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Throwback Thursday: Oscar Winner, Political Voice, Movie Maker

At left, Jane Fonda speaks in the University Gym in September of 1972; at right, in April of 1981 she performs a scene in the CC Assembly Hall with Kris Kristofferson for the movie Rollover. (Photos courtesy of University Archives)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 2, 2017) — Actress Jane Fonda’s controversial trip to Hanoi, North Vietnam in July of 1972, during the Vietnam War, was fresher in a UAlbany audience’s mind than the Academy Award she’d won for the murder mystery Klute in April.

Whether it was the increased apathy that had settled in on campus concerning the war or an inability of Fonda to generate excitement in person, her appearance in the University Gym on Sept. 15, 1972, on behalf of the Indochina Peace Campaign, drew only moderate enthusiasm, according to the Albany Student Press.

The attendance of approximately 1,200 was not as large as the one that greeted radical attorney William Kuntsler two years before, and the crowd nowhere near as boisterous.

The ASP correspondent reported the audience “gave their polite attention and silent support; but for a few outbursts, there was little excitement in the gym.” Fonda was preceded on stage by folksinger Holly Neer, who’d gone to Hanoi with Fonda, and ex-POW George Smith, and followed by her future husband, activist Tom Haydn.

Fonda, reported the ASP, a “pretty actress, dressed in bluejeans [sic] and an Indian shirt,” defended her visit to North Vietnam, criticized President Richard Nixon’s attempt to ‘Vietnamize’ the war, and described her own first 32 years as “wasted,” lost in apathy and cynicism. She said she was glad UAlbany’s students were more politically aware and active than she'd been.

There was a definitely touch of glamour in hosting an Oscar-winning star from a star-studded family at UAlbany. Added glamour, and fodder for tabloids, was the presence in the audience of Klute co-star Donald Sutherland, who’d reportedly shared a romance with Fonda during the film’s shooting that had lasted until June '72. Possibly, in September, he just remained a fan.

The Hollywood star and businessperson was in the spotlight on Fonda’s return to the campus in April 1981 to shoot a scene with Kris Kristofferson for Rollover, an international political thriller she both starred in and produced.

The Campus Center Assembly Hall became the site of a fictitious business conference taking place in an Arab nation. The location was chosen, said Cella Costas, the film’s location manager to the ASP, “because its structure is very similar to the modern complexes now being built in the Middle East.”

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