Tag Archives: 1940

RIP Peter “Easy Rider” Fonda (1940 – 2019)

Peter Fonda was American actor.

The Hired Hand (1971)

Everyone knows Peter Fonda from the film Easy Rider (1969) a cult film which is so well-known that it is actually a mainstream film.

I saw the film somewhere in the 1990s but hardly remember anything about it. Given the choice — knowing what I know now — between watching Easy Rider and its predecessor The Wild Angels (1966) I’d watch the latter, being that it is as hilarious as it is historiographical (in the sense that Wild Angels tells us more about the sixties zeitgeist than Easy Rider, I refer specifically to the speech featuring “We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man!”)

But now Fonda is dead and despite the dictum “de mortuis nisi nihil bonum“, a few things need to be said before the praise can begin:

“[Peter Fonda] had nowhere near the talent of his father Henry Fonda or sister Jane Fonda, but he was popular with young audiences from the early sixties to early seventies because he was good-looking, knew how to ride a motorcycle, made “hip” pictures with drug-related themes, and, to hide his acting limitations, smartly played characters who were tight-lipped, unemotional, and often wore shades.” —Cult Movie Stars (1991) by Danny Peary

Now for the praise.

Upon the death of an actor or director, I check YouTube for films featuring the corpse in question. And so it happened that I stumbled upon The Hired Hand (1971). Never heard of it before. Started reading about it. Appeared to be a revisionist western. Interesting category. Started watching. Liked the music. The story is that of a man who is tired of drifting the Wild West and returns home to the wife and child he left seven years earlier. She accepts him, not as a husband, but as a hired hand.

That same Danny Peary who called Fonda not a good actor calls The Hired Hand a “feminist western”.

Why?

Because the film pays lots of attention to the abandoned woman and her sexual needs during the departure of her husband. A sort of Penelope vs. Odysseus.

On two occasions Hannah (the abandoned wife) ruminates about her lust for sex. These dialogues are extremely interesting and the second scene, in which Oates touches the ankle of Bloom, is actually quite sexy.

The first conversation of her sex life is with returned husband (Fonda) who has heard rumors in town of her sexual escapades [47:00]:

“You hired men to sleep with,” says he.

She responds:

“Sometimes I’d have him or he’d have me whatever suits you.”

And in a second scene she says to Arch Harris (Oates) [54:00]:

“You probably think I’m pretty hot … Well I am … don’t wannabe but I am … I don’t know how many nights I set on the porch … watching the shed … hoping whoever was in there would come out … hoping and terrified in case he did … wouldn’t really matter whether it was you or him tonight.”

Anyway, above is the complete film.

I loved it.