions to the film industry, Bondi received a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. The star is located at 1718 Vine Street.[8]


Bondi's television credits include Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Howard Richardson's Ark of Safety on the Goodyear Television Playhouse. She appeared with Jan Clayton in "The Prairie Story" on NBC's Wagon Train. (This theme is also examined in the novel The Wind by Dorothy Scarborough; the episode aired on February 1, 1961, three months after the death of Ward Bond.).[9] She made a guest appearance on Perry Mason in 1963 when she played the role of Sophia Stone in "The Case of the Nebulous Nephew."

Bondi made her final appearances as Martha Corinne Walton on The Waltons in the episodes "The Conflict" (September 1974) and "The Pony Cart" (December 1976). She received an Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actress for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series for her performance in "The Pony Cart" (December 1976), her final career screen performance. When her name was called, it first appeared that she was not present, but she received a standing ovation as she walked slowly to the podium, from which she thanked the audience for honoring her while she was still living.

Personal life and death

Bondi died from pulmonary complications caused by broken ribs suffered when she tripped over her cat in her home on January 11, 1981, at age 91.

Complete filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1931 Street Scene Emma Jones
Arrowsmith Mrs. Tozer Uncredited
1932 Rain Mrs. Davidson
1933 The Stranger's Return Beatrice Storr
Christopher Bean Mrs. Hannah Haggett
1934 Two Alone Mrs. Slag
Registered Nurse Miss McKenna
Finishing School Her Teacher / Miss Van Alstyne
The Painted Veil Frau Koerber Scenes cut
Ready for Love Mrs. Burke
1935 The Good Fairy Dr. Schultz
Bad Boy Mrs. Larkin
1936 The Invisible Ray Lady Arabella Stevens
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Melissa Tolliver
The Moon's Our Home Mrs. Boyce Medford
The Case Against Mrs. Ames Mrs. Livingston Ames
Hearts Divided Madame Letizia
The Gorgeous Hussy Rachel Jackson
1937 Maid of Salem Abigail - His Wife
Make Way for Tomorrow Lucy Cooper
1938 The Buccaneer Aunt Charlotte
Of Human Hearts Mary Wilkins
Vivacious Lady Martha Morgan
The Sisters Rose Elliott
1939 On Borrowed Time Nellie - Granny
The Under-Pup Miss Thornton
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Ma Smith
1940 Remember the Night Mrs. Sargent
Our Town Mrs. Webb
The Captain Is a Lady Angie Peabody
1941 Penny Serenade Miss Oliver
The Shepherd of the Hills Aunt Mollie Matthews
One Foot in Heaven Mrs. Lydia Sandow
1943 Tonight We Raid Calais Mme. Bonnard
Watch on the Rhine Anise
1944 She's a Soldier Too Agatha Kittredge
I Love a Soldier Etta Lane
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay Miss Horn
The Very Thought of You Mrs. Harriet Wheeler
And Now Tomorrow Aunt Em
1945 Back to Bataan Bertha Barnes
The Southerner Granny Tucker
1946 Breakfast in Hollywood Mrs. Annie Reed
Sister Kenny Mary Kenny
It's a Wonderful Life Ma Bailey
1947 High Conquest Clara Kingsley
1948 The Sainted Sisters Hester Rivercomb
The Snake Pit Mrs. Greer
So Dear to My Heart Granny Kincaid
1949 The Life of Riley Miss Martha Bogle
Reign of Terror Grandma Blanchard
Mr. Soft Touch Mrs. Clara Hangale
1950 The Baron of Arizona Loma
The Furies Mrs. Anaheim
1952 Lone Star Minniver Bryan
1953 Latin Lovers Analyst
1954 Track of the Cat Ma Bridges
1956 Back from Eternity Martha Spangler
1957 The Unholy Wife Emma Hochen
On Borrowed Time 'Granny' Northrup TV movie
1959 The Big Fisherman Hannah
A Summer Place Mrs. Emily Hamilton Hamble
1961 Tammy Tell Me True Mrs. Annie Call
1962 The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm The Gypsy ('The Dancing Princess')
1963 Tammy and the Doctor Mrs. Annie Call
1972 She Waits Mrs. Medina TV movie
1974-1976 The Waltons Martha Corinne

Radio appearances

1952Stars in the Air"On Borrowed Time"[10]

See also


  1. According to the State of California. California Death Index, 1940–1997. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. At
  2. Obituary Variety, January 21, 1981.
  3. Nissen, A. (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Mcfarland & Company. p. 43. ISBN 9780786427468. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  4. Thompson, D.E. (1981). Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1967-1980. Wabash College. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  5. "Explore Historical Newspaper Archives Online |". Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  6. Shimer College (March 1976). "Beulah Bondi Stars at Shimer Film Tribute". Shimer College Bulletin. p. 8.
  7. "Beulah Bondi", filmography, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Broadcasting System, a subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc., New York, N.Y. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  8. "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Beulah Bondi". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  9. "The Prairie Story". Retrieved July 26, 2012.
  10. Kirby, Walter (April 6, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 52. Retrieved May 16, 2015 via
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