Jane Fonda

"My Life So Far"

(Reviewed by Jana Kraus JUN 4, 2006)

"There's a set of photos of us taken around that time. Just after we left California, Harper's Bazaar had come out to interview Dad and take pictures of the family "picnicking" — one of those setup jobs that make the children of movie stars feel like props. The pictures show us sitting on the lawn: Dad, Mother, Peter, me, and Pan (my half sister, the one with the saddle), who at sixteen was beautiful and remarkably voluptuous. There is one photograph in particular that says it all. I discovered it in a scrapbook many years of therapy later, when I was able to see it with more perception and compassion. Dad is in the foreground leaning back on his elbows, looking as if he's got something really good going on in his head that has nothing to do with all of us. I am kneeling next to him, looking intently at him, as I often did in our family pictures, showing clearly whose side I was on. Behind me Peter is playing with the cat, and Pan is lounging glamorously. And then, in the background, almost like an outsider, there's Mother, leaning forward toward us with an expression of pain and anxiety on her face. I feel so sad when I look at that face, which I've done often with a magnifying glass."

My Life So Far by Jane Fonda

Although it has been about fifteen years since Jane Fonda last appeared in a film, the superb actress, with two Academy Awards under her belt for being the BEST at her craft, has done so much more in her life, with her life, than perform on the Big Screen. For those too young to have seen her the first time around in Barbarella, Cat Ballou, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Klute, Julia, Coming Home, On Golden Pond, and so many other movie greats, all the publicity surrounding My Life So Far might stir the interest of younger folks to view Ms. Fonda's extensive repertoire. I can't think of a more worthwhile and entertaining endeavor.

For me, a film lover and Jane Fonda fan from way back, this autobiography held many surprises. My longtime image of Ms. Fonda has always been of a woman secure within herself, grounded, self-assured. Au contraire. The product of a privileged
background, intelligent, creative, beautiful, talented, Jane was not as aware of her strengths as she was of her perceived weaknesses, which she really homed-in on. She suffered from bulimia, along with anorexia and a Dexedrine addiction, for more than 30 years. It is not difficult to understand the roots of her tremendous lack of self-esteem and neediness. Reading about the Fonda family, their interactions and life together while Jane and her brother, Peter, were growing up, is terribly sad. Her father was withdrawn, brooding, and distant. His lack of presence in his children's lives had a tremendous impact.

Their mother's mental instability and eventual suicide, when Jane was twelve years-old, was devastating, although the child was not told the truth about the cause of death until much later. For years she felt tremendous guilt for not saying a final goodbye to her mom - even though she had no clue the woman was about to kill herself. Katherine Hepburn, who worked with both Henry and Jane in the movie, "On Golden Pond," noted the actor's extremely cold attitude toward his daughter. It appears that even at the end of Henry Fonda's life, including the evening Jane accepted the Oscar for Best Actor for him, he never gave her the approval she so longed for.

The memoir is divided into three parts, or 3 Acts, in which she chronicles her life so far in this highly readable narrative: growing up in Hollywood; student life at Vassar; Jane as Barbarella, the American sex-kitten in France, with first husband Roger Vadim; Jane as committed political activist, with an interesting take on her controversial trip to Hanoi during the Vietnam War; her second marriage to student activist/politician Tom Hayden, her third to Ted Turner, motherhood; betrayal and infidelity, (I was more shocked by the behavior of her three husbands, than by the various menages in France, where at least Jane was invited to participate); Christianity and her religious faith; etc., etc.. This is a vital woman who has been involved in many important artistic, political, and athletic/sports events during the last fifty years. She has met some of the world's most interesting people, and even lived with a few. I admire the hard work she has done to understand herself. Therapy has obviously played a major role in her life and I really respect this. It demonstrates her commitment to growth and renewal. She is a survivor.

Her present work and energies involve the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, (G-CAPP), which she founded in 1995 and chairs. In 2002, she opened the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory University's School of Medicine.

Like some contemporary political figures, Jane Fonda seems to inspire an extreme, almost visceral reaction from people - folks seem to either love her or hate her. Few are indifferent. Whatever one's feelings, it is impossible to deny this woman's talent, intellect, complexity, dynamism and the contributions she has made to our society.

It is rumored that Ms. Fonda wrote this book herself, an oddity nowadays with so many ghost written "tell all" memoirs on the market. I don't doubt for a moment that she is the author. She has proven to be extremely talented in many areas, with a variety of endeavors, over the years. Why not writing? I highly recommend this fast paced, well written autobiography. It informs and fascinates.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 160 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from My Life So Far at Random House

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About the Author:

Jane FondaJane Seymour Fonda was born in 1937 in New York City to actor Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Ford Seymour. Her brother is Peter Fonda.

She is an Academy Award-winning Actress, writer, producer and political activist. Her political activities include support of the Civil Rights Movement, supported the Alcatraz Island occupation to call attention to Native American issues, supported the Black Panthers, activism against the Vietnam War and the current Iraq War. She has been involved in the feminist movement since the 1970s.

In 2001, Fonda publicy announced that she had become a Christian, however, still considers herself a liberal and strongly opposes what she considers to be bigotry, discrimination and dogma, which are promoted by the conservative Christians.

Fonda was married to French film director Roger Vadim from 1965-1973 and had a daughter, Vanessa. She then married Tom Hayden, with whom she had a son and raised a foster daughter. Fonda and Hayden divorced in 1990. Her third husband was cable-television tycoon and CNN founder Ted Turner. They were married from 1991-2001.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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