FYNFRC: Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda does not have a single movie on the National Film Registry.
I will repeat that: Jane Fonda does not have a single movie on the National Film Registry.
Impossible, right? But with the exception of quick archival clips in “Precious Images“, none of Jane Fonda’s filmography has been added to the National Film Registry as of this writing. Her father Henry Fonda has eight movies on the list, brother Peter has one; hell, even her niece Bridget shows up in “Easy Rider“. Despite her legendary status, her iconic filmography, and her remarkable longevity in a business that shuns any woman who dares to age, Jane Fonda has yet to appear on a list of films that has inducted the likes of Fran Drescher, Martin Lawrence, and the kid from “Dennis the Menace”.
Thankfully, you – the movie-viewing public – can nominate any American film you want for NFR consideration. If you’re thinking of submitting one of Jane’s movies to the Registry, here are a few titles that stand out for their cultural, historical, and/or aesthetic significance. Side note: Sorry “Barbarella” fans, but that movie was a French-Italian co-production.
Cat Ballou (1965): The quintessential western spoof before “Blazing Saddles” came along, “Cat Ballou” represents Fonda’s early film work in light comedy, and helped solidify her standing as a movie star. Plus, it got Lee Marvin an Oscar!
Barefoot in the Park (1967): Most years I submit “The Odd Couple” for NFR consideration as representation of the plethora of hit Neil Simon comedies we got in the ’60s and ’70s. That being said, “Barefoot” would be a fine substitution, with great early performances from both Fonda and Robert Redford. My other option in the Jane Fonda/Neil Simon collaborations would be “California Suite” which….no, not happening.
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969): This drama set at a Depression-era dance marathon proved that Fonda was more than just another Ann-Margret type sex kitten, and could easily carry the weight of a period drama (and a dead Red Buttons) on her back. The film was also an early success for its up-and-coming director, Sydney Pollack.
Klute (1971): “Horses” earned Fonda her first Oscar nomination, but “Klute” won her the trophy. As a call-girl mixed up in a missing persons case, Fonda added complexities to the “hooker with a heart of gold” trope that ended up enhancing her feminist ideology, rather than detracting from it.
F.T.A. (1972): If the NFR wants to recognize Fonda’s politics among its ranks, look no further than “F.T.A.”. Francine Parker’s documentary chronicles Fonda (along with her “Klute” co-star Donald Sutherland and many other performers) as they travel to army bases in the Pacific Rim with their anti-Vietnam revue, the antithesis of Bob Hope’s pro-Vietnam USO tours of the time.
Julia (1977): Who better to play controversial activist and artist Lillian Hellman than controversial activist and artist Jane Fonda? “Julia” has a lot going for it: it is the penultimate film of director Fred Zinnemann, it was the film debut for a 30 year old stage actor named Meryl Streep, and it attracted a large share of controversy in its day, thanks to Fonda as well as the film’s other NFR-less star: Vanessa Redgrave.
Coming Home (1978): The post-Vietnam movie for everyone too emotionally drained to watch “The Deer Hunter” again, “Coming Home” sees Fonda as a military wife who develops a relationship with a paraplegic veteran (Jon Voight) while her husband (Bruce Dern) is in Vietnam. Jane served as the “muscle” for “Coming Home”: producing the film with her own company (IPC Films), hiring the creatives and helping re-write the screenplay. For her efforts, she received her second Best Actress Oscar.
The China Syndrome (1979): Part social drama, part ’70s disaster movie, “The China Syndrome” tackled the dangers of nuclear power, and unexpectedly entered the zeitgeist when Three Mile Island had a partial meltdown days after the film’s release. In addition to getting Fonda on the NFR, “China Syndrome” would add another Jack Lemmon movie (vastly underrepresented with three of his early films), and would be the first with a Michael Douglas performance (Douglas is only on the list as the producer of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“).
9 to 5 (1980): While it’s not a “Jane Fonda movie” per se, “9 to 5” is my annual pick to get Jane on this list. Like so many of the movies we’ve discussed, “9 to 5” speaks to real-world issues of its time, in this case the gender gap for women in the workplace. In a filmography with over 50 movies, “9 to 5” may be the most memorable and timeless of Fonda’s films. It’s a comedy classic, with outstanding work from Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton, the latter of whom penned one of the most iconic songs in film history. You’re humming it right now, aren’t you?
On Golden Pond (1981): Again, not a vehicle for Ms. Fonda, but one that she championed, leading to the only film collaboration between her and Henry Fonda. As a play, “On Golden Pond” wasn’t the most profound or dimensional character study, but with Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in the leads, the film version goes beyond its contemplation of old-age and serves as a curtain call for Classic Hollywood. Plus, if this and “9 to 5” make the list, they will join “Tootsie” in my unofficial “Smarmy Dabney Coleman” trilogy.
Jane Fonda’s Workout (1982): This is NOT a joke: Smithsonian archivist and National Film Preservation Board member Wendy Shay has pushed for the NFR to add “Jane Fonda’s Workout” multiple times through the years, and the title appears on their official list of films not yet on the Registry. I get it: “Workout” was the biggest video cassette of the 1980s, and Fonda was the first major celebrity to embrace the lucrative world of VHS productions. Plus, after almost five years of watching classic movies every week, I could use the exercise.
Monster-In-Law (2005): Okay, this one IS a joke. Moving on…
Hopefully, one or more of these titles will compel you to nominate them for NFR consideration. Hell, nominate all of them if you want, and be sure to add your own favorites. I’m confident Jane Fonda will make the NFR someday, but the question is: which movie will finally welcome her to the club?