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On Golden Pond

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Poignant Last Hurrah for Henry Fonda

    'On Golden Pond' was a moderately successful, off Broadway play until Jane Fonda decided that it would be the ideal film catalyst in shoring up a rift between her and father, Henry Fonda. Henry is clearly one of a handful of genuine and consummate professionals. But his personal life is one so tragically marred by an inability to bond or even feel close to anyone, that in the latter half of the 1960s ¿ following Jane¿s very public protest against the Viet Nam war ¿ he all but cut ties with his daughter for nearly ten years. Despite this separation, Jane remained one of her father¿s ardent fans, employing producer, Lord Gray and director Mark Rydell to reinvent the story for the big screen. Under Rydell's command, the film version of ¿On Golden Pond¿ became a tender, poignant and loving account of the impending gloom associated with old age and the loving that remains true throughout the ages. Henry Fonda is Norman Thayer Jr., a weary curmudgeon who seems unwilling to accept what the years have done to his body. He tells his wife Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) that he¿s thinking of getting a job, but later, while walking down an old town road in the country, he becomes disorientated, panics and is forced to realize that his memory is not what it used to be. Norman¿s confusion is a bitter pill to swallow, made all the more difficult when he learns that his estranged daughter, Chelsea (Jane Fonda) is coming up to the cottage with her new fiancée Bill (Dabney Colman) and his young son, Billy (Doug McKeon). When Chelsea and Bill leave Billy with Norman and Ethel for a few weeks to run off and get married, Norman and Billy takes an instant dislike to one another. But their temperaments are quashed somewhat by Ethel¿s consistently good natured prowess at drawing the family together. Gradually Billy and Norman become the best of compatriots, especially after a near fatal boating accident almost puts an end to their friendship. When Chelsea returns she finds a humbled Norman ready and willing to accept her back into the fold. The resulting reconciliation between the two is visceral and heartbreaking, because one has the sense that both Jane and Henry, as Chelsea and Norman, have put their differences in the past. Henry Fonda was not well at the time of production to the point that, when Mark Rydell recalled Fonda for a private screening of the film only several months later, he suddenly realized that indeed Henry was not long for this world. On Oscar night Jane accepted his Best Actor statuette, simply stating on her ailing father¿s behalf, ¿I¿ll bet he¿s saying, hey, ain¿t I lucky¿as though luck had anything to do with it.¿ In contrast to Fonda¿s ill health, Katharine Hepburn¿s viral toughness positively glowed. On several occasions her temperament collided with Rydell¿s direction, particularly during a sequence in which Hepburn grabs a canoe by herself, hoists it overhead and carries it down to the lake. That sequence does not survive in the final cut and Rydell has commented that he doesn¿t believe that Hepburn ever forgave him for the edit. During the sequence in which Ethel discovers Norman and Billy barely clinging to a rock after their boating accident, it is Katharine Hepburn and not a double that actually dives into the icy waters and swims to their rescue. By all accounts Hepburn was a great lady. On this occasion she was also a tower of strength. ¿On Golden Pond¿ has been made previously available on DVD in a regular edition and now, a Special Edition. It isn¿t often that I recommend one buy both versions of a single film, but on this occasion I feel that recommendation is justified. The original disc was not enhanced for widescreen televisions and is therefore a write off in terms of its picture quality. However, it does contain the very poignant, very emotional recollections of the making of the film entitled, ¿Loving Through Time.¿ This documentary is not included on the Special Edition. The Special Edition is

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