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.