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Beulah Bondi (1888 - 1981)


Beulah Bondi
Beulah Bondi
Beulah Bondi was a close friend of Robert Strong Woodward. She visited his home and was a house guest on several occasions during the 1930s and 40s. RSW made it a special event to go to Greenfield to the theater to see any motion picture that Beulah was in, be it the most minor of parts. And the day thereafter he would write her and tell her how wonderful he thought she was, and what a magnificent actress she was. Indeed, this was the fact. When she visited RSW, she always would like to go for a ride with him along the New England country roads.

Beulah's letters to RSW were written in beautiful script but somewhat hard to read. She sent RSW the following photograph of herself in front of the old car. Below the photograph is her handwriting on the back of the photograph.

Beulah Bondi in front of her car
Beulah Bondi in front of her car
Handwritten note by Beulah Bondi:  Reflection of back gate in card door.  Oleander background.  Steps lead to swimming pool past the white flower pot.
Handwritten note to RSW by Beulah Bondi: Reflection of back gate in card door.
Oleander background. Steps lead to swimming pool past the white flower pot.
One of Miss Bondi's trips to Massachusetts was for the world premiere of "Our Town" in which she played "Mrs. Webb". Those who have seen this film will never forget the scene where she reassures her daughter, Emily, that she is pretty.

During this visit to the East Coast, she spent several days at the home of RSW. She is quoted in a newspaper article at the time:
"I had such fun riding about the countryside with Bob in an old-fashioned gig with rubber tires. And his house, where he lives with his mother and father, is a lovely old New England farm-house".


This was the Hiram Woodward home and studio. After his second fire, there was another visit, this time to his home at the Southwick house and studio in Buckland center. I personally was not working for RSW the day or days she was here, but Abbie was, and she was even given a personally autographed photograph of Beulah during this visit. (See "Abbie's Story" printed in the Recollections Section of this website.) Miss Bondi showed motion pictures to RSW of California and indulged in her hobby of taking motion pictures of beautiful Massachusetts during this visit.

Beulah Bondi in It's a Wonderful Life
Beulah Bondi in "It's a Wonderful Life"
In those days, I drove RSW to Greenfield numerous times. We would first go out to supper at the Weldon Hotel or at the Mansion House and then go to the Victoria or Lawler theater to a movie in which Beulah had a part. The Lawler was his favorite theater because the entrance was completely inclined for entrance with his wheelchair and there was a place in the rear of the seats for him to roll in at the back of the theater. I would sit just a few rows down from him. Just a very few of her pictures were: "Our Town," "The Captain is a Lady," "Make Way for Tomorrow," "One Foot in Heaven," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Penny Serenade," "The Shepherd of the Hills," and many, many others. What would our Christmas seasons be like without watching a replay of the famous Jimmy Stewart-Beulah Bondi movie "It's a Wonderful Life?" She also was a star of stage and television with countless credits to her name. In the mid 1970s, she played Aunt Martha Walton in the hit television series "The Waltons."

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Buelah Bondi in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
Beulah was born in Chicago on April 3, 1888. Her first stage appearance was at age 7. Initially she was a stage actress doing numerous shows on Broadway, and then in 1931 made her motion picture debut in "Street Scene." She rapidly became a favorite of directors and audiences alike and appeared in numerous films during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. She was slight in stature with a gaunt, pale looking face and often took the parts of elderly women. She is remembered as once saying "I'm glad I never married but chose a full time career for my life."

Beulah Bondi as Aunt Martha in 'The Waltons'
Beulah Bondi as Aunt Martha in "The Waltons"
In about 1939 or 1940 Beulah Bondi purchased a Woodward painting titled The Golden Slope. Please click here to see the image of this painting and a description of its purchase as recorded in the RSW diary. There is also on this page a photograph of the painting hanging in her home as well as scans of two newspaper clippings concerning its purchase.

Miss Bondi died at the age of 92 on January 11, 1981, of pulmonary complications from fractured ribs, which she suffered in a fall when she tripped over her cat. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

September 2007

Clipping from RSW's scrapbook about Beulah Bondi
Clipping from RSW's scrapbook about Beulah Bondi
Clipping from RSW's scrapbook
Another clipping from RSW's scrapbook