Saturday, September 29, 2018

henry fonda's daughter(s)

Henry Fonda was married five times.

He had three children with two of his wives. Plus one adoptive daughter.

Henry Fonda had one son and three daughters.

That's right, three daughters.

Most people would assume that Henry had only two children - Jane and Peter. And that Jane was his only daughter. Which isn't the case, of course.

Susan Lacy's otherwise extraordinary HBO documentary, "Jane Fonda in Five Acts," makes no attempt to acknowledge Henry Fonda's other two daughters. They would be Frances de Villers Brokaw - aka, Pan Corrias - whose mother, Frances Seymour Brokaw, was Henry's second wife and the mother of Jane and Peter, and Amy Fishman, from his marriage to his third wife, Susan Blanchard. Got that? Amy was Henry's biological daughter, while Pan was his adopted daughter. Her father was George Tuttle Brokaw.

Throughout "Jane Fonda in Five Acts," there are flashes of family pictures (such as the one above), in which Henry, Frances, Jane and Peter are identified. But who is that other girl? That would be Pan. And why isn't she ever mentioned? According to this doc, Henry had only two children.

For some reason, this gnawed at me throughout Lacy's astute take on Jane Fonda's remarkable career and even more remarkable life. It's refreshing that there are (thankfully) few film clips in "Jane Fonda in Five Acts" in favor of many more archival shots of Fonda's off-screen life, causes and lovers. Defining Jane Fonda through the men in her life makes this documentary singular - and I love it that both filmmaker and star also reference the different hair styles that were attendant with each man.

But I would have appreciated Jane's take on Pan, who presumably was present during her formative years, and Amy who came along when Henry put Jane in boarding school. Throughout the film, Jane refers to herself as "his daughter." Shouldn't that more correctly be "one of his daughters?"

I would have also loved to see current footage of Peter, whose presence is limited here to old footage. But this film is about Jane who remains intelligent, insecure, extremely talented and, at 80, drop-dead gorgeous.

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5 comments:

Sheryl Z said...

Not sure any of us can truly know the ins and outs of this or any other family. All we know is that Henry was cold, her mother was depressed and suicidal whether from biology or Henry. I thought it was a terrific documentary and showed how she evolved into the amazing person she is today.

Charlotte said...

Yes, I too was surprised that Peter Fonda wasn't interviewed for the doc. Very odd. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful examination of an amazing woman.

Vanessa said...

I watched the show and my take was that Jane had problematic relationships with many other women - her mother and even her daughter. Why should one assume that she would get on well with a half-sister or step-sister?

Daryl Chin said...

It is always difficult to psychoanalyze from a distance, but it must be said that Jane Fonda has accomplished a great deal in her life. When she was growing up, Jane Fonda was part of a group that included Maria Cooper Janis (daughter of Gary Cooper) and Brooke Hayward (daughter of Margaret Sullavan and Leland Hayward), but she was the one who was the most determined to strike out on her own and make her mark. Part of that determination seems to have been a difficulty to bond with the women in her own family: her mother, her sisters, her daughter. This seems to have made her determined to be an individual. That is unfortunate, but the only thing that is puzzling to me is how her determination has colored all subsequent accounts of her family: there is almost no mention of the other two daughters in all recent books on Henry Fonda (such as Scott Eyman's book HANK & JIM). That's the only thing I find curious, since the evidence is there: most of the family photos of Jane's childhood show a family of five, Henry, Frances, "Pan", Jane and Peter. So the lack of interest by people doing any sort of research into the Fonda family seems deliberate, but it still seems strange to me.

Sheila said...

To Daryl's point, while watching the HBO doc, I was struck by her curious relationships with the other women in her family - perhaps due to father issues. I got the impression that she wanted to be the only woman of any worth in Henry Fonda's life.