JANE FONDA: The Actress in Her Time by Fred Lawrence Guiles

JANE FONDA: The Actress in Her Time

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Another of Guiles' poorly written, decently researched celebrity-bios (Tyrone Power, Marion Davies, etc.)--out-of-its-depth when it comes to Fonda's political involvements, but solid enough on her development as an actress/mogul. With no references to father Henry's recent autobiography, Guiles' treatment of the Fonda family in the Forties seems less than balanced--especially since his chief sources (sometimes anonymous) are old friends of Jane's mother Frances; and her suicide here, thanks also to Guiles' customary lack of psychological sophistication, is made to seem very much Hank's fault. The credibility improves a bit, however, as we then follow young lane (with ""her huge ego, inherited from both sides of the family"") through her restless, insecure trying-on of one role after another: Vassar drop-out/party-girl; would-be serious actress at the Actors Studio, coached by bisexual lover/director Andreas Voutsinas; movie starlet under personal contract to Josh Logan (Guiles suggests that father Hank, suspicious of Voutsinas, was behind this); pliable sex-kitten for husband/director Roger Vadim, though not a participant in the draggy doings of his chic circle. And then, after being ""slow in awakening to the critical nature of the war,"" Jane goes political--a process which remains vague here, with emphasis on her visit to India and her exhilarated 1968 reaction to the Paris student uprising. (Guiles seems ill-informed on French politics.) In any case, financially independent and no longer dominated by men, Jane now becomes ""a one-woman army on the move"": speaking out for minorities (""For a time she seemed to have been programmed by the Panther leaders and by the Indian militants""); touring to radicalize G.I.'s; being hounded by the FBI; visiting Hanoi; changing the focus of her activism with Tom Hayden (with his ""canny insight into people, he saw immediately that Jane needed a strong man to lean on""). But, even when unpopular with the public, Fonda's artistry and professionalism (Klute, They Shoot Horses. . .) won her colleagues' respect--and now she's in ""total control of her career,"" devoted to films ""with big themes that entertain and make money."" Guiles strives for balance in viewing Fonda's activism, applauding her courage while recognizing her naivetÉ, stubbornness, and murky motivation. (Perhaps it's really just creative temperament, he suggests: ""getting it all together from her own discontent."") The result, however, is chiefly wishy-washy; and, with socio-political material, Guiles slides from dubious (""By 1971 there were few Americans who did not agree with her about the war"") to idiotically glib (""it was not for nothing that Pat Nixon suffered a stroke"") to painfully simplistic. Still: a serviceable item for fans, somewhat superior to--and obviously more up-to-date than--Thomas Kiernan's Jane (1973).

Pub Date: March 26th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday