The book, like her life, is divided into sections. The first part centers on her youth as the daughter of a movie star, with a focus on Henry Fonda and the people he brought into her orbit. She literally met everyone in Hollywood, in the last great era of the studio system — Tyrone Power, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper. Fonda's ex-wife Margaret Sullavan was a close family friend.
A playbill from The Actors Studio' production of Strange Interlude, which featured Jane and an all-star cast
It must have been obvious to everyone but Jane that she was born to be an actress. Bosworth chronicles her reluctant pursuit of an acting career. Even after appearing with her father on stage she still seemed in denial and only got serious about acting after a lot of hesitation and encouragement from others — mainly Susan Strasberg urging her to meet with her father Lee, the famous guru of the Method style of acting and The Actors Studio.
Fonda was a bit of a late bloomer, considering her "in" to the industry. She finally found her way to the Actors Studio and made her first movie, Tall Story (1960). She also met Marilyn Monroe, who became a huge influence and was the initial impetus for Jane's evolution into a sex kitten, which was finalized by her life and films in France in the mid '60s and first husband Roger Vadim's casting her in sexy romps like La Curée, Circle of Love and Barbarella.
Bosworth relates how Vadim molded and celebrated Jane's sexy persona as well as their private life, which reflected his ideas of sexual freedom, as they explored multiple partners and ménage à trois. After she and Vadim had their daughter Vanessa, she got bored with acting and threesomes and seized onto politics. Prompted by the more politically outspoken French intellectuals who opposed the war in Vietnam, like her friend the great French actress Simone Signoret, Jane desperately wanted to channel her excess energy into a worthwhile cause. And to escape her recent motherhood.
Jane's dissatisfaction with career, marriage and motherhood sounds eerily like Henry Fonda, who only seemed to check in with his family when it suited him. When he was home he preferred to spend his time puttering in the garden or his paint studio than interact with his family.
Jane was a dilettante in the beginning, attaching herself to so many causes that she quickly gained criticism, with many doubting her sincerity. The most glaring example was her infamous "Hanoi Jane" episode, which still causes trouble for her on occasion. Jane's anti-war campaigning got her invited to visit Hanoi in 1972. One of the stops on her North Vietnam tour was an air defense installation. Jane, either on her own, or responding to a request from someone there, climbed up on the gun, while photographers snapped photo after photo. “I simply wasn’t thinking about what I was doing ..." Not thinking that posing on a gun potentially aimed at American airplanes overhead might be misconstrued by some as hostile. She came home to an outraged public and a Nixon White House all too eager to charge her with treason.