The documentary, Beyond Criticsm (2013) by Malcolm Hart, gives a good overview of his life and work.
Peter Fonda was American actor.
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”.
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.
“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.
He is famous for writing “The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book” (1967), “My Acid Trip with Groucho” (1981) and for designing/and/or/distributing the FUCK COMMUNISM! (1963) and Disneyland Memorial Orgy (1967) poster.
He was severely criticized by Robin Morgan in 1970 in “Goodbye to All That“:
“Goodbye to lovely “pro-Women’s Liberationist” Paul Krassner, with all his astonished anger that women have lost their sense of humor”on this issue” and don’t laugh any more at little funnies that degrade and hurt them: farewell to the memory of his “Instant Pussy” aerosol-can poster, to his column for the woman-hating men’s magazine Cavalier, to his dream of a Rape-In against legislators’ wives, to his Scapegoats and Realist Nuns and cute anecdotes about the little daughter he sees as often as any properly divorced Scarsdale middle-aged father; goodbye forever to the notion that a man is my brother who, like Paul, buys a prostitute for the night as a birthday gift for a male friend, or who, like Paul, reels off the names in alphabetical order of people in the women’s movement he has fucked, reels off names in the best locker-room tradition—as proof that he’s no sexist oppressor.”– “Goodbye to All That” (1970) by Robin Morgan
The entire issue where he is depicted with a spray can of “instant pussy” referred to, can be read here.
He was also known for his on-set conflicts. While filming Maidstone for example, Torn struck director and star Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer. With the camera rolling, Mailer bit Torn’s ear and they wrestled to the ground. The fight continued until it was broken up by cast and crew members. The fight is featured in the film.
Stanley Donen (1924 – 2019) was an American film director and choreographer best-known for Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
Dudley Moore plays a lonely young man whose unrequited love of his co-worker drives him to attempt suicide. Just then the devil (Peter Cook) appears and offers him seven wishes in exchange for his soul.
The film’s fun-loving association with the Swinging London of the 1960s is smart and well-executed.
“War is good business – invest your son”, a criticism of war.
“Milk in such containers may be unfit for human consumption”, a criticism of DDT.
A Roland Topor graphic on censorship used by Scanlan’s, criticism of Nixon.
A poster mentioning the “Chicago Seven trial, G. Harold Carswell, The Cattonsville 9, Jackson State, Invasion of Cambodia, Kent State, My Lai Massacre, Alaskan pipeline, ITT scandal, Watergate Caper, 20,000 Americans dead, ? Asians dead, 26,000,000 bombs, General Lavalle, Wheat Scandal, Unemployment.”
“Jesus was an only child”, criticism of anticonception. Correction: Jesus was apparently not an only child, he had brothers.
I watched all of this film yesterday, sparked by a renewed interest in Guy Debord, who I probably discovered in June 1994 (exactly 20 years ago) via the Wired article by R. U. Sirius on French theory, back in the day when Wired was a cool magazine.
There are several reasons why the life and work of Guy Debord should quicken your imagination:
- The cover of his book Mémoires is made of sandpaper to maximize damage to neighboring books when placed in and out the library shelf.
- His anti-film Howlings in Favour of de Sade consists of black and white screens (no images) during 52 minutes.
- His citing of Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity.
- He is the protagonist of the excellent read Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century.
- He defined the term psychogeography and practiced la dérive and détournement.
I spent a considerable amount of time researching Wilhelm Reich over the weekend and I’m not done yet: I’m watching the Austrian documentary film Wer hat Angst vor Wilhelm Reich?  as I write this post. Above is the cartoon “The Man Who Boxed Sex,” a malicious parody of the ‘Orgone energy accumulator’ of Wilhelm Reich. Before leaving this space, be sure to check Kate Bush’s video of “Cloudbusting” (see link below).
These biographical notes are the fruit of my labour:
Wilhelm Reich (24 March 1897 – 3 November 1957) was an Austrian psychoanalyst, a member of the second generation of psychoanalysts after Sigmund Freud, and one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry.
He is chiefly remembered for three things. He tried to synthesize Marxism and psychoanalysis in studies of fascism, producing the book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, inventing Freudo-Marxism. He claimed discovery of what he called orgone energy, which many scientists still dispute and call pseudoscience. The persecution of him and his theories by the Nazi Gestapo in Germany, and later the US government (which burned his books) until his death in a US prison.
Reich continues to influence popular culture. Yugoslavian director Dušan Makavejev made a film about him, W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) and Kate Bush‘s single “Cloudbusting“ (1985) describes Reich’s arrest through the eyes of his son, Peter, who wrote his father’s story in A Book of Dreams (1973); the video for the song features Donald Sutherland as Reich and Bush as Peter.