Every actress with a career in film right now owes it to Jane Fonda.
It is not that Fonda broke down barriers for women in film in the seventies, she kicked open the door and stomped on it, forever reminding the men’s club running Hollywood that women could do everything men could do on screen. The Method Acting rebirth that came in the seventies had as much to do with Fonda as it did Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1972), which is unfairly not often remembered, credit quickly given to men.
The daughter of movie actor Henry, the sister of Peter, Jane Fonda broke into movies as an ingenue, later a sex kitten in the science fiction fantasy Barbarella (1968) in which her undressing over the opening credits was the fantasy of more than one teenaged boy hitting puberty. She was gorgeous, had a stunning body (like perfect) but above all was intelligent, and that intelligence radiated down off the screen. This was not a woman to be trifled with, and she elevated everyone who worked with her.
Nominated for the Academy Award seven times, winning twice for Klute (1971) and Coming Home (1978), she won an Emmy for The Doll Maker (1984), has won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award once, the New York Film Critics Award twice, and the National Society of Film Critics Award once, she is the one of the most honored and respected actresses in the business.
A student of the Actors Studio, she took her art very seriously, and became visible on the Hollywood radar with a fine comedic performance in Barefoot in the Park (1967) opposite Robert Redford. Just two years later she was the talk of the film industry for her seething performance as the doomed Gloria in They Shoot Horses Don’t They? (1969) winning the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actress, and earning her first Academy Award nomination. History has shown she should have won the Oscar, her performance remembered and appreciated to this day, but two years later she would win for her stunning performance in Klute (1971) in which she portrayed a call girl being stalked by a client. Fearless in the film, Fonda was seen nude, vomiting, filthy, slutty, confident, playing with men’s emotions, and using foul language, the first American woman to say “fuck”onscreen. Her performance made clear that women could do anything and everything that men could do, something not lost on the business. Every single Best Actress Award available to her went to her that year, one of the most acclaimed performances in the history of the cinema, and one that stands up remarkably. there was genuine fear that she would use an Oscar win to speak out about the war in Viet Nam, but instead displayed remarkable class and restraint by simply thanking the Academy and walking off the stage.
Speaking out against Viet Nam, that she began a tireless fight against the war, protesting it so violently she landed on Nixon’s ten most hated Americans list, angered her father and for a time dropped out of movies. She smoked pot on the Dick Cavett Show, made it clear she often got high, and announced she was all about free love.