Monday, March 7, 2011

James + Jane

In her autobiography, My Life So Far, Jane Fonda writes about her first great romance, which occurred the summer after she started college. Her family was vacationing on Cape Cod, and Jane enrolled as an apprentice at a nearby summer theater, The Dennis Playhouse. Here, she met and fell head over heels in love with a young man working there:
On the first day of the program, we were introduced to the stage manager, James Franciscus, whom everyone called Goey, and the moment I saw him the complexion of the summer changed. He was blond, blue-eyed, and movie-star handsome... I was smitten. My previous inarticulate philanderings had not prepared me for true romance, and I was very shy with him.

James Franciscus and Jane Fonda on the French Riviera, 1957.

James too was shy, but he was very interested in Jane, as well. Jane grew more intrigued by the young theater hand the more she spoke with him, and learned there was a lot more to him than she first supposed:
I discovered there were things about Goey to like beyond his looks and the fact that he went to Yale: he was smart and literate; he had a sense of humor, lived in New York City, and was a preppy (only by virtue of Yale), but didn't belong to a fraternity. His family wasn't rich... and he had a passion. Other boys I'd liked had hobbies but no passion.
James's passion was an epic drama he was writing. (Franciscus was later to choose between writing and acting and opted for acting as he thought it was a more sociable, less lonely, profession, but he would later famously rewrite scripts, notably Beneath the Planet of the Apes and his dialogue in Good Guys Wear Black, as Chuck Norris recounted in his own memoir.)

James finally asked her out, taking her to dinner and later driving her out to "the pier at the end of the Kennedy compound." There he gave her a memorable kiss:
When our lips parted I stepped back and had to sit down, plunk. Everything was swirling: the sea, the sky... It was my first swoon and while it wouldn't be my last, there's something special about that first swoon - and the boy who caused it. Goey and I became an item... It was the best summer of my so-far life.
Jane was 18; James was 20. The two spent every waking moment together for the rest of the summer and then saw each other for the next year and a half. Jane was to lose her virginity to James, and they dated throughout the time she spent at Vassar. James joined the family on vacation on the French Riviera, which he himself recalled in an interview, reminiscing about running with the bulls at Pamplona while he was there, and remembering Jane fondly as "a fine girl."

It was during their time on the Riviera that Jane first became bored with the relationship but couldn't quite end it. A year later, James proposed and Jane turned him down. Jane had never been interested in marrying right out of college as her friends were all doing, but she implies it still seemed to come as something of a shock to James.
... it became impossible for us to continue seeing each other as friends, and my first real love affair came to a whimpering end after a year and a half.