Ahoy Jane: Fonda’s Filmography Revisited

Fonda in Cannes, May 2011

Two new books drop this month about Jane Fonda. One is Fonda’s umpteenth fitness-wellness book (Prime Time). The other is a biography by Patricia Bosworth (Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Figure). Janet Maslin reviews both books in the August 18 New York Times.

Fonda in print begets revisiting the illustrious film career of Actor Jane.

Fonda, who will be 74 in December, straddles the international mega movie-star stratosphere. But you may be hard pressed to séance her filmography. Quick: bet you can’t name three decent movies she headlined. Barbarella doesn’t count.

That’s because a Fonda retrospect today can easily become mired in the non-celluloid incarnations. There’s Workout Video Jane (gazillions sold). Dutiful Wife Jane (thrice divorced). And Hanoi Jane, who in July 1972, in the waning days for the Vietnam War, incurred the enmity of untold thousands of Vietnam vets – seemingly from there to eternity – when she was photographed, among other heavily criticized Kodak moments, applauding North Vietnamese anti-aircraft runners.

How have the many-sided Citizen Janes affected Fonda’s career?

The 24 exercise videos (yes, that’s 24: from 1982 – 2010) earn Fonda, for lack of a better term, Barbarillions. Angst from the marriages surely inform her cinematic roles (maybe) – with the obvious exception for Monster-In-Law (2005) with J. Lo. And the anti-war PR fiasco? Just ask Sen. John Kerry how similar exploits worked out for him. Vietnam was certainly an unfortunate moment for Future Jane.

Snides aside, Actor Jane has few septuagenarian movie-industry equals. During her silver-screen zenith (1962 to 1986), Fonda garnered dozens of acting nominations, winning Oscars for my two favorite Fonda movies: Klute (1971) and Coming Home (1978).

If you’re searching for a third respectable Fonda film you can pick from Cat Ballou (1965), Barefoot in the Park (1967), They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), The China Syndrome (1979), and Agnes of God (1985).

You get extra credit for Any Wednesday (1966), A Doll’s House (1973), Julia (1977) and The Electric Horseman (1979) – even Nine to Five (1980). But you lose a pont if you choose Ahoy Jane in On Golden Pond (1981). That one was painful.

Watching Daughter Jane in a boat in the middle of Squam Lake in New Hampshire “improvise” her true-world strained relationship with that cold, cranky and crinkled Father Fonda, nee Henry, was downright uncomfortable, like watching Monster-In-Law. With J. Lo.

The late, great Walter Matthau presents Jane Fonda with the 1972 Oscar for Klute.

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