At surface value, "On Golden Pond," starring two elder American movie stars, might appear to be a golden oldie, not a film that would interest anyone under retirement age. However, its plot encompasses different relationships between members of different generations, including a teenage character. This drama/romance was released in 1981 and ended up as the second highest-grossing movie released that year, behind only "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Visiting the Summer Home
The "Golden Pond" from the movie's title is the name of the New England lake where aging, still-in-love couple Norman and Ethel Thayer's summer home is located. The cranky Norman is a retired professor, about to enjoy his 80th birthday at the lake, along with his long-time wife Ethel, when their daughter Chelsea, who has been physically absent from their lives for years, returns -- at least for a quick visit. And she's not alone. Arriving along with Chelsea are her fiance, Bill, and Bill's teenage son, named Billy.
Leaving the Kid Behind
A major theme within the movie's plot is the conflicted relationship between Norman and Chelsea. Despite this, Norman and Ethel agree to keep a stranger, the teenager Billy, while Chelsea and Bill embark on their already-planned vacation to Europe. What's more, old Norman and young Billy don't click at all. But, mainly by taking the teenager fishing, which the youngster had never done before, Norman forges a bond with him based on a shared activity they both now love.
Not only do Norman, Ethel and Billy experience a newly discovered relationship as a family, Chelsea returns from Europe, now married to Billy's dad Bill, and is finally able to loosen herself from the shackles that restricted her from having a relationship, or even a friendship, with her father. This reborn relationship is aided because the old man's defenses have been lowered by his fresh relationship with Billy.
Behind the Movie
The relationship depicted on the screen between Norman and Chelsea reputedly offered a slight reflection of the real-life relationship experienced by the stars who played these two characters -- Henry Fonda and his daughter Jane Fonda. Along with these two stars, Katharine Hepburn plays the supportive wife, Ethel. The fiance Bill is portrayed by Dabney Coleman, and Doug McKeon plays his son, Billy. "On Golden Pond" was born as a 1979 stage play by Ernest Thompson, who also adapted it into the movie's screenplay. The movie's director is Mark Rydell.