Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jane Fonda's war on women?

You can learn a lot from a book.

Take Watch Me, Anjelica Huston's follow up to her earlier memoir A Story Told Lately.

It's a lively, well written book which contains many interesting stories from the Academy Award winning actress.  In 1996, she also became a rare hyphenate in the entertainment industry: an actress-director.

There have been many, many actor-directors including: Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Orson Welles, Sidney Poitier, Rob Reiner, Spike Lee, Clint Eastwood, Peter Berg, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Jack Nicholson, Ben Affleck, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Paxton, Charlie Chaplin, Billy Bob Thornton, Forest Whitaker, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Kevin Spacey, Chris Rock, Emilio Estevez, John Cassavetes, Robert De Niro, Stanley Tucci, Woody Allen, Gene Kelly, Mel Brooks,  Denzel Washington, Albert Brooks, Edward Burns, Vincent Gallo, Kevin Costner,  Tim Robbins, Sylvester Stallone, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mel Gibson, Dennis Hopper, Ron Howard, Kevin Smith, Robert Redford, Steven Segal, Danny DeVito, and even Anjelica's father John Huston.

There have been far fewer women, especially in the era of sound films.  From the fifties through the eighties, Ida Lupino, Lee Grant, Dyan Cannon, Elaine May, Barbra Streisand, Penny Marshall and Diane Keaton were largely it.  The early 90s brought Jodie Foster and Betty Thomas to the list.

In 1996, Anjelica Huston joined the group as the director of Bastard Out of Carolina based on the acclaimed novel by Dorothy Allison.  The film, narrated by Laura Dern and with a first rate cast which included Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dermot Mulroney, Christina Ricci, Jena Malone, Diana Scarwild and Ron Eldard.

If you thought friend-of-women Jane Fonda would help her, you were wrong.

The film was financed by Ted Turner's TNT with the intent to air it on his cable network.

Then, as Anjelica details in her new book, she was informed Turner hated the film and would not air it.

Had he seen it?


Anjelica felt hopeful because Turner would be seeing it with his latest arm tomato  Jane Fonda.

Jane screamed during the rape scene and was no friend to the arts or, for that matter, to women or to Anjelica specifically.

Poor Jane, the victim of every man, right?

No, not really.

When incidents like this spring up, they do more than remind people that Jane was sued for paying male instructors at her workout studio in San Francisco more than she paid the female instructors.

It reminds people of just how cruel to other women Jane can be -- can be and has been.

There is the notorious moment when she publicly termed Lillian Hellman "homely" and then pretended to be shocked that the author found the description insulting.  There was last year which found her referring to Academy Award winner Faye Dunaway as a "bitch."  There was 2008 when she called Hillary the c-word (an event Jane denies).

But mainly, it reminds people that Nancy Dowd wrote the original script for Coming Home and Fonda fired her and hired a man to turn the film into a fairy tale romance.

Hired a man?

It reminds people that Jane never hired a female director.

Not when she was box office in the 70s and early 80s.

Not when she produced Lakota Woman for TV in the 90s.

Over and over, when she could have hired a woman to direct, feminist Jane turned to men.

She didn't even hire many actresses.

Most people who remember her producing films think of 9 to 5 which she co-starred in with Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin.  But that was only one movie.

And she is the actress who insisted that it was so great to do scenes with another actress when she made Julia (she was a hired gun on that film, she didn't produce it).  But after that 1977 film, she didn't act with women as equals except in 9 to 5.  She produced Coming Home and Penelope Milford had a supporting role (it was a much larger role in Nancy Dowd's original script).  That's really it.

She produced Old Gringo, The China Syndrome and Rollover -- queen bee roles for Jane.  Even Joan Crawford was more willing to share the screen with other women.

There is On Golden Pond with Katharine Hepburn as a ridiculous closeted, elderly lesbian in a marriage of pretense.  Oh, that's not how the role was written?  Because that is how it was played.  (And Diane Keaton was robbed -- she deserved the Academy Award that year for Shoot The Moon.)

Jane's fond of saying she's in her third and final act.

She might need to address the above as part of that final act -- that is if she intends to ever get her act together.

Of course, if she intended to do that, she'd be speaking out against the continued war on Iraq.

But she's chosen to be a useless whore for Barack instead.

Anjelica Huston's addressing a great deal in her new book Watch Me.  In addition to reading the book (which you should), you can also listen to (or read the transcript of) a discussion of the book Diane Rehm had with Anjelica on last week's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR).

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