‘Les Felins (Joy House)’ was released, the major magazine Samedi et
Dimanche observed, “The major revelation is Jane Fonda, ‘the American
BB’, as Melinda. Her French is surprisingly good and her sex appeal
is estimable. She has the potential to become a sex symbol in the tradition
of Bardot or Monroe and, if she collaborates with Vadim, the results
will be interesting.” The initial meeting between the two in 1957 had
been at Maxim’s where Jane was dining with Vadim’s best friend Christian
Marquand. Vadim was there with his new wife Annette Stroyberg, who was
pregnant at the time. He slipped a note to Marquand, who read it, screwed
it up and threw it away. Jane picked it up and read it. It said, “Your
friend has swollen ankles.” When they were to meet again six years later,
both their attitudes toward each other were different. She admitted
that she’d never given him a chance when he’d initially approached her
about a film role. She had a meeting with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel
and when she returned to France, Vadim wanted her to star in a remake
of ‘La Ronde’, a classic French film of 1954. He arranged a meeting
at the home of her agent Olga Horstig and was to say, “For the second
time in my life I was to be the victim of that strange disease, love
at first sight.” Jane agreed to star in ‘La Ronde’ and their relationship
took on a more passionate note.
Vadim decided to educate and mould her, encouraging her to read more books, classics by authors such as Gorky and Malreaux. They travelled Europe together, visiting places such as the red light district in Amsterdam. They even went to Moscow where Jane underwent a radical transformation of attitude in regard to Russia and its people. Vadim was responsible for the beginning of her political awareness. She moved into his flat with him during the making of La ‘Ronde.’ He said, “I told Jane that I am incapable of making love to one woman all my life. ‘If I have a sex adventure,’ I said, ‘I will not lie to you – but one thing I promise you – it will not be important. I could have a mistress. Also I will not behave in public in such a way as to embarrass you.” He was also to say of Jane, “Like all the women I have been involved with, she had a vulnerability. Nothing is more attractive than vulnerability in a woman. She wants to be beautiful but is not sure that she is. She wants to be happy but manages always to be unhappy. Jane always thought that to be happy you must build walls to protect yourself from unhappiness. If I taught her anything it was to be more of herself, not to be afraid.”
‘La Ronde’ did not create much of a sensation in France. Jane had to deny rumours that she acted in the nude in the film. “I am supposedly nude in bed,” she said, “but I wear a bra and panties. There were ninety five people on the set.” Samedi et Dimanche commented, “Jane Fonda may be the next actress Vadim moulds into a child-woman of universal appeal. He has never before had the opportunity to mould an American and only time will tell whether this seemingly emancipated woman bends to his will.”
next film with Vadim was ‘Histoires Extraordinaires (Spirits of the
Dead)’ in 1967, an anthology film based on four Edgar Allen Poe tales,
with Vadim directing two sequences and Federico Fellini and Louis Malle
the others. The Malle tale, ‘William Wilson,’ starred Brigitte Bardot.
Jane starred in the ‘Metzengerstein’ sequence. Vadim cast her brother
Peter Fonda opposite her as Wilhelm, who has an incestuous relationship
with her. Despite the period of the film’s setting, the costumes were
almost in the ‘Barbarella’ vein and were described by one critic as
‘Folies-Bergeres mediaevalism’, and another wrote that the costumes
were “way out ultra-ultra haute monde, running to thigh-high boots,
see-through panellings, chic fur ensembles, all giving extremely generous
views of the Fonda anatomy.”
At the age of 30 Jane became pregnant and Vadim predicted that the baby would be born on 28th September, Brigitte Bardot’s birthday. Sure enough, his prediction came true. When the labour pains began he quickly drove her to the hospital but, as the story goes, the car stopped. He’d forgotten to put in enough petrol. He then claims he picked her up and carried her all the way to the building in his arms. The baby was called Vanessa, probably after Vanessa Redgrave. Vanessa Vadim was alliterative enough for the press and there were headlines, ‘VV born on BB’s birthday.’ They lived for a time in Malibu, but cracks began to appear in the marriage and by the time she’d finished filming ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ they had drifted apart. They discussed staying together for the sake of Vanessa, but were apart for most of 1971 and 1972 and were officially divorced in January 1973. The days of Jane being an 'American Bardot' were over, with films such as ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ ‘Klute’, ’Julia’, ‘Coming Home’, ‘The China Syndrome’ and ‘On Golden Pond.’
character was based on a popular French comic strip by Jean-Claude Forest,
which first surfaced in book form in 1964, and Forest based his blonde-haired,
free-loving creation on Brigitte Bardot. He collaborated on the script
with Terry Southern, who was the author of the American best-seller
‘Candy.’ Jane was hoping that her father would appear in the role of
President of Earth. At first Henry was interested, then commented, “Will
I have to take all my clothes off?” before declining. The part went
to Claude Dauphin.
