In Chicago IL, on May 3, 1888 Beulah Bondy was born. A shy child, she enjoyed playing pretend and started acting at age 7. Beulah's acting passion continued through grade school and her years at Hyde Park High School. She received a degree in Oratory from Valpariso University. Bondi's mother was very supportive but her father reportedly did not approve of acting so she changed Bondy to Bondi.
Bondi's professional stage debut in 1919 was in a stock company show that included Spring Byington. (Remember her?) The only role left was for a very old lady. Being a small woman with a slim gaunt face, Bondi discovered that she could convincingly play characters much older than her years.
In 1925 she accepted a role in One in the Family her first Broadway play. She played Maggie, a 72 year old servant. No problem. She made a career out of it. She moved to film in the 1930's working alongside top stars like Sylvia Sydney and Joan Crawford and Walter Houston. Bondi played Jimmy Stewart's mom in four movies including Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. I remember her role as the addled dowager in The Snake Pit with Olivia de Havilland and as Dorothy McGuire's aunt in the 1959 film A Summer Place.
Beulah Bondi was one of the first five women nominated for the new Oscar category, Best Supporting Actress. She was nominated in 1936 for the historical drama starring Joan Crawford and Robert Taylor, The Gorgeous Hussy, and two years later for the Civil War story about family relationships, Of Human Hearts. In 1972, Bondi won an Emmy for her portrayal of Aunt Martha on The Waltons.
Miss Bondi who never married, died in 1981 due to injuries sustained after she tripped over her cat in her Hollywood, CA home. She was 92. Her career spanned eight decades from the 1890's to the 1970's.
I'm watching "The Pony Cart," and I just realized that both Beulah and Ellen were in "It's a Wonderful Life." Beulah played Jimmy Stewart's mother, and Ellen was one of the customers that came to the run on the bank.
Beulah Bondi and Ellen Corby were both in the Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life." Beulah played the mother of Jimmy Stewart's character, George Bailey. Ellen Corby's role was small. She was one of the citizens of Bedford Falls, when there was a run, on all the banks, at the beginning of the Great Depression. She did get a kiss from Jimmy Stewart, though! There was a bank run, and she asked for just a few dollars, helping the building and loan meet a noon deadline, to stay in business.
That kiss was a complete ad lib by Jimmy Stewart. It wasn't in the script, nor was James coached by director, Frank Capra. Capra, however, DID coach Ellen Corby. The script called for Ellen to ask for only $17. Before filming the scene, however, Capra took Ellen aside and told her to ask for $17.50. He thought it would be funnier.
When Ellen approached the teller's window, she asked for "seventeen dollars and fifty cents". Jimmy was so surprised and amused by the unscripted request that he reached through the window, grabbed Ellen by the cheeks, bent over, pulled her to him, and planted a great big smacker right on Ellen's lips. Ellen's reaction and grin were genuine.
(By the way, Ellen also appeared with Jimmy in 'Vertigo'.)
"As long as there's one person on earth who remembers you, it isn't over." - Oscar Hammerstein