If you were picking nine movies to screen for a retrospective of Jane Fonda’s career, which ones would you pick?
Maybe an early ingenue comedy like “Sunday in New York” or “Any Wednesday.” Or the popular Neil Simon romcom with Robert Redford, “Barefoot in the Park.” Maybe her charming debut in director Josh Logan’s 1960 comedy “Tall Story,” with Anthony Perkins. Possibly “The Chase,” in which she showed mature promise opposite Marlon Brando under director Arthur Penn in 1966.
Or would you sample her recent work, after a 15-year absence from film, playing the title role in “Monster-in-Law” opposite Jennifer Lopez in 2005?
Fonda handpicked nine of her own films for the Film Streams retrospective that opens June 29 and runs through August, and she didn’t choose any of the above. She had plenty of other interesting titles among the 40 theatrical releases she’s made so far.
She snagged Oscar nominations for six of her choices (she left out “The Morning After,” her most recent nomination in 1986). Three other choices might surprise you.
She also chose two films she said influenced her, Preston Sturges’ “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941) and Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” (1957), which her father, Henry Fonda, starred in and produced. Born in Grand Island, Henry Fonda grew up in Omaha and began his acting career at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Jane, 74, appeared with him there in “The Country Wife,” in 1955.
The retrospective coincides with Fonda’s July 22 appearance at the Holland Center for a Film Streams fundraiser, when director-screenwriter Alexander Payne will interview her about her career. The event, called “Feature IV,” is expected to raise up to 20 percent of the nonprofit arthouse movie theater’s annual budget.
In his “New Biographical Dictionary of Film,” critic David Thomson says Fonda’s exercise videos are like many of her films: “ardent, solemn and modestly erotic. ... Her emphatic quality as an actress is in the secret entrance to her insecurity. That’s what made her Bree Daniels in ‘Klute’ so compelling.”
Here are the movies Fonda picked for the retrospective.
“Cat Ballou,” June 29-July. Thomson said Fonda was wasted in this 1965 comedy western with Lee Marvin, but audiences loved it — and it won Marvin an Oscar.
“Barbarella,” July 6-12. I wouldn’t have chosen this camp cult classic, a French sci-fi film playing off the sexual revolution that was in full tilt when it was made in 1968. Maybe she picked it because ex-husband Roger Vadim directed it.
“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,” July 13-19. A Depression-era dance marathon pushes its desperate competitors to extremes. Fonda’s breakthrough performance, directed by Sydney Pollack, earned the actress her first Academy Award nomination.
“Klute,” July 20-26. Detective Donald Sutherland seeks the help of a hardened call girl (Fonda) as he searches for a missing person. Fonda won best actress for this brilliant, complex 1971 performance.
“12 Angry Men,” July 20-26. Jane says “The Grapes of Wrath” and this film “instilled in me my father’s values and made me care about the underdogs of the world, and showed me that films can make a difference.” The movie, a best-picture nominee, depicts jurors arguing toward a verdict in a murder case.
“Julia,” July 28 and 29. Fonda plays playwright Lillian Hellman, smuggling money through Nazi Germany for a friend played by Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave and Jason Robards won Oscars for this movie, and so did the screenplay. Fonda was nominated.
“Sullivan’s Travels,” July 27-Aug. 2. A naive Hollywood director (Joel McCrea) sets out to make a film about the hardships of poverty, taking to the road as a hobo. Sturges’ social satire taught Jane a lesson. See her comments on “Nine to Five.”
“Coming Home,” Aug. 3-9. Fonda plays the wife of a Marine in Vietnam. While volunteering in a hospital, she falls for a veteran in a wheelchair (Jon Voight). Director Hal Ashby’s relationship drama earned Oscars for both her and Voight.
“The China Syndrome,” Aug. 10-16. The real-life meltdown at Three Mile Island suddenly made this fictional story of a nuclear power plant’s safety issues seem all too real. An Oscar nomination for Fonda as a television reporter. Michael Douglas, Jack Lemmon co-star.
“Nine to Five,” Aug. 18 and 19. “The best way to say important things is through comedy,” Fonda says, “so I did ‘Nine to Five’ instead of the drama we were developing about the plight of office workers.” A big hit, with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton.
“On Golden Pond,” Aug. 24-30. Reconciliation between a father and daughter, played by Jane and Henry, echoed real life poignantly. Henry won his only Oscar for this heartwarmer, and Jane was nominated. Katharine Hepburn co-stars.