Cast & Crew
Alan J. Pakula
Six months after the disappearance of family man Tom Gruneman in New York City, the police have been unable to locate the missing man. Their only lead is an obscene letter written by Gruneman to a New York call girl named Bree Daniel, leading Lt. Trask, the officer on the case, to posit that Gruneman was living a double life. Gruneman's wife and Peter Cable, an executive at the Pennsylvania research company at which Gruneman was employed, hire Pennsylvania police officer and Gruneman family friend John Klute to investigate the missing man's disappearance. Trask gives Klute Bree's address, along with the information that they arrested her for prostitution two years earlier. In exchange for a reduced sentence, Bree had answered their questions about Gruneman, but was unable to identity his photo or remember anything about her liaison with him, and claims she had been receiving "breather" phone calls ever since. Klute rents a room in the basement of the run-down brownstone in which Bree lives and proceeds to tape record her phone conversations. One morning, after Bree was awakened by a breather call the previous night, Klute rings her doorbell and identifies himself as a private investigator who would like to talk to her about Gruneman. After closing the door in his face, Bree goes to visit her psychiatrist, whom she has been seeing in attempt to relinquish her life as a call girl. Bree, who is trying to pursue a career in modeling or acting, has just come from a humiliating interview with a casting agent, while on the previous day, she had been overlooked and dismissed at a modeling agency. Bree confides to the psychiatrist that she enjoys being a call girl because she is always in control of the situation, whereas in modeling or acting, someone else is calling the shots. Klute begins to tail Bree, following her to a warehouse in the garment district, where she has an appointment with an elderly client, Mr. Goldfarb, who owns the business. Bree arrives wearing an alluring, slinky gown, and as Goldfarb sits at his desk and watches, she sensuously removes her garments while weaving a story about a romantic interlude with an elderly, worldly man. Upon returning home, Bree is greeted by Klute standing on the stairs of her building. When he shows her his room, decorated only by a single trundle bed, his tape recorder and the photographs of Gruneman and Bree that Klute has pinned to the wall, Bree thinks he is trying to blackmail her and becomes defensive. After he assures her that his only motive is to find Gruneman, Bree invites him upstairs to her apartment where she reiterates that she does not remember her meeting with Gruneman but recalls being hired by a sadist who beat her up and tried to kill her. She then tries to seduce Klute into giving her the tapes, but he resists her. Their conversation is interrupted by the phone ringing, but when she answers, no one is on the line. Hearing noises on the roof, Klute goes to investigate, and although he pursues the intruder into the cellar, the man escapes. When Klute returns to her apartment, the shaken Bree tells him that Frank Ligourin, her former pimp, arranged the date with the sadist. As Klute sits in a chair guarding Bree that night, Cable sits in his posh offices listening to a recording he taped of Bree's seductive talk on the night of their date. The next morning, Bree takes Klute to meet Frank, who informs him that Jane McKenna, one of his prostitutes who was jealous of Bree, arranged Bree's date with the sadist. Jane has since committed suicide, and now Arlyn Page, who met the man and worked for Frank until she became a junkie, is the sole link to the sadist. After leaving Frank's, Klute gives Bree the tapes he has made of her, which she bitterly tosses into a trash can then stalks off. Later, Klute asks Bree to help him find Arlyn, and they pore through grisly police photos of murdered women. That night, Bree hears creaking coming from the roof and terrified, knocks on Klute's door. He offers her his bed, pulling out a second mattress for himself. As Klute sleeps, Bree climbs into his bed and seduces him. The next morning, Klute is baffled by the development in their relationship until Bree announces that she did not have an orgasm because she regards him only as a "john." They continue their search for Arlyn, descending a hierarchy of prostitution, from an exclusive brothel to cheap street walkers, finally locating her in a tenement where she and her boyfriend are anxiously awaiting their drug dealer. When Klute shows Gruneman's photograph to Arlyn, she says the man she met was much older. Shaken by the degradation to which Arlyn has sunk, Bree runs