Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Golden Pond (1981)

Ethel: Come here, Norman. Hurry up. The loons! The loons! They're welcoming us back.
Retired professor Norman and his wife Ethel have had a summer cottage on Golden Pond since early in their marriage.  As usual, they return to the cottage one summer, but this time they are to be visited by their daughter, Chelsea (whom they haven't seen for years), her fianc√©, Bill, and Bill's son, Billy.  Norman and Ethel might have a challenge on their hands, however, as Chelsea and Bill are to leave Billy with them as they travel to Europe.  While she's away, Chelsea hopes that Norman will develop a good relationship with Billy.  A relationship she feels she and her father never had.
After making a limited release premiere on December 4, 1981, "On Golden Pond" made it broad release on the 22nd of January the following year.  A few weeks later, it would make its release to Australia and then eventually to countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and then to other parts of the world.
Based on the stage play by Ernest Thompson, Ernest also wrote the screenplay for this film.  It would be the first screenplay he ever wrote and it won him his first and only Academy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay.  "On Golden Pond" wowed audiences all over and went on receive 10 Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Screenplay (which it won), Best Supporting Actress (Jane Fonda), Best Actor (Henry Fonda), and Best Actress (Katherine Hepburn).  Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn won their Academy Awards.
"On Golden Pond" had a simple cast starring Henry Fonda (Norman) and Katherine Hepburn (Ethel).  It's co-stars were Henry's daughter Jane Fonda (Chelsea), Doug McKeon (Billy), and Dabney Coleman (Bill).
Filmed mainly on location in New Hampshire including Squam Lake ("Golden Pond"), "On Golden Pond" went on to be the 2nd highest grossing film at the Box Office for the year of its release, having brought in over $119 million in the U.S. for just that year alone.
Having been filmed sometime in July of 1980 with the exception of the Purgatory Cove scene, here are some other bits of information on this heart-warming film you might appreciate...
1.  James Stewart had wanted to star in the movie, but Jane Fonda bought the rights to the play before he could.  It's rather clear she had a plan in mind in that she wanted her father, Henry Fonda, to play the role of Norman.
2.  This is the only film in which Henry Fonda and real life daughter Jane Fonda appear together.
3.  Barbara Stanwyck was on call to replace Katharine Hepburn in the event Katharine was unable to appear in the film due to surgery she underwent prior to production.
4.  Katharine Hepburn hurt her arm in a tennis match a few weeks before filming. She almost pulled out, but Henry Fonda convinced her to show up to start shooting on day one. One scene was omitted from the film in which you see her pick up a canoe by herself with her sore arm. She never forgave Mark Rydell for editing that scene out.
5.  There was and still is a boathouse on the Thayer's property but the film crew filmed around it so that it wasn't shown.
6.  In the scene near the beginning of the film where Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) calls the operator to see if the phone is working, he looks at a framed photograph on the desk and asks "Who the hell is that?" While the picture presumably is an old photo of Norman, his wife, Ethel (Katharine Hepburn), and their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda), the photo (circa 1941) actually shows Fonda and four-year-old Jane with Fonda's real-life second wife (and Jane's real mother), Frances Seymour Brokaw.
7.  The Purgatory Cove scene was shot in late September. To keep warm in the cold water both Doug McKeon and Henry Fonda had to wear wetsuits under their clothes. However, the water level was so low that they could have easily stood up and been only knee-deep in the lake. Katharine Hepburn was supposed to have a stunt double perform her "dive-in" scene for her, but instead she insisted on doing it herself. She dove into the frigid water without a wetsuit.
8.  Charges were set at the front of the Thayer's boat so that it blew up prior to hitting the big rock in Purgatory Cove. The vintage wooden U22-Sportsman Chris-Craft boat proved so durable that it bounced off the rocks without any damage during the early takes of the scene.
9.  When Katharine Hepburn comes drifting in to the marina on the Thayer's boat she had to get divers to direct her in to the dock.
10.  Walter the Trout was brought over from a local trout pond at the Castle in the Clouds in Moultonboro, New Hampshire. Billy and Norman really threw him back into the lake. People still hope to catch him, but after all these years the fish would be a distant relative.
