Chicago-born Beulah Bondi spent many years appearing in theatrical stock companies throughout the USA before making her Broadway debut in 1925 as a 70-year old servant in "One of the Family" (while still in her mid-30s!). After creating the role of the slovenly, gossipy neighbor in the stage play "Street Scene", Bondi earned kudos reprising it in the 1931 film version. With her plain, undistinguished but malleable features, the actress was often cast in older parts: At age 45, she offered a heartbreaking performance as an elderly woman in a nursing home in "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937). One of Hollywood's truly priceless character players, Bondi was twice Oscar-nominated for her supporting performances in "The Gorgeous Hussy" (1936, as the backwards wife of President Andrew Jackson) and in "Of Human Hearts" (1938, as the doormat wife of stern minister Walter Huston). In the latter, Bondi played mother to James Stewart, which she would later do in the classics "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), and "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), both for director Frank Capra. Whether as the Puritan mother of troublemaking Bonita Granville in "Maid of Salem" (1937), or the mother of the ill-fated Emily Webb in the 1940 screen adaptation of "Our Town", Bondi personified not just the American maternal ideal as the backbone of the culture, but also the common woman of dignity and great strength.
As she aged, Bondi grew into playing the types of parts in which she had often been cast. She played the grandmother of "On Borrowed Time" in three different media in two different decades: in the 1939 feature film and the 1953 Broadway revival and the 1957 NBC adaptation. She remained a frequent presence on the small screen, including a memorable series of commercials for Oxydol detergent, until her 1963 "retirement" following her appearance in "Tammy and the Doctor". Bondi was lured back before the cameras in the 1970s, though, first for the TV-movie "She Waits" (CBS, 1972), which reteamed her with "A Summer Place" co-star Dorothy McGuire, and later for an occasional guest role on the CBS family drama "The Waltons" from 1974 to 1976. For her latter appearance, the actress earned an Emmy award. She died from injuries sustained in a fall in her California home in January 1981.