When Henry Fonda returns from the war in 1945, the family paradise is shattered. Nothing is the same anymore. The actor has run out of patience for his wife’s organizational frenzy. Guests wonder what brings them together. Frances only talks about the stock market, jewellery, children, as many subjects as he avoids. She loves luxury, he has ascetic inclinations. To live with him is to walk “on a minefield”, Jane will say. “You never know if his rage will not explode. » Brooke Hayward, his childhood friend and future wife of filmmaker Dennis Hopper, said the comedian once tied a chicken carcass to the dog’s collar as punishment for attacking the barnyard. The punishment, drawn from rural Nebraska traditions, terrorized the children.
In 1948, the actor returned to the passion of his life: the theatre. The family leaves the West and settles in Greenwich, Connecticut. Fonda is not unhappy to go into exile. The House Un-American Activities Committee has begun hearings into the infiltration of Communist sympathizers into Hollywood. Along with Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart and a hundred others, he signed a letter of protest on October 29, 1947. He’s not quite blacklisted, but fears being put on a ‘grey’ list. The actor, who plays six days a week, spends the week in Manhattan. Children adapt poorly. Jane demands that we stop calling her Lady. “My name is Jane!” » His brother Peter daubs the walls: “I hate the East. » His father forces him to clean up.
Henry is more and more distant, Frances more and more manic-depressive. The marriage is breaking up, Grandmother Seymour comes to take care of the children. In the deserted house, Jane contemplates her mother, bent over her collection of butterflies. Frances puts them to sleep with ether, then pins them to a whiteboard. Jane sees her mother losing her footing, drowning. One day, the latter calls him in his room to show him his scar. A puffy line 20 cm long, inherited from a kidney operation. “Horrible, isn’t it?” » Then : “If someone tells you your parents are getting divorced, tell them you know. » Henry Fonda only returns occasionally. In August 1949, he announced to his wife that he wanted a divorce. The little girl will remember that you have to stay beautiful to continue to be loved.
In January 1950, Frances went to rest in a posh mental institution in Massachusetts. A few weeks later, she was interned at the Craig House sanatorium in Beacon, in the Hudson Valley, 60 km from New York. On April 7, she comes to visit the family home with two nurses in uniform. Jane refuses to come down from her room, despite repeated pleas from her mother. “Jane, Jane! » The little girl even tries to prevent her brother from going to join her, but he manages to escape her and runs to kiss her mother. “Jane! Jane! » The call will follow her for years.
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