Nationality: American. Born: Jane Seymour Fonda in New York City, 21 December 1937; daughter of the actor Henry Fonda; sister of the actor Peter Fonda. Education: Attended Greenwich Academy, Connecticut; Emma Willard School, Troy, New York; Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. Family: Married 1) the director Roger Vadim, 1965 (divorced 1970), one daughter; 2) Tom Hayden, 1973 (divorced 1989), one son; 3) Ted Turner, 1991 (separated 2000). Career: 1955—stage debut with her father in The Country Girl in Omaha; late 1950s—joined the Actors Studio, New York; 1960—Broadway debut in There Was a Little Girl ; film debut in Tall Story ; 1965—French film debut in La Ronde , directed by Vadim; 1971—toured Southeast Asia with Anti-War Troupe, and visited North Vietnam, 1972; 1976—formed own production company, IPC Films: series of commercial and critical film successes followed; 1981—marketed popular exercise program on record and videotape and in book; 1980s on—has made numerous aerobic and exercise videotapes. Awards: Best Actress, New York Film Critics, for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? , 1969; Oscar for Best Actress, and Best Actress, New York Film Critics, for Klute , 1971; Oscar for Best Actress, for Coming Home , 1978; Best Actress, British Academy, for Julia , 1978;
Films as Actress:
Tall Story (Logan) (as June Ryder)
Walk on the Wild Side (Dmytryk) (as Kitty Twist); The Chapman Report (Cukor) (as Kathleen Barclay); Period of Adjustment (Hill) (as Isabel Haverstick)
In the Cool of the Day (Stevens) (as Christine Bonner); Sunday in New York (Tewksbury) (as Eileen Tyler)
Les Félins ( Joy House ; The Love Cage ) (Clément) (as Melinda)
La Ronde ( Circle of Love ) (Vadim) (as the married woman); Cat Ballou (Silverstein) (title role)
The Chase (Arthur Penn) (as Anna Reeves); Any Wednesday ( Bachelor Girl Apartment ) (as Ellen Gordon); La Curée ( The Game Is Over ) (Vadim) (as Renee Saccard)
Hurry Sundown (Preminger) (as Julie Ann Warren); Barefoot in the Park (Saks) (as Corie Bratter)
Barbarella (Vadim) (title role)
"Metzengerstein" ep. of Histoires extraordinaires ( Spirits of the Dead ) (Vadim) (as Countess Frederica); They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (Pollack) (as Gloria)
Klute (Pakula) (as Bree Daniels)
F.T.A. ( Foxtrot Tango Alpha ; Free the Army ; Fuck the Army ) (Parker) (+ co-pr, co-sc); Steelyard Blues (Myerson) (as Iris)
Tout va bien (Godard and Gorin) (as She); A Doll's House (Losey—for TV) (as Nora)
Introduction to the Enemy (doc) (appearance)
The Bluebird (Cukor) (as Night)
Julia (Zinnemann) (as Lillian Hellman); Fun with Dick and Jane (Kotcheff) (as Jane)
Coming Home (Ashby) (as Sally Hyde); Comes a Horseman (Pakula) (as Ella Connors); California Suite (Ross) (as Hannah)
The China Syndrome (Bridges) (as Kimberley Wells); The Electric Horseman (Pollack) (as Hallie Martin)
Nine to Five (Higgins) (as Judy Barnly)
On Golden Pond (Rydell) (as Chelsea Thayer Wayne); Rollover (Pakula) (as Lee Winters)
The Dollmaker (Petrie—for TV) (as Gertie Knells, + co-pr)
Agnes of God (Jewison) (as Dr. Martha Livingston)
The Morning After (Lumet) (as Alex Sternbergen); Leonard Part 6 (Weiland) (as herself)
Old Gringo (Puenzo) (as Harriet Winslow, + pr)
Stanley and Iris (Ritt) (as Iris King)
A Century of Cinema (Thomas) (as herself); A Century of Women (Kopple) (as Narrator)
Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment (Wintonick—doc) (as herself)
By FONDA: books—
Jane Fonda's Workout Book , New York, 1981.
