What would Santa Monica be without the historic Aero Theatre? Luckily, we do not have to find out thanks to computer visionary, film producer, art collector, political activist and philanthropist Max Palevsky, who underwrote the restoration of this beautiful space by donating $500,000.
This act of generosity did not escape the watchful eyes of the Santa Monica Conservancy, who honored Palevsky at a special screening at the Aero of the original Fun with Dick and Jane, starring Jane Fonda, George Segal and Ed McMahon. Palevsky, and current editor of Variety Peter Bart, who moderated the Q & A following the screening, produced this 1977 classic.
And, fun it was. Although “dated,” the original is still far superior to the recent, very expensive remake. The story revolves around an affluent young couple living a very comfortable lifestyle. Their lives are suddenly turned upside down when Dick’s boss Charlie, (Ed McMahon) fires Dick (George Segal). The story is a journey through the bureaucratic nightmare of welfare and food stamps and finally, when all else fails, this adorable, respected couple goes on a comedic version of a Bonnie & Clyde crime spree to pay their bills. It reinforces the power of comedy to deal with serious issues.
The Q & A was lively and respectful, except for one outrageously rude question: “How does it feel to look at yourself on screen and see that you’ve aged?” The audience audibly cringed. Fonda, who shows no signs of aging and is as trim and beautiful as ever, gracefully answered, “I’m glad that I once looked like that and I’m going to try to give a face to aging.” The audience roared with approval. A sampling of other questions:
Q: Why did you make Fun with Dick and Jane?
A: Fonda: I read the script in bed and it made me laugh out loud.
Q: Can you tell us about your rehearsal process?
A: Segal: Movie acting is about relaxing, and working with Jane was very relaxing and professional.
Q: Who are the people with whom you enjoyed working with the most or knowing?
A: McMahon: Johnny Carson of course. It was a great thrill to know Frank Sinatra, with whom I traveled extensively. The most interesting person was Orson Welles.
A: Segal: Richard Burton.
A: Fonda: My father, of course, and Katherine Hepburn.
Q: What are your favorite roles?
A: Segal: Where’s Poppa.
A: Fonda: On Golden Pond, which I produced for my father, Coming Home and Klute.
Q: When you lived on Wadsworth, you were First Lady of Santa Monica. Do you miss living here?
A: Fonda: Yes. I miss the Santa Monica I knew – the closeness to the ocean, the smell and the people. Unlike today, you could walk around and not worry about paparazzi. I liked the normalcy.
A: McMahon: I didn’t make enough films to have a favorite.
Bart threw in a comment that “Jane was the first actress to pee on screen” to which she mused, “I actually received letters telling me that I wiped myself in the wrong direction.” Perhaps that could be a metaphor for a woman whose political beliefs sometimes flew in the face of popular opinion for which a professional price was extracted, as she did not work for years after the now infamous incident in Hanoi when she climbed aboard a tank.
Finally, another big “thank you” to Mr. Palevsky, whose personal belief that “movies are important cultural documents equal to novels or poetry,” benefits all of Santa Monica.