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Tuesday
Dec182012

Curio: Rebel Jane 

Alexa here. Actress and general badass Jane Fonda turns 75 this week. I've long admired her for all of her incarnations, glories and missteps, and for the fact that she unflinchingly calls herself a feminist, which seems all too rare. Were I to choose my favorite Fonda era I'd have to go with her early 70s Klute period. She won her first Oscar, sported an amazing haircut and worked as a tireless activist (leading to a self-described "greylisting" as Hanoi Jane in the summer of 1972). 

 

So of course I snapped up this April 1971 Life magazine profile of Jane when I spotted it at a thrift store.  The profile was few months before the release of Klute, and revolves around her travels on behalf of women's rights, welfare rights, GI rights, and Black Panther rights.  There is an unfortunate skepticism and patronizing tone to the profile (written by John Frook), but it is also revealing in its description of a woman who, at 33, was still evolving and seeking to define her role in the world.  Some excerpts after the jump.

 

As a revolutionary, Jane Fonda has had to undergo a number of hardships...She has been thrown off four Army bases for distributing pacifist leaflets and is the recipient of innumerable bomb threats ("It's sad people are in that bag"). The Hollywood Women's Press Club gave her its annual Sour Apple Award (for giving the industry "a sour image"), and some say her activities played a part in her failure to get an Oscar for her performance in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Even so, she continues to make movies. Her latest, The Steelyard Blues, now in rehearsal with movement friends Peter Boyle and Donald Sutherland, is, according to her lights, politically sound. It is, she explains, "a film which says stealing is not theft, property is theft."

 

[S]he is quick to express the shame she feels at being "ignorant," having found out at 30 what many people learn in their teens. She speaks of herself as "a kid," which of course she isn't, and, although at 33 she is an altogether handsome woman, she seems somehow flawed by her struggle to catch up, like a flower touched by a late frost.  She is desperately full of caring, and she walks around with a solemn Red Guard face. I doubt if I ever saw her laugh. It is as if she thought a show of cheerfulness might betray her.

 

When it comes right down to it, I suspect that Jane Fonda really wants to be Vanessa Redgrave, the English actress who achieved fame as a pacifist and an early supporter of the Ban-the-Bomb Movement. Jane Fonda named her daughter after Vanessa, whom she admires as "a brilliant actress and a great person," and praises for her "gradual maturation and political evolution." She would like to go Vanessa one better, I'm convinced, and be burned at the stake.

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Reader Comments (16)

Thanks Alexa! I love Jane Fonda. I think she's a great actress and a fascinating woman.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

My birthday is the same day as Fonda's (also, interestingly, Samuel L. Jackson, Keifer Sutherland, and Phil Donahue)--got to meet her at a signing in Portland a few years ago and told her she was thus, for good or bad, my role model. She laughed ruefully but was charming, funny and gracious--I had to walk away to keep the line moving, but she was still talking as I stepped away, and I had the feeling had time allowed we probably would've had a lengthy chat.

Regardless of her missteps in the past (which she has admitted and apologized for, unlike a lot of the chicken hawks who still bad-mouth her today), she is a remarkable lady who's had an amazing life.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDback

Those snippets and that "Nag, nag, nag" headline are so judgmental. The photos are lovely. She's wonderful, and I agree, that was an amazing haircut.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

There's a video on Youtube of Raquel Welch and Gene Hackman presenting Best Actress the year Liza Minelli won and before Raquel reads out the name she says, "Hope they haven't got a cause."

Reminded me of this. Must've been a strange time in Hollywood, so many split on how to act.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Totally deserved the Cecil B. DeMille Award this year.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

The only Fonda movie I'm familiar with is California Suite and I watched it to see why Maggie Smith won her second Oscar and I don't get it but I'm certain Fonda's performance in it added to why she won Best Actress that year over Geraldine Page.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Isn't jane supporting in c/suite.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

Love Jane in all her incarnations. My favorite of her films is probably The China Syndrome but she's such a sprightly comedienne I'd have to say I love her early bubbly blondes, Cat Ballou, Barefoot in the Park, Sunday in New York, etc. best.

Even when the movies are a less than stellar for instance The Chase, an entertaining mess with most of the cast delightedly chewing the scenery, Hurry Sundown or Old Gringo she is always compelling.

The reporter/interviewer on that article was terribly condescending, Jane at that point was still finding her way nowadays she would've never stand for that kind of thing.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

California is an ensemble movie with no actual leads, but Maggie Smith won the Globe that season for Lead Actress in a Comedy or Musical, then competed for the Oscar in Supporting Actress where she won her second, that same year for another movie Fonda won her second, Fonda's only Supporting nod came in the 80's for On Golden Pound, I believe?

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

It's been said before, but I'll say it again: her performance in Klute was one of the best of all time.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I've always liked her. She was a rare kind of maverick not seen since Bette Davis. After her book came out and I had seen her interviews and witnessed that brutal honesty about herself, my admiration grew by leaps and bounds. She's fiercely intelligent, endlessly self-deprecating, wonderfully funny, and brilliant in her career choices. Her success streak in the late 70s is like something out of a textbook. I finally saw her performance in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and she completely blew me away. Even in a throwaway like Monster-in-Law, her presence elevates the proceedings and she remains unscathed. Lovely woman.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

brookesboy -- You're so right! Her autobiography is a must-read for any actressexual.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I think Raquel Welch said "I hope they haven't got a cause" - because Marlon Brando's name had just been called for "The Godfather" prior to the Minnelli's award being announced. I find Fonda very interesting - because on one hand she was very counter-culture.....on the other - she also loves her $$$, she glams it up, she always showed up at the oscars, plays the hollywood game. so, in addition to being very socially aware, my guess is she's also very narcisstic. i met her when she was promoting her movie with Kristoffersonin the early 1980's - very nice, charming, chatty, quite a beauty as well. she had to pull a lot of strings to get "On Golden Pond" made when it was made - summer of 1980.....during an actors strike. she knew her dad didn't have much time & that was about the only time it could get made.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

Klute is A-MA-ZING as was the hairdo as was her devotion to political activism. I find it unfortunate that people often aren't charitable about actors who get involved in causes. I mean, is it better to just sit at home and count your money and go on elaborate vacations and what not inbetween projects or is it better to attempt to make the world a better place?

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

Klute is AMAZING. The Hairdo is amazing. Jane is amazing.

I've never understood why the media is so mean to actors who become politically active. should they just stay at home and count their money or should they try to make the world a better place?

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

she was a slap in the face to our soldiers fighting the War ... if you remember, she took on any cause whether she knew anything about it or not .... she had an American Indian cause ... I saw her interviewed at the time, and she knew nothing "of which she spoke"

In person, she is a cold fish with little to no personality.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

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