Oscar: Fondas–Award-Winning Clan

A family reunion imbued with symbolic meanings on and offscreen, took place at the 1982 Oscar show, when Henry Fonda won Best Actor for On Golden Pond. Jane Fonda purchased the screen rights to Ernest Thompson’s stage play as a vehicle for her father. Though Jane had made her acting debut opposite her father Henry at the Omaha Community House Theater, On Golden Pond was the first and only movie they made together. Jane was cast as Chelsea, a middle-aged daughter and single mom, at odds with her father over childhood misunderstandings.

The film’s reconciliation scene, under the sturdy guidance of Katharine Hepburn, who plays Fonda’s wife, in which Chelsea finally comes to terms with her past, was semi-autobiographical, to say the least. Jane’s unhappy childhood and later radical politics created tension with her distanced and more conservative dad. Rumors have it that it was Henry who told Jane not to use the Oscar podium for political declarations should she win Best Actress for Klute, which she did.

Jane agreed to play a thankless role in On Golden Pond for familial reasons. The Academy respectfully honored Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn with Oscars, and Jane with her sixth (and first supporting) nomination. In an emotional speech, Jane accepted the Oscar for her father, who was unable to attend the ceremonies due to poor health. After the show, the cameras followed dutiful daughter Jane as she drove to her father’s house to present him with the statuette. Unfortunately, Fonda died four months later.

Jane Fonda also proved herself dutiful sister, when she accompanied her brother Peter Fonda to several awards ceremonies upon his first Best Actor nomination for Ulee’s Gold. Since Easy Rider, for which he was nominated for a writing Oscar (along with Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern), Peter has made peace with Hollywood and with his father Henry, whom he credited for inspiring his quiet but impressive performance in Ulee’s Gold. Fonda played a taciturn beekeeper, forced to emerge out of his solitary life and face familial responsibilities as the father of an imprisoned son and grandfather of two girls ruthlessly abandoned by their drug-addict mother. That Peter resembled his father physically made the link between pere and fils all the more apparent.