SECTION ONE
PAGE FOUR

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COLUMN SIXTY-THREE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2001
(Copyright 2001 Al Aronowitz)

AMERICA'S ANSWER TO BARDOT
THE YOUNG JANE FONDA

IV.

Her mother was Frances Seymour, a descendant on her maternal side of Samuel Adams, one of the hosts at the Boston Tea Party, a later governor of Massachusetts and a cousin of John Adams, the second Presi?dent of the United States.

"Was Jane's mother in society?" Shelly Winters once asked me.  "Because she left Jane some aquamarines, a necklace and some other jewelry, and whenever she wears them, with her hair up, there's a quality about her that changes.  She behaves in a certain way. She behaves like...like a princess...like Grace Kelly...like a queen."

In Jane's memory, her mother was "a great beauty" with "a great head for finance." When she committed suicide on April 14, 1950, she left her children a trust fund estimated at six hundred thousand dollars.

Henry Fonda was Frances Seymour's second husband and, when Jane was born in New York City on December 21, 1937, Frances Seymour was Henry Fonda's second wife.  Henry Fonda's first marriage was to Margaret Sullavan one of the stars of her time. Frances Seymour's first marriage was to George Tuttle Brokaw, whom Jane likes to describe as "a lawyer and sportsman" from "a famous New York family." When he died in 1935 he left an estate worth more than five million dollars and a daughter, Frances, six years older than Jane.

"I'm not very close to my half-sister," Jane says. "When I was a child, I didn't understand her."

Out of her marriage to Henry Fonda, Frances Seymour also had a second child, Peter, two


Peter Fonda says
his sister is going to
snap like THAT!


years younger than Jane and now an actor as well.

"I was always very possessive with Peter," Jane says, "I was always very protective.  But now I find that he's the strong one and I'm the weak one, emotionally I mean."

About Jane, Peter says, "That girl is going to snap like that!"

Soon after Jane was born, her parents moved to what she remembers as a twenty-four-acre farm in Brentwood, California, where they built what looked like an old New England house, with shingles that were artificially weather-beaten and furniture that was made from cobbler's benches and butter churns and a swimming pool that was disguised as a pond.  There were rabbits and dogs and chickens and cats and two burros on the farm and Jane remembers always wearing levis like her father and sitting on the roof with Peter and saying, "Tell me the truth, Pete, which one of us could lasso a buffalo better?"

They would ride the burros bareback out into the hills amid visions of bobcats, coyotes and rattlesnakes and they would play the roles they had seen their father play in the movies.

"Prowess," she told me, sitting in her apartment, "everything was physical prowess. The kind my father had in the movies, he was always the hero, beating people up.  I've spent half of my young life wanting to be a boy, because I wanted to be like my father, you know.  I didn't start wanting to be a girl until I was in my early teens and I felt uncomfortable. I mean I was embarrassed. I was shy of boys.  I didn't know how to treat my femininity.  I don't remember owning a dress until I was eight.

'the first time a boy came up to me and asked me to go to a dance---needless to say, we were about nine years old and the dance would have been with parents picking us up and driving us there and nobody knew how to dance anyway.  But I remember, he walked up to me, he was probably about three yards away, but it seemed like he was standing, on top of me.  I had a crush on him anyway, and he asked me to go to the thing, and all I could do was punch him---I punched him on the nose.  So much happened inside of me that the only way I could express myself was to hit him---and I was maaad for him.

"I feel very differently now but I know that it's taken me a long time to learn that I have a deep femininity in me and to allow that to really please me so that I can then allow it to come out.  Because I've always tried to cover it up.  And it's like that with many women. It would be difficult for me to play the part of a beautiful woman--?you know, the way these scripts describe a character: 'So-and-so, a beautiful, sexy, blah-blah-blah type of woman." It would be very difficult for me to play that kind of part.  Because even today, I have enormous insecurities as a female, tremendous insecurities.

"I remember I was about twelve years old and I cut all my hair off.  And someone came up to and said, 'Are you a boy or a girl?' And I was so pleased."

She wanted to be a hero.  Like millions of others, she wanted to be all the heroes her father had been. It was strange for me several days later to listen to Henry Fonda remember his emotions when Lady cut off her hair.

"She was at an age," he told me, "when she was twelve or thirteen or fourteen and she was a member of the Fairfield Fox and Hounds, which is an adult hunt club.  And she was going off on horseback Sundays with these adults, jumping the fences and the walls.

"Or the meets that they had when you're around the ring on a Saturday afternoon.  And this little girl with her long pigtails, two pigtails sticking out here," and he motioned with his hand to show two pigtails, horizontal in the horseback wind.  "And a little hard black velvet hat on.

She just looked so darling on the horse, going around there, taking the jumps.  Like almost anybody, you just stand there or sit and watch and cry, just 'cause she was so beautiful.  And when she first cut her braids off, I cried," and it seemed as if he were about to cry again.

"I say I cried. It wasn't a tragedy, but I can picture that little girl. I still can see the braids strung out back there as she was taking the jumps. She just didn't want her hair long any more.  It's just one of those things about growing up, It was just one of those phases."  ##

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