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What Do We Do When Legends Die?

Updated on August 16, 2019
kenneth avery profile image

Kenneth is a natural-born southerner and grew up his entire life in the south where he has resided now for 63 years in Hamilton, Al.,

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For an Average Fan of

Peter Henry Fonda, he was a laid-back, slow-talking and complex to the wall. He loved to smile even when there was no grand plans in his vivid imagination. Fonda was born February 23, 1940 and sadly, Fonda passed silent away August 16, 2019. I know that his millions of fans both inside the United States and world for that matter, were shocked. Even with Fonda’s battle with lung cancer, he stood proudly facing a cold, uncertain death who was probably very reluctant before taking him home, because there those hints of shining hope that his closest friends and family thought that he would face cancer with the same tenacity as he did in his film work.

But that reality of Fonda pulling-out of his sickness quickly faded away with Fonda not saying words of future dreams or prolonged promises. Simply said, it was Fonda’s time to leave the race of life which we knew, but (sometimes ignored) that he was not made of granite. Fonda was human. And he was the first to admit it.

Fonda was an American actor. Not a ‘good’ actor, but a deep well of talent which he was able to ignite with a wink. Peter Fonda was the son of another Hollywood legend, Henry Fonda, younger brother of Jane Fonda, and father of Bridget and Justin Fonda (by first wife, Susan Brewer, stepdaughter of Noah Dietrich). Fonda was a part of the counterculture of the 1960s. A big, involved role in the casting of “Capt. America,” in Easy Rider in 1969, now a cult classic. Fonda did not shun the character nor the message that he carried for “that” era and changes it soon brought.

He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Easy Rider (1969), and the Academy Award for Best Actor for Ulee's Gold (1997). For the latter, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. Fonda also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999).

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Peter Fonda Played

the role of “Wyatt,” who role the famous tricked-out motorcycle (with the American flag’s colors) and Dennis Hopper, was “Billy,” who went with “Wyatt” to ride to Louisiana to meet some good friends who “Billy” knew well, which included young starlet Karen Black and Easy Rider gave a chance to Jack Nicholson, who played “George Hanson,” a semi-successful lawyer whose heart belonged to traveling so “Billy” and “Wyatt” did not have to beg “Hanson” to come aboard with their traveling.

By the way, Dennis Hopper was not only one of the principal writers, along with Fonda and Terry Southern, but directed the block-buster film, Easy Rider, loved by the Hip Generation as well as members of the Establishment who came on slowly to love this film. As well as “Wyatt,” who many fans would confuse the role with Fonda in real life. The transformation from real life Peter Fonda to “Wyatt” was amazing. But the most-amazing thing about “Wyatt,” was his ability to absorb the conversation around himself without interrupting to share thoughts that were relevant to the topic. Peter Fonda was, as many said, a massive load of natural talent on two legs.

Fonda quickly tapped into this seemingly-endless imagination as he took on the role of “Verge Likens,”a young man who saw this father murdered and the criminal “Riley McGrath,” played by Show Business icon, Robert Earnhardt, got away with it.

Years passed and “Likens,” had planned his revenge on “McGrath,” in such a mild, yet-solid portrayal of Fonda’s acting that was both psychotic and so soft-spoken as an unemployed barber that his brother had given him to go away from their hometown and head for Barber College and “Likens” passed the test be a barber which was the major part of his revenge.

Peter Fonda "Wyatt" and Dennis Hopper "Billy."
Peter Fonda "Wyatt" and Dennis Hopper "Billy." | Source

The Main Scene Opens

with “Likens” having convinced “McGrath,” that he, “McGrath,” was in need of a shave because of his having to be seen in public as to bolster his power over the citizens in his town. As a side note: the two actors, the veteran, Earnhardt and Fonda presented their roles spot-on. No mistakes or flub-up’s. Classic Alfred Hitchcock at his best.

As the scene continues, “Likens,” in his soft-spoken manner talks to “McGrath” about both their lives and how each would end-up and to make this scene produce suspense,”Likens”is seen with this psychotic smile across his lips and now, “McGrath” has suspected something about “Likens” being the son of the man whom “McGrath” murdered in cold blood. “McGrath’s” forehead and face are soaked with sweat and now “Likens” has his sharp straight razor gently shaving “McGrath’s” throat. A close look would tell that you could detect “McGrath’s” body begin to shake and tremble.

The scene is at its climax and “Likens” has that smile on his face and to make his vengence fulfilled, before he began to shave “McGrath,” he locked the door to his office to keep any citizens from interrupting him as he slowly tells “McGrath” about how him, his brother and mom, had to scratch-out a living thanks to their father being murdered by “McGrath,” but his voice is shaky and coarse with fear and he begins to beg “Likens” to have mercy on him.

This is the best-written part of the scene: “McGrath” then dies of a massive heart attack and “Likens” runs to the locked door to tell the spectators that “McGrath” is dead and there was nothing that he could do, speaking of “Likens.”

So What Was

more important, Peter Fonda’s acting or his writing? I would wager that his acting and getting all that could be retrieved from the character that he was playing and just falling back into that quiet, confident image of true self-esteem.

There will, in all reality, be several questions surrounding Fonda’s death. Some questions are already asked and answered, and there may be more that will fade out into the Grand Arena of Life as Fonda himself has moved into.

As for his moniker of being a legend, I am not going to argue this point, because of the many unanswered questions is how do you survive when a legend dies?

May you rest in peace, Peter.

August 16, 2019_______________________________________________________


© 2019 Kenneth Avery

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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      Sadly as we all get older the list of legends who have passed on gets longer. It's always a sobering experience around the end of the year when they go through the legends on TV who have died during the past year. Peter Fonda will be getting a mention there at the end of this December.

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