Jane Fonda on her father’s brutal parenting: ‘Unless you look perfect, you won’t be loved’

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Today Jane Fonda’s comedy western Cat Ballou, which stars fellow film titan Lee Marvin, airs on Film4 from 12.50pm. The 1965 film follows schoolteacher Catherine Ballou, and her tribulations after returning home to find her father’s life is under pressure from local developers keen on his land. In order to protect her father, Catherine puts together a gang of outlaws to protect him, with hilarious consequences.

Cat Ballou was nominated for five Academy Awards, including a win for Marvin in the Best Actor category, and placed tenth in the American Film Institute’s top westerns of all time.

Though Fonda herself wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, she remains box office gold when it comes to awards season, having collected two of the prestigious gongs herself over the years for other projects.

She followed in the footsteps of her influential father Henry, who remains one of Hollywood’s most endearing figures.

But Fonda once recalled the heartbreaking advice Henry gave her when she was considering a turn in showbusiness.

As a child, Fonda noted how she suffered from “poor self-image” and lacked confidence when it came to her appearance.

She detailed what Henry said when it came to her image during an interview with Harper’s Bazaar in 2011.

The legend explained: “I was raised in the Fifties.

“I was taught by my father that how I looked was all that mattered, frankly.

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“He was a good man, and I was mad for him, but he sent messages to me that fathers should not send: Unless you look perfect, you’re not going to be loved.”

In a separate interview with TV legend Oprah Winfrey a year later, Fonda went further into her struggles with her appearance.

She added: “It took me a long long time to realize we’re not meant to be perfect, we’re meant to be whole.”

Then, she spoke candidly about developing bulimia, which was an issue that her mother Frances Ford Seymour also faced.

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Seymour sadly passed away by suicide when Fonda was 12, and Fonda said of her own condition: “It was in my forties, and if you suffer from bulimia, the older you get, the worse it gets.

“It takes longer to recover from a bout… I had a career, I was winning awards, I was supporting nonprofits, I had a family. I had to make a choice: I live or I die.”

More recently, Fonda reflected on her longevity, admitting to Vanity Fair in April that she didn’t actually believe she’d live as long as she had.

Now aged 84, Fonda described how when her career first began she knew she “needed to move out of my father’s house”, in order to succeed.

She continued: “I never thought I would live this long. In a year, I’m making three movies.

“If you had told me that at 85 I’d be in three movies… I would not have believed that. I didn’t think I would live past 30.

“So just the fact that I’m alive and thriving is a big surprise.

She added: “I can’t say that I wanted to be an actor.

“I needed to move out of my father’s house and live on my own that was made very clear to me, and I didn’t know what to do.

“And I became friends with Susan Strasburg, and she told me I should study with her father. And so I did.”

Cat Ballou airs from 12.50pm on Film4.

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