This is a good introduction to Henry Fonda's life, and, since it's told by Fonda, it obviously must be considered the definitive biography. Fonda was nothing like the characters he played, however--a point the actor stresses--and much of this book is devoted to providing an unflinching portrait of a man who was emotionally stunted for much of his life. He was supremely unsuccessful in marriage until his fifth and final wife, and after he became a father, he was cold and distant with Peter and Jane for many years. The book successfully captures Fonda's natural terseness and Midwestern reserve, and therein lies its chief shortcoming. We learn a little about various of Fonda's films, and more about various plays, but most of the book's personal revelations are about Fonda's relationships--with his friends, his wives and his children. Perhaps because Fonda was an intensely private man, the book hardly dishes about his costars and directors (other than John Ford), so this is by no means a traditional Hollywood biography.
You're left wishing for more detail, but Teichmann doesn't provide it. He includes only a single foto of Fonda's third wife Susan, and only one showing the face of his fourth wife Afdera. Curiously for a book about a movie star, this volume contains no filmography--a serious oversight. Some films aren't mentioned at all: Drums Along the Mohawk; The Male Animal; Hitchcock's The Wrong Man; Advise & Consent; Fail-Safe; The Best Man; The Battle of the Bulge; A Big Hand for the Little Lady; There Was a Crooked Man... (with Kirk Douglas); My Name is Nobody; and Midway. Despite Fonda's admiration for John Steinbeck (whose Grapes of Wrath provided Fonda his first Oscar nomination), altho' other Steinbeck works that Fonda played are mentioned, The Red Pony--which earned Fonda an Emmy nomination--isn't. But the biggest failing is that, although Fonda's 1980 Honorary Oscar is mentioned, his winning Best Actor for On Golden Pond in 1981 is not. Given that On Golden Pond occupies much of the book's final chapters, you'd think the publisher would have interrupted the press run to include this natural conclusion to Fonda's story and Teichmann's book.
Fonda died in 1982, nine months after the book came out (and a week after the paperback edition was published), but apparently sales were not strong enough to publish a second edition with details of his last years and his death. Knowing that he didn't outlive the book by very much, we're left hanging, wishing for a proper conclusion.