The SHE DECADE
Adapted from Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, by Patricia Bosworth
For a decade, starting in 1963, Jane Fonda embodied the upheavals – artistic,
Political, and sexual – that rocked America and the world: making shocking breakthrough films, becoming a force in the anti-Vietnam War movement, and personifying women’s liberation. In an adaptation from her new biography of Fonda, Patricia Bosworth, drawing on years of interviews with the star and those close to her, examines her startling early evolution as an actress, activist, and woman.
Jane Fonda, at 73, is the ultimate been-there-done-that creature, a chameleon of endless variety: member of a leading Hollywood dynasty, Broadway actress, international film star, relentless political activist, physical-fitness entrepreneur, author. She’s constantly transforming herself, and her struggles for recognition, love, and successful motherhood mirror those of a generation of women. An untold challenge in her life occurred in 1963, when she escaped Hollywood and her father’s shadow and moved to France to work with director René Clément on a film called Joy House.
She would be co-starring with Alain Delon, one of the biggest heartthrobs in Europe, who was at the height of his sullen beauty. He also purportedly had ties to the underworld, which may have intrigued Jane. However, once she arrived in Paris, she grew concerned. Even though she’d appeared in six films and four Broadway plays, she would be acting in French in Joy House, and she didn’t speak the language fluently. Plus, she was all alone. Luckily, she was soon taken up by Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, who ran a kind of salon for artists in their apartment on the Île de la Cité.
By the end of her second week in Paris, she was followed everywhere by photographers and reporters, who quoted her fractured French and silly wisecracks.
She appeared in press conferences and on TV – all part of MGM’s efforts to turn her into an overnight celebrity in France, which would help promote Joy House.
Within a month Cahiers du Cinéma had put her on the cover. One critic raved about her “wall-to-wall teeth and rippling blonde hair.” This beautiful daughter of Henry Fonda had really captured the French imagination. Jane could not understand why the media constantly compared her to Brigitte Bardot, France’s reigning sex symbol. “I’m nothing like Bardot, and she’s nothing like me,” Jane said.
Which was true – Jane was sexy, but she had a slender, angular, small-breasted frame, whereas Bardot’s body was voluptuous, non-threatening, and safe. One imagined she might be innocent and child-like in bed, while Jane’s manner as a seductress was a bit mocking. “It was like, Careful, she might sting you!,” one of Jane’s former lovers once told me. “Another thing – she was so hungry for love, it was like she might devour you. Bardot didn’t give off those vibes.”
On December 21, Jane’s French agent, Olga Horstig, threw an impromptu dinner for her to celebrate her birthday. The only other guest was the notorious film director Roger Vadim, most famous for being the man who had discovered Bardot. “I thought the two of you might get along,” Horstig said. She knew he had a project for Jane: Circle of Love, a revamped version of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, a sexual comedy of errors set in old Vienna. Vadim hoped to take advantage of Jane’s increasing celebrity on two continents to get the movie made.