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Classically Speaking:
Promoting Classic Movies in a Jaded World!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Beulah BondiThroughout her career, even as early as her twenties, BEULAH BONDI (1888–1981), born Beulah Bondy played mothers, grandmothers, and society widows. She played James Stewart's mother in three of my favorite films, It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Vivacious Lady (1938). People got so used to seeing her play his mother that it made perfect sense that to cast her again as his mother in the television sitcom, "The James Stewart Show" in 1971. The first film I ever rememember seeing in the theater with Beulah Bondi was Disney's So Dear to My Heart (1948) as a rerelease. I saw her in several good films after that. It was her role in It's a Wonderful Life that really made me pay attention to her films. Here I recommend just five of her films, but there are so many more that I've enjoyed. Beulah Bondi also appeared in several television shows. I remember watching her in my teen years in three episodes of one of my favorite shows, "The Waltons". If you have not seen any of her films, now is the time to do so.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)Haven't you seen It's a Wonderful Life (1946)? Beulah Bondi can be seen every Christmas on television in this perennial favorite, the story of a man given the precious gift to see what his hometown would have been like had he never been born. Beulah Bondi plays Ma Bailey, mother to protagonist George Bailey played by James Stewart. The role of Ma Bailey is two-fold. First, we find her the happy and loved, adored wife, mother, and sister while George Bailey is alive. Later, we see her as the miserable, resentful and cynical old woman with no one to love, when George has never been born. Beulah Bondi's transformation from one woman to the other is a chilling performance that should not be missed. I'm sure that you, like me, will find that Beulah Bondi will be a face that you never forget. It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite film of all time.

Watch this and then see these other four films.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Beulah Bondi plays Ma Smith, one of the other times that she plays James Stewart's mother.
Penny Serenade (1941) Her role as Miss Oliver comes in a close second to Ma Bailey. I adore her as the kind and loving director of an orphanage. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant star as parents wanting to adopt a little boy when they learn that they are unable to have children on their own.
On Borrowed Time (1939) Beulah Bondi plays Nellie Northrup or Granny in this very touching story of an orphaned boy left to the care of his aged grandparents. Lionel Barrymore stars as Julian Northrup or Gramps, of whom the boy grows a strong attachment.
Make Way For Tomorrow (1937) Beulah Bondi plays Lucy Cooper in this sad story about an eldery couple forced to rely on their children for help in their old age. Beulah Bondi is very convincing as a seventy year old woman despite being as young as those playing her children in the film. Victor Moore plays her husband Barkley Cooper.

*Contributed by: "Elizabeth Van Cleve" Date: Wed, Jul 6 2011 / 15:55:54 PST

Academy Awards®
© A.M.P.A.S.®
1939 Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: OF HUMAN HEARTS
1937 Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role: THE GORGEOUS HUSSY