11.  The brown Fedora worn by Henry Fonda belonged to Spencer Tracy and was given to Henry Fonda by Katharine Hepburn on the first day on the set. Henry Fonda, overwhelmed with the gesture, painted a still life watercolor of the three hats he wore in the film and gave the original to Katharine Hepburn as a gift. He had 200 lithographs made of the painting and sent one to every person who worked on the film. Each copy was numbered and personally signed by Fonda thanking each person by name. In her autobiography, Hepburn wrote that she gave the painting to screenwriter Ernest Thompson. After Fonda's death, she found the painting to be a sad reminder of him and Spencer Tracy.
12.  Jane Fonda claims that the scene between Chelsea and Norman (Henry Fonda) where she tells him she wants to be his friend mirrored the real-life relationship between father and daughter. During one take when the younger Fonda unexpectedly grabbed her father's hand, Henry Fonda started to cry and ducked his head away from the camera, embarrassed by his tears. The take appears in the final film.   
13.  During the scene toward the end of the film where Jane Fonda addresses her father, Jane said the scene was emotionally difficult to do because the words she was scripted to say were very close to what she wanted to say to her father, Henry Fonda, in real life.  Katherine Hepburn, knowing this was a struggle for her, was seen by Jane hiding in the bushes during the filming of the scene, shaking her fists at her and mouthing the words, "You can do it!"  Jane Fonda credited and appreciated Katherine's support and still does to this day.
14.  As of 2012 this is the only film in which the two lead actors playing a married couple won a best actor and actress Oscar.
15.  Katharine Hepburn won her fourth best actress Oscar for this role. To date (2013) this makes her the all-time record holder for that category. Hepburn also won for "Morning Glory", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", and "The Lion in Winter".
16.  Considering his impressive body of work spanning almost six decades, it's astonishing that, except for an honorary Oscar in 1980, this was Henry Fonda's only best actor Oscar.  At 76 (actually 76 years and 317 days), he was the oldest actor to win the Best Actor Oscar.  He is also the only actor to win the Best Actor Academy Award aged in his seventies. Fonda though is not the oldest actor to win an Academy Award for acting as George Burns won a Supporting Actor Oscar for "The Sunshine Boys" at age 80 (actually 80 years and 69 days).
17.  Due to ailing health, Henry Fonda was unable to be present at the 1982 Academy Awards ceremony to accept his best actor Oscar for "On Golden Pond". His award was accepted on his behalf by his daughter Jane Fonda, an occurrence long remembered to this very day.
18.  This was Henry Fonda's last movie.
19.  Troy Garity (son of Jane Fonda; grandson of Henry Fonda) has a small role in this film. It was the only time that young Garity worked with his grandfather. (Uncredited, Troy played the young boy on the Jetty.)
20.  Gertrude, the canoe featured in the film, was included in a lot of the estate of Katharine Hepburn during the two-day auction hosted by Sotheby's in 2004. The canoe was sold for $19,200 to entertainer Wayne Newton.   
21.  Later produced as a live TV production - rare for TV theatrical presentations since the invention of videotape in the late 1950s. It starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (who had previously co-starred in "The Sound of Music") and was broadcast on CBS on April 29, 2001.
I love this film.  I love it because of its simplicity, because of its story, because of its incredible acting and talent, I even love the musical score and the cinematography.  But the main reason I love "On Golden Pond" is because the intense friction-filled scene and dialogue Henry Fonda has with his daughter Jane hit home for me when I first saw the film.  It still does.  It hits home because it was the kind of conversation I wanted and needed to have with my own father yet, sadly, never got to.
If you feel your relationship with your own mum and da is sometimes tense, I encourage you to see "On Golden Pond."  When that scene toward the end of the film between father and daughter takes place, take courage, my friend, and have that sort of chat with your loved one shortly afterward.  Maybe even watch it with them.  I'll be the one hiding in the bushes, shaking my fists and saying, "You can do it!"
Meanwhile, enjoy these picture stills from the film...


Norman: Wanna dance or would you rather just suck face?

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