Katharine Hepburn-Ethel Thayer
Henry Fonda-Norman Thayer Jr.
Jane Fonda-Chelsea Thayer Wayne
Doug McKeon-Billy Ray
Dabney Coleman-Bill Ray
William Lanteau-Charlie Martin
Christopher Rydell-Sumner Todd
This down to earth 1981 movie stars Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman, and Doug McKeon. Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda won best actress and best actor Oscars for their roles. Just an aside here. Why do women now insist on being called actors instead of actresses unless it has to do with awards?
An ageing couple, Ethel (Hepburn) and Norman (Fonda) Thayer arrive at their summer place on Golden Pond. Soon, their estranged daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) shows up with her boyfriend Bill (Coleman) and his thirteen year old son Billy. Conflicts between Norman and Chelsea, which have been going on for years, further develop upon her arrival at the lake. Billy (Doug McKeon) is eventually responsible for the resolution of the conflicts between father and daughter.
Katharine Hepburn plays a delightful role as Ethel Thayer as she tries to be the stabilizing force in the family. She, too, has her moments with Chelsea but only once does she lose her temper. She is deeply in love with Norman and it shows throughout the film.
Norman is, deep down, a very sensitive, shy person who seems to try to hide these traits with crankiness and bluster. Chelsea wants to be her father’s friend but doesn’t know how to approach him. She also has a fear of him to overcome.
Norman, a retired college professor, is an avid fisherman and he and Billy develop a genuine friendship while fishing. Billy, a boy from Los Angeles , had never been fishing before and soon develops a great love for the sport. Along with the love of the sport, he also develops a love of Norman just as Norman learns to love Billy.
Some critics charge that this film is too predictable and the depth of the characters of Norman and Ethel is too shallow. I strongly disagree. I think that Hepburn and Fonda deserved the Oscars they won for their portrayals and it wasn’t just Academy sentimentality that gave them the awards. Most critics dismiss the acting of Doug Mckeon to the point that they don’t even mention him. I think he did an acceptable job of playing Billy.
On Golden Pond was also nominated for best picture and Jane Fonda was nominated for best supporting actress. The best picture award that year went to Chariots of Fire, which was an interesting movie but I don’t believe it was as entertaining as On Golden Pond. Jane Fonda lost out to Maureen Stapleton in Reds for best supporting actress. Reds was also nominated for best picture but, to me, it was a drawn out, boring yawn.
I’d strongly recommend seeing On Golden Pond. I think that Henry Fonda equaled or surpassed his performance in Mr. Roberts.
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