Jane Fonda (born New York, December 21, 1937) is an American actress, political activist, and latterly fitness guru. She is the daughter of Henry Fonda and sister of Peter Fonda. She rose to prominence in the 1960s with films such as Walk on the Wild Side (1962), in which she played a prostitute and for which she won a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer; Sunday in New York (1963) and the comedy western Cat Bellou (1965), which was nominated for five Oscars and established her bankability as a star.
The science-fiction film Barbarella (1968), directed by Frenchman Roger Vadim, her first husband, established Fonda as a sex symbol. Her marriage to Vadim, which lasted from 1965 to 1973, brought her into contact with left-wing intellectuals and may have had a role in her political radicalization.
She supported the Civil Rights movement and opposed the Vietnam War, particularly through involvement with the front group Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). She was also a vocal supporter of the Black Panthers.
In July-August 1972, Fonda visited Hanoi, where she spoke out against the war. Her detractors labeled her "Hanoi Jane", comparing her to war propagandists Tokyo Rose and Hanoi Hannah. She was controversially photographed seated on an anti-aircraft gun, which angered many American supporters of the war. The following is a sample of what she had to say while in Hanoi:
She made approximately eight radio addresses, during which she told American pilots in the area:
"Use of these bombs or condoning the use of these bombs makes one a war criminal. Examine the reasons given to justify the murder you are being paid to commit. I don't know what your officers tell you, but [your] weapons are illegal and that's not just rhetoric. The men who are ordering you to use these weapons are war criminals according to international law, and in the past, in Germany and Japan, men who committed these kinds of crimes were tried and executed."
Fonda also quoted Ho Chi Minh during some of these broadcasts. She referred to President Richard Nixon as a "new-type Hitler," and advised South Vietnamese soldiers to desert: "You are being used as cannon fodder for U.S. imperialism."
These radio addresses were aired repeatedly by the North Vietnamese communists (Vietcong).
"I've spoken to many peasants who talked about the days when their parents had to sell themselves to landlords as virtually slaves, when there were very few schools and much illiteracy, inadequate medical care, when they were not masters of their own lives.
"But now, despite the bombs, despite the crimes being committed against them by Richard Nixon, these people own their own land, build their own schools ... illiteracy is being wiped out, there is no more prostitution as there was during the time when this was a French colony. In other words, the people have taken power into their own hands, and they are controlling their own lives.
"And after 4,000 years of struggling against nature and foreign invaders -- and the last 25 years, prior to the revolution, of struggling against French colonialism -- I don't think that the people of Vietnam are about to compromise in any way, shape or form about the freedom and independence of their country, and I think Richard Nixon would do well to read Vietnamese history, particularly their poetry, and particularly the poetry written by Ho Chi Minh."
In a 1988 interview, she said, "I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft gun, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless." In her 2005 autobiography she claimed she had been manipulated into posing in the photographs.
Fonda married political activist Tom Hayden in 1973 following her divorce from Roger Vadim. She and Hayden had a son, Troy (born 1973), and they also unofficially adopted the teenage daughter of members of the Black Panthers. Fonda divorced Hayden in 1989, and married CNN founder Ted Turner in 1991. They divorced in 2001, after Fonda declared her conversion to Christianity. In a New Yorker article Turner, who sometimes described himself as an atheist, sometimes an agnostic, linked his wife's espousal of religion with the breakdown of their marriage:
“I had absolutely no warning about it. She didn’t tell me she was thinking about doing it. She just came home and said, ‘I’ve become a Christian.’ Before that, she was not a religious person. That’s a pretty big change for your wife of many years to tell you. That’s a shock. I mean, normally that’s the kind of thing your wife or husband would discuss with you before they did it or while they were thinking about it .... Obviously, we weren’t communicating very well at that time.” “My becoming a Christian upset him very much — for good reason,” Fonda says. “He’s my husband and I chose not to discuss it with him — because he would have talked me out of it. He’s a debating champion.
Fonda was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won two as Best Actress, for Klute (1971) and Coming Home (1978).
She announced her retirement from screen acting in the early 1990s, but returned to the screen in the movie Monster-in-Law (2005). In 2009 she played Katherine Brandt in Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations on Broadway, in which role she received a Tony nomination.
Apart from acting, Fonda is also known for a series of workout tapes she produced which gained prominence in the early 1980s.
Fonda's controversial stance on the Vietnam war continues to haunt her. In July 2011, viewer protests caused the cancellation of a planned TV appearance on the QVC shopping channel, about which she had the following to say:
"The network said they got a lot of calls yesterday criticizing me for my opposition to the Vietnam War and threatening to boycott the show if I was allowed to appear. I am, to say the least, deeply disappointed that QVC caved to this kind of insane pressure by some well funded and organized political extremist groups. And that they did it without talking to me first. I have never shied away from talking about this … Many people have reached out to express how excited they were about my going onto QVC and hearing about my book."
- From a speech by Jane Fonda in Hanoi, 1972 http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet/fonda.html
- Jane Fonda at the Internet Movie Database