On Golden Pond deserves the title of “something you don’t see every day”. Movies which deal with old age don’t usually become box office hits in a world obsessed with being young, yet On Golden Pond became the 2nd highest grossing film of 1981. Plus it stars two elderly actors who hadn’t appeared in a major box office picture in over a decade.
Despite their six decades in the industry, not only was it the first time Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn starred in a film together but they the first time they had even met each other. I never ceased to be amazed by the longevity of the careers of these two actors, especially Henry Fonda, whom I consider to have the most impress careers of any actor I’ve come across, scoring great films in every decade from the 30’s right up to the 80’s. On Golden Pond would be his last film and what a way to end a career. On Golden Pond reflects Fonda’s real-life relationship with his children. Reportedly the man was emotionally distant from his children, as are characters of Norman and his daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) in On Golden Pond. It makes you wonder how much of the interactions between the Fondas in the film are genuine with their intentionally forced and un-naturalistic manner of speaking to each other. Yet Norman will accidentally utter Chelsea’s name at several points showing that deep down he really cares about her. Also, what’s up with the bikini shots Jane Fonda? Was she trying to promote her exercise videos?
Norman Thayer actually reminds me of my own grandfather in how he enjoys screwing with people’s minds, such as the scene in which his future son in law tries to ask him if he would have a problem with having sex with his wife in their house. Norman Thayer seems like a stereotypical old man at first but we grow to empathize with his character. Just look at that battered old face of his which manages to say so much while his cranky, grump, smart-aleck old man shtick helps the ease the likeability of his character. Norman is a man nearing the end of his life played by a man who literally was nearing the end of his life. Compared to Henry Fonda’s appearance in the film Meteor which he stared in two years earlier, he aged quite a lot in that short period of time.
Katharine Hepburn is one badass old lady in On Golden Pond. Just look at the scene in which jumps of a boat and into a lake to save her husband and nephew and doing her own stunts too. She also reportedly told Jane Fonda on set that she hated her but watching their scenes together you’d never know it but she’s Kate, she can hate whoever she wants. Plus it’s nifty to hear old stars curse, as well as flipping the bird. Norman and Ethel Thayer represent the old couple I believe most people would strive to be, married for decades but still madly in love with each other as ever.