SECTION ONE
PAGE SEVEN

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

AMERICA'S ANSWER TO BARDOT
THE YOUNG JANE FONDA

VII.

She was living with her maternal grandmother in Greenwich at the time of her mother's death.  She was told that her mother had died of a heart attack.

"And then," she said, "about a year later, the way children always find out everything, some kid in school, in history class, handed me a movie magazine that said what really happened."

To one interviewer, she said she never was close to her mother.  To another, she said she didn't understand her mother. To still another, she has said she didn't know her mother. By the time she talked to me, her half-sister, Frances, wasn't speaking to her; her brother, Peter, had written her a letter; and her father had told me he was shocked.

"I told her," he said, "'Darling, you must realize that everything you say today is going to be reprinted in Tokyo and Australia and Greece and Salt Lake City, because you are a provocative exciting girl.' She doesn't have to say things that are hurtful.  And when she reads things that she has said, she wishes she could bite her tongue off."

'so you see," said Jane, "I'm very edgy to talk about it now. Not that it causes me any pain.  I'm just afraid it's going to cause somebody else some pain.  I don't want to create any more of these schisms.  I didn't think I'd said anything hurtful. I just spoke truthfully,


Peter Fonda refused
to be interviewed
about his sister


but it really upset them. I certainly didn't do it thinking I was saying anything slanderous. And it wasn't slanderous. It's just that maybe it was unnecessary to talk about it. It's just that, when I was a child, I always had defenses put for me so I wouldn't feel things.

"It was like if something happened, if you have a toothache, you make your foot hurt and then you pay attention to the foot ache. When my mother died, when she committed suicide, I didn't feel it, I didn't react to it---which was not a good thing, because I still have it inside of me. I still haven't come to terms with it. My brother did, and he reacted very strongly, he got it all out. But I didn't."

Peter refused even to be interviewed about Jane. Filming The Victor in London at the time, he instead sent a message with his press agent, whose explanation included something about a family feud. Jane, of course, would rather consider herself a non-combatant. To her, Peter is still her partner in emotion on a California rooftop, and, whether at play or at acting, she still thinks she can lasso buffalo better than he can.

"Jane is so motherly toward Peter," says Madeline Sherwood.  "I remember once we were at their place in California and we were sitting by the pool.  And their father came and he was incensed because Peter didn't want to go East two weeks before his opening in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole, to study with the director. And Jane immediately came to Peter's defense and acted just like a mother would in placating her father."

On the other hand, Jane's maternalism also has resulted in her telling Peter what to do. She wanted him, for example, to follow her own footsteps into Lee Strasberg's acting classes and, eventually, the Actor's Studio. Peter tried for a while but then gave up Stanislavsky's Method for his father's, favoring the instinctive, on-the-job training as an actor.

"I think Peter's wrong," Jane said, "because I think it's going to hurt him and I don't want him to be hurt.  But he was a boy when I talked to him that way.  He' a man now so who the hell am I to tell him who to study with? So I don't talk to him about it any more. . . You see, something that has gotten me into trouble is that---if I had felt particular anger or hostility towards my brother or my father---I will say little things that'll come out in print, and I don't really mean them. It's just kind of a childish vindictiveness, and so I've tried to be honest in terms of the fact that I love them and there are difficulties.

"But I've tried not to be one-sided about it.  Although sometimes I get very snide and I take it out by criticizing my father's acting or my brother's acting, or something unnecessary like that.  I mean the end will prove the means.  I think I'm right, and I think my brother's wrong, but we'll see who's right in the end."  ##

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