Jane Fonda's Year of Fitness and Health , New York, 1984.
Women Coming of Age , with Mignon McCarthy, New York, 1984.
Jane Fonda Cooking for Healthy Living , Atlanta, 1996.
By FONDA: articles—
"'I Prefer Films That Strengthen People': An Interview with Jane Fonda," in Cineaste (New York), v. 6, no. 4, 1975.
" Julia —Jane Fonda zu den Dreharbeiten," interview with D. Seyrig, in Frauen und Film (Berlin), December 1978.
"Never Play It Safe," interview in Films (London), March 1981.
"Jane Raw: An Emotionally Candid Fonda Opens up on Her Separation, Her Recovery, Her Lost Night in the Woods, God, and Death," interview with Sally Ogle Davis, in Los Angeles Magazine , October 1989.
"Remembering Dad," TV Guide , 11 January 1992.
On FONDA: books—
Springer, John, The Fondas: The Films and Careers of Henry, Jane, and Peter Fonda , New York, 1970.
Kiernan, Thomas, Jane: An Intimate Biography of Jane Fonda , New York, 1977.
Erlanger, Ellen, Jane Fonda , Minneapolis, 1981.
Haddad, G. G., The Films of Jane Fonda , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1981.
Guiles, Fred, Jane Fonda, The Actress in Her Time , New York, 1982.
Cole, Gerald, and Wes Farrell, The Fondas , London, 1984.
Spada, James, Fonda: Her Life in Pictures , London, 1985.
Vadim, Roger, Bardo, Deneuve and Fonda: The Memoirs of Roger Vadim , London, 1986.
Freedland, Michael, Jane Fonda: A Biography , London, 1988.
Anderson, Christopher, Citizen Jane: The Turbulent Life of Jane Fonda , London, 1990; rev. ed., London, 1993.
Davidson, Bill, Jane Fonda: An Intimate Biography , New York, 1990.
Collier, Peter, The Fondas: A Hollywood Dynasty , London, 1991.
Shorto, Russell, Jane Fonda: Political Activism , Brookfield, Connecticut, 1991.
French, Sean, Jane Fonda: A Biography , Trafalgar Square, 1998.
On FONDA: articles—
Peary, G., "Jane Fonda on Tour: Answering 'Letter to Jane'," in Take One (Montreal), July 1974.
Young, T., "Fonda Jane," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1978.
Kroll, Jack, "Jane Fonda," in The Movie Star Book , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Bygrave, Mike, and Joan Goodman, "Jane Fonda: Banking on Message Movies," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), November 1981.
Pally, M., "Choice Parts," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1985.
Current Biography 1986 , New York, 1986.
Posner, C., "Jane Fonda's Most Important Part," in Films in Review (New York), March 1987.
Davis, Sally Ogle, "Jane Fonda Bounces Back," in Cosmopolitan , January 1990.
Adler, Jerry, "Jane and Ted's Excellent Adventure," in Esquire (New York), February 1991.
Radio Times (London), 12 September 1992.
Norman, Barry, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" in Radio Times (London), 28 June 1997.
* * *
Jane Fonda's career has reflected her personal values and the political turmoil of her times. On the issue of Vietnam she acted in defiance of government constraints, risking surveillance and blacklisting, and at the expense of alienating her public. Years later, in 1984, conservative protesters picketed Marshall Field's department store in Chicago when she appeared there to promote a new line of exercise clothing. In September 1984, on the other hand, she was honored by earning an Emmy for her role in The Dollmaker , an ABC television presentation which she had attempted for 12 years to get on the air. Because of her celebrity and her outspokenness, her life became a public affair, fully documented in the popular press.
