On Golden Pond

On Golden Pond

4.5 7
Director: Mark Rydell

Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda


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There's little that happens in On Golden Pond that isn't thoroughly predictable from the start, but the film is blessed with so much star power, charm and honest sentiment that everyone in the audience is willing to ignore the cliches and go the distance. In his last film, Henry Fonda plays Norman Thayer, a cranky 80-year-old retired professor, making his…  See more details below


There's little that happens in On Golden Pond that isn't thoroughly predictable from the start, but the film is blessed with so much star power, charm and honest sentiment that everyone in the audience is willing to ignore the cliches and go the distance. In his last film, Henry Fonda plays Norman Thayer, a cranky 80-year-old retired professor, making his annual pilgrimage with his wife Katharine Hepburn (in her only teaming with Henry Fonda) to their New England summer cottage. Their solitude is interrupted when the couple's daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) arrives with her fiance Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his son Doug McKeon in tow. It takes a while, but Jane Fonda and Coleman, about to go on a vacation of their own, persuade Henry Fonda and Hepburn to take care of McKeon. Henry Fonda and the kid dislike each other from Square One, and it looks as though this summer (which may very well be Henry Fonda's last) will be a depressing experience. Gradually, Henry Fonda and McKeon grow to love one another; their bond is strengthened during a near-fatal accident while fishing. It is through the warm relationship between Henry Fonda and the boy that the old man and his daughter Jane Fonda are at last able to display affection towards each other--the first time they've done so in years. Gorgeously photographed by Billy Williams, On Golden Pond is a wonderful valedictory for Henry Fonda, who died not long after the film's completion; Katharine Hepburn has less to do, but few can do so much with so little. Academy Awards were bestowed upon Henry Fonda, Hepburn, and screenwriter Ernest Thompson (who adapted the film from his stage play).

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
As America staggered out of its post-Vietnam Carter-era late-'70's numbness, films became one of the means to healing the country's psychic wounds. Consequently, 1981's On Golden Pond became one of a string of films anchored by the generational theme of parent-child rapprochement. One of the things that set this film apart from its contemporaries was the first-time pairing of real life father and daughter Henry and Jane Fonda. In order to evoke the requisite nostalgic tone, director Mary Rydell's film is seeped in sepia-golden hues courtesy of veteran cinematographer Billy Williams III. The film's conflict resolution process is too pat and the direction too self-congratulatory to allow it status as a classic, but there is genuine pathos plus some remarkable work done by Katharine Hepburn and Best Actor Oscar winner Henry Fonda. The elder thespians raise their roles from what could have been clichés (the doting wife, the dottering coot) into the realm of archetypes. The supporting characters fare less well, as the script sometimes short circuits their development in order to get to the next big emotional moment. Despite these complaints, On Golden Pond succeeds because of its appealingly humane plea for generational healing and the wonderful work of Hepburn and Henry Fonda.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Live / Artisan

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Katharine Hepburn Ethel Thayer
Henry Fonda Norman Thayer Jr.
Jane Fonda Chelsea Thayer Wayne
Doug McKeon Billy Ray
Dabney Coleman Bill Ray
William Lanteau Charlie Martin
Chris Rydell Sumner Todd

Technical Credits
Mark Rydell Director
Jane Bogart Set Decoration/Design
Terry Carr Producer
Dianne Crittenden Casting
Gary Daigler Asst. Director
Bruce Gilbert Producer
Stephen B. Grimes Production Designer
Dave Grusin Score Composer
Emad Helmey Set Decoration/Design
Dorothy Jeakins Costumes/Costume Designer
Barry Primus Casting
Ida Random Production Designer
David Ronne Sound/Sound Designer
Kay Rose Sound Editor
Martin Starger Producer
Ernest Thompson Original Story,Screenwriter
Tom Tuttle Makeup
Billy Williams Cinematographer
Robert Wolfe Editor

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On Golden Pond 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Henry Fonda couldn't have ended his career with a better picture. It has a great message. Kate and Hank are wonderful (in their only appearance together). Interestingly enough, the fishing hat that Hank wears throughout the film was given to him by Kate on the first day of filming. It belonged to none other than Spencer Tracy. Great film!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'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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