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There’s a thick new biography of Jane Fonda by Patricia Bosworth, an overview of all the various roles Ms.Fonda has played in the past half-century of culture and politics.It’s pretty unbearable, but Fonda already has a sexy spark; there’s a scene where she and Perkins are crammed into a narrow shower (clothed), and she’s so delectable.There’s real comic heat, and that’s something she was so gifted at.In “Sunday In New York,” she plants herself on a couch next to Rod Taylor, bolts down a drink, and says, matter-of-factly, “If I were you, I’d kiss me.” Well, naturally, It only makes perfect sense.Bosworth says that when Fonda saw “Breathless,” she was disappointed that Godard hadn’t thought of her for the role (he wouldn’t have: it came out the same year as “Tall Story,” so where would he have seen her? But that American girl in Paris part would have been ideal for her. That comparison doesn’t hold up (although Vadim did sometimes put her in B.Mainly because they were in crummy movies, vehicles like “Any Wednesday,” “Sunday In New York,” “Hurry Sundown” and “The Chase.” She was in a lot of junk throughout the ‘60s, but she was often the only thing in the movie worth watching.
Everyone will remember the opening sequence of “Barbarella” (it is certainly drilled into my memory: she’s the first Movie Star I saw naked, and Lord, was her body remarkable, as Bosworth reminds us many times), but a lot of her pre-Barbarella portrayals are neglected.
Bobby Darin did a swingin’ version of the title song from “Sunday In New York,”and Nat King Cole recorded an album of songs from “Cat Ballou.” And, above all, there’s that opening musical number from “Barbarella,” for which a generation of then-teenaged boys owes Ms. Here we are in a time when the significance of a Cultural-Political Act isn’t dramatized by the Act Itself, but by the peripheral chatter that precedes and follows it.
The act: when Michele Bachmann appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s show, the house band The Roots walked her on with a wordless version of Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.” You might applaud this gesture (hear! ), or be offended by it, but the most likely outcome is that you would have been unaware of it, even if you watch the show, if Questlove hadn’t tweeted beforehand that something was up, and if the right wing media hadn’t jumped on the story with indignant boots.
It all went by so fast, the 20 or so songs, and in the car back to Manhattan, I couldn’t articulate what was so exciting about it, except to say that they were The Stones; they looked like The Stones — unusually close to each other on that stage, the way they were when I first saw them — and they were living up to the responsibility of being The Stones, but not in an arena/stadium way of being The Greatest Rock Band In The World (which they were), but acknowledging that there was something new out there, and they had to keep up. I’d said some kind things about Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True” in Creem, and had a few friends at Columbia, so I was invited to a celebratory Elvis show at the Ukrainian National Hall in the East Village.
That night felt like ground zero of What’s Going On. Patti Smith was ready to come back from some time on the disabled list and release “Easter,” so I was dispatched to her apartment at One Fifth Avenue to gather up some information to write the press materials; that was the first time I met Patti.
But the whole 1960-1966 Fonda filmography is filled with scenes where she’s the only sparkler at the picnic.