214. On Golden Pond

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Movie: On Golden Pond

Release Date: December 4, 1981

Director: Mark Rydell

Starring: Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon, Dabney Coleman, William Lanteau.

Tag Lines: “When life is at its finest…when love is at its fullest…”

Relevance: ‘On Golden Pond’ was one of those movies that I saw so many times I can’t remember the first, tenth or fiftieth time I watched it. All of my memories of watching the film seem to muddle together. I watched it alone. I watched it with friends. I watched it with my family at my house as well as with my grandparents at their house not once, but many, many times. The only clear thing in my head was how much I loved watching it and how much my entire family loved the film.

The only thing I know for sure about the first time I watched ‘On Golden Pond’ was that it was on HBO sometime in 1982 or 1983. It was one of those films that seemed to play over and over on the cable channel and one that I would watch every chance that I could. As a kid, I loved the irreverence and overall crankiness of Norman Thayer, beautifully portrayed by Henry Ford. I also enjoyed Doug McKeon, the smart aleck teenager, that comes to live with the Thayer’s. I would giggle every time he said the word “bullshit.” As a pre-teen at the time, I was taking some notes and getting hints on how to become a smart aleck teenager myself one day. What I loved most about the movie though is how the rest of my family seemed to enjoy it for totally different reasons.

My mom was a fan of the actors in the movie, especially Jane Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. Being a family drama with lots of comedic elements, it was also totally in her wheelhouse as far as genres were concerned. My dad despised Jane Fonda. He mumbled “Hanoi Jane” under his breath, but watched the movie nonetheless. His disdain for her never stopped him from enjoying films that she has made throughout her career, including this one. He mostly loved Henry Ford’s character and laughed a lot at Dabney Coleman.

My maternal Grandparents loved the movie as much as we did and I know that I watched it with them many times. My Grandfather was a big Henry Fonda fan mostly due to his service in the military during World War II (“W. W. 2. The Big One”) as well as his war and western films. He loved his performance as Norman Thayer though and laughed at every one of his comments. My Grandmother loved Katherine Hepburn. Every time we watched ‘On Golden Pond’ we would hear about “Kate” in ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ That was her favorite movie. It is also one that will be showing up on this list later this year.

I continued to watch this film throughout my teenage years right through adulthood. There isn’t a week that goes by still that I don’t quote it, mostly, “‘Ethel Thayer.’ It thoundth like I’m lithping, doethn’t it?” I have also been known to call out “You old poop” to people every once in awhile. It was a beautiful movie that I loved watching every time it was on. It not only made me laugh, but it was a touching story about family. One that brought mine together many times.

Today’s Thoughts: My husband and I watched ‘On Golden Pond’ a few years ago when we couldn’t decide on anything to watch, a frequent occurrence in our household. We always want to watch something new, but never agree on one and wind up watching a classic. But that works for both of us. Today, however, I watched ‘On Golden Pond’ alone and smiled from both the movie and the memories it conjured up.

It is funny how a movie from 1981 and one that I have seen hundreds of times still makes me laugh as well as tear up so many years later. It’s a beautiful script with beautiful performances by everyone across the board. The humorous dialogue, especially by Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn, is so well written and so well delivered. Almost forty years old and lines like this still make me laugh out loud:

Bill: “Are there any bears around here?”

Norman: “Oh, sure. Black bears and grizzlies. One of ’em came along here last month and ate an old lesbian.”

The touching scenes are equally as good and although I don’t full on cry, there are definite “misty moments” throughout. Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda share a beautiful scene near the end of the movie that is just beautiful. The writing, performances as well as their real life drama and history make it one of the most poignant scenes in the film.

I consider ‘On Golden Pond’ a classic and one that shaped my love for cinema overall. I more than recommend it, I insist that you watch it. If you have seen it before, watch it again. It’s just as good the second, or hundredth time around.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Henry Fonda (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Katherine Hepburn (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Ernest Thompson (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Mark Rydell (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Jane Fonda (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Billy Williams (nomination), Academy Award for Best Sound, Richard Portman, David M. Ronne (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Robert L. Wolfe (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Dave Grusin (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Henry Fonday (winner), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Ernest Thompson (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Mark Rydell (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Katherine Hepburn (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture, Jane Fonda (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actress, Katherine Hepburn (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Mark Rydell (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Henry Fonda (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Ernest Thompson (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, Jane Fonda (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Mark Rydell (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Henry Fonda (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Actor, Henry Fonda (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, Henry Fonda (nomination), New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor, Henry Fonda (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, Ernest Thompson, Donald E. Stewart (winner).

Ways to Watch: iTunes, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DVD Avaiability.

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