Fonda was born to a life of wealth and privilege. Her father, Henry Fonda, was a successful movie star, her mother an heiress of substantial means. After studying art, she had pursued a successful modeling career (twice featured on the cover of Vogue ), before taking up studies with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Her first movie contract was with her father's friend, the director Josh Logan, for Tall Story in 1960, followed by Walk on the Wild Side and The Chapman Report . On the basis of these early films, the critic Stanley Kauffmann was among the first to acknowledge her talent in "performances that are not only fundamentally different from one another but are conceived without acting cliché and executed with skill." Ahead, however, were the consequences of her developing a political consciousness that would cause her to be variously described by others as a "lateblooming flower child" and an "all-American antiheroine." (Notably, her father once commented with disdain on her tendency to champion every social issue imaginable, calling her "Jane of Arc.")
In the next phase of her acting career the French director Roger Vadim transformed Fonda, after marrying her, into the sex goddess of his cartoonish Barbarella . About the same time, during the late 1960s, she became a social and political activist, dedicated to antiestablishment causes. A new seriousness was also reflected in her films, particularly They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Klute . Her political instincts drew her to the radical French director Jean-Luc Godard, who featured her in Tout va bien in 1973. Protesting the Vietnam War she founded in 1971 an antiwar troupe (Entertainment Industry for Truth and Justice) which toured Southeast Asia and went on to produce a film entitled F.T.A. ( Foxtrot Tango Alpha , Free the Army , Fuck the Army ).
Her well-intentioned opposition to the war characterized her as a radical in the minds of many Americans and alienated her from viewers who were political conservatives, as did her marriage to Tom Hayden, an antiwar militant who had been a highly visible spokesperson for the radical Left. In movies her political commitment continued to surface in Coming Home (about the physical and psychological effects of the Vietnam experience), Julia (in which she portrayed Lillian Hellman), and The China Syndrome (concerning the danger of a meltdown at a nuclear plant, released, by coincidence, just before the near meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, conservative critics of the film having foolishly judged the plot to be preposterous). Other films in her later career have also shown a continuing and genuine concern for important and timely issues. Nine to Five , for example, was a satire on the male-dominated world of business, which, despite its box-office success, was by no means a trivial picture. On Golden Pond was also a huge popular success, mainly because it offered nostalgic appeal by casting Henry Fonda (in his last film) opposite Katharine Hepburn; but it provided, at the same time, a thoughtful examination of the problems of old age.
By the mid-1980s the Fonda image had mellowed, though the actress still seemed seriously interested in the problems of women and in liberal causes. "I believe it's important to make responsible films," Fonda remarked at the time The China Syndrome was released. The marketing success of her exercise program indicated a degree of mainstream acceptance, and the Motion Picture Academy was surely impressed by the achievement of On Golden Pond , a film project that involved a substantial personal commitment for her in a production she had instigated. Winning the Emmy Award in 1984 was another demonstration of popular appeal, newly extended to television. In The Dollmaker she presented the struggle of a poor woman from the South, attempting to hold her family together through a unique dispute in a northern industrial city where her husband had gone to find work. The Dollmaker seemed more sincere than brilliant, but it was certainly superior to the usual television fare.
The later stage of Fonda's career indicates a kind of withdrawal from the controversy that had marked much of her work. After her divorce from Hayden, she chose films that addressed social issues, but decidedly safe ones. The Morning After , for example, dealt with the issue of substance abuse, as Fonda portrayed an aging alcoholic. In Stanley and Iris , she dealt with an illiterate Robert De Niro, helping him learn to read. The issues here were safe and a far cry from Vietnam (who could possibly be in favor of illiteracy or alcoholism?). Many have seen Fonda's mellowing and her apparent embracing of capitalism (with her fitness empire estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars and her marriage to media mogul Ted Turner, from whom she is now separated) as a sign of hypocrisy; nevertheless, her melding of a political consciousness with an acting career has been hugely influential.
—James M. Welsh, updated by Matthew Hays