John Phillip Law, who had appeared with Jane in ‘Hurry Sundown’, was cast as the blind angel Pygor. Marcel Marceau appeared as Professor Ping, Milo O’Shea as Duran Duran (yes, this is where the pop group found its name), Anita Pallenberg as the Black Queen and David Hemmings as the revolutionary, Dildano. Hemmings was to recall, “I had to make love to Jane by pressing the palm of my hand against hers, while intoning a password, which was my great contribution to this bizarre cultish movie. I suggested the name of a village in North Wales. Jane loved it and it was a treat to see her bubbling away as she tried, successfully, to spit it out…. “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!”
Rolling Stone Brian Jones’ girlfriend Pallenberg was also referred to as 'the Great Tyrant' and on first seeing Barbarella she says, “Hello, pretty pretty.” Barbarella answers, “Hello.” The Great Tyrant says, “Do you want to come and play with me? For someone like you I charge nothing. You're very pretty, Pretty-Pretty”. Barbarella answers, “My name isn't Pretty-Pretty, it's Barbarella.”
eventually conquering the bulimic tendencies, Jane began attending a
workout run by Gilda Marx, one of the pioneers of exercise studios.
As a result, Jane decided to begin her own series of aerobic exercises
and founded ‘Jane Fonda’s Workout Inc’ in 1978. It made her a multi-millionairess.
She opened her first studio in Wilshire Boulevard, then another in South
Roberton Boulevard, near Beverly Hills, and commented, “I wanted it
there so women could come in from their work, their shopping, from whatever
they were doing, and do their exercise in a no-frills environment under
By 1983, 3,000 women a week were paying to exercise at Jane’s studios. Her first exercise book ‘The Jane Fonda Original Workout Book’ became a publishing phenomenon and sold 1,800,000 copies. Her second book, ‘Workout Book for Pregnancy, Birth & Recovery’, published in 1982, brought in royalties of more than $5 million – but she was to find an even bigger source of revenue on video cassette. Her first workout video was released in April 1972 and spent years at the top of the American video charts. It’s been assessed that her complete series of workout videos brought her an income of $70 million.
The original aerobics workout was quite basic. Jane, wearing a tight-fitting leotard, began her exercises with a group of women behind her and a music soundtrack. There were critics. Professor Margaret Morse of the University of Southern California criticised the videos as being – “Almost soft-porn, complete with heavy breathing, sexy stares and lingering shots of parts of the body not directly related to the exercises.” Three new best-selling videotapes were issued in 1984 and 1985 and the royalties piled up, causing her to be featured in American business magazines who praised her success as one of the nation’s foremost businesswomen. A further three videotapes were issued between 1986 and 1988 and her ‘Start Up With Jane Fonda’ had an initial order of 781, 659 units. In 1989 a further video ‘Jane Fonda’s Complete Workout’ was released.
Senators demanded that she be indicted for treason when she began broadcasting
for Hanoi Radio urging American soldiers to renounce the war. By 1967
the United States had dropped more than 100,000 tons of napalm on North
Vietnam, together with more explosives than in the entire Pacific Theatre
of World War 2. Eight million peasants had been herded into barbed wire
camps patrolled by political police in the South. There had been enough
poisonous chemicals used to defoliate and sterilise 10,000 acres of
farmland and half a million Vietnamese men, women and children had been
President Nixon, who’d originally promised to end the war, had escalated the bombing and had called American protesters ‘bums.’ In May 1970, in an address to an anti-war demonstration in Washington D.C., Jane Fonda had begun a speech with the words, “Welcome, fellow bums.” Jane visited North Vietnam in July 1972 to inspect the ruined buildings, hospitals, refugee areas and prisoners of war and made ten broadcasts over Radio Hanoi urging American soldiers to renounce the war. She was labelled ‘Hanoi Jane’, called a ‘pinko slut’ and Senators demanded that she be indicted for treason.
did seem to accept everything the Vietnamese told her without question,
even accepting their figure that there were only 300 American prisoners,
which was completely untrue. It transpired that the prisoners were tortured
and inhumanely treated in the notorious ‘Hanoi Hilton.’
Colonel George Day, Senior Officer at the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, commenting on the broadcasts, said, “It is difficult to put into words how terrible it is to hear that siren song that is so absolutely rotten and wrong. It was worse than being manipulated and used. She got into it with all her heart. She wanted the North Vietnamese to win. She caused the deaths of unknown numbers of Americans by buoying up the enemy’s spirits and keeping them in the fight. That’s not what you expect from Henry Fonda’s daughter.”
The Vietnamese arranged a press conference for her with the prisoners. Those who refused were tortured. Colonel Day, who’d been kept in solitary confinement for 37 months, refused to see her and as a result was flogged until his buttocks were like hamburger. Another prisoner who refused to see her and quote from prepared scripts was forced to kneel on a cement floor with a steel rod in front of him for two days and each time the rod dipped he was beaten brutally. When he returned home a few years later, part of his foot was missing. It was also claimed that a captured pilot was executed because he refused to be part of the orchestrated conference.