away from Klute and goes to a dance club where, after flirting with one of the customers, she settles in with Frank. Klute follows her there, and when she sees him, she nuzzles Frank, after which Klute leaves in disgust. Klute then reports his findings to Cable, stating that Arlyn has verified that Gruneman was not the man who beat Bree and that he intends to pursue Arlyn until she identifies the sadist. Klute then goes to Bree's apartment, where he finds her disheveled and unstrung. He gently puts her to bed and when she has a nightmare, comforts her. Rankled by Klute's solicitude, Bree confides to her psychiatrist that although her relationship with Klute engenders sexual feelings she has never felt before, she is hoping it will end so that she will once again be in total control. When Arlyn is murdered, Klute, surmising that her murderer knew Gruneman, asks Trask to investigate everyone connected to Gruneman. The police then compare the type style of the obscene letter with the type styles used by Gruneman and his friends and reach the conclusion that Cable wrote the letter. To set a trap for Cable, Klute meets with him and asks for $500 to purchase Jane's address book. Promising Klute the money, Cable takes off in a private helicopter for a business meeting. Upon returning to Bree's apartment, Klute is shocked to find Frank there, waiting for Bree to finish packing her suitcases and leave with him. Klute jealousy lunges at Frank and beats him up, after which Bree lashes out at Klute with a pair of scissors, slashing his sleeve. After Klute wordlessly turns and leaves, Bree, unable to deal with the extremity of her feelings for him, goes to see her psychiatrist but finds the doctor is not in. Needing to talk to someone, Bree phones Goldfarb and arranges to come to his office. When she arrives, however, she finds that Goldfarb has gone home because he was not feeling well and that the office is about to close. Bree, upset because Goldfarb assumed that she came to see him on business when she really wanted to talk to him as a friend, asks to stay behind to leave a message for him, unaware that Cable followed her there. Meanwhile, Klute has learned that Cable missed the plane to his business meeting, and learning from the psychiatrist's secretary that Bree has left a message for him to call her at Goldfarb's, he hurries there. As Bree paces around the racks of clothes, she is confronted by Cable, who admits that he murdered Gruneman after Gruneman discovered that Cable accidentally killed Jane while administering a beating to her. Expressing contempt for prostitutes because they prey on the sexual fantasies of others, Cable plays the tape he recorded as he bludgeoned Jane to death. Titillated by Bree's sheer horror, Cable switches off the tape recorder and lunges at her just as Klute arrives and charges at Cable. While stepping backward to avoid Klute, Cable plunges out a window to his death. Some time later, a still ambivalent Bree packs her suitcases to leave New York with Klute. As she is about to walk out the door, the phone rings and after informing her caller that she is leaving town and not coming back, she hangs up the receiver.
Alan J. Pakula
Mary Louise Wilson
C. Kenneth Deland
Alan J. Pakula
Best Writing, Screenplay
Working on her character from the outside in, Fonda collaborated with costume designer Ann Roth to perfect Bree's look. Much of it was based on Fonda's own style: the midi skirts, high boots, chunky jewelry, tight sweaters worn without a bra, and the leather-trimmed trench coat all became iconic looks that were copied by '70s fashionistas. So was the shag haircut, created by a hairdresser in New York's Lower East Side.
For Bree's inner self, the Method-trained Fonda researched her part by talking to New York call girls. That research helped shape her burgeoning feminism as she learned about the violence prostitutes often endured from their pimps and johns. She also seemed to dig deep into her own psyche for the scenes of Bree talking with her psychiatrist, played by fellow Actors Studio member Vivian Nathan. Their scenes together were improvised, and are among the most riveting in the film. But Fonda's insecurity sometimes got the best of her, and she told director Alan J. Pakula that she was wrong for the role and that he should replace her with Faye Dunaway. Pakula was patient, and Fonda later expressed her gratitude to him for helping her to trust her instincts.
The atmosphere on the Klute set didn't help Fonda's nerves. Many crew members did not share her outspoken antiwar opinions and support of the Black Panthers, and were openly hostile. On one occasion, when she had made negative remarks about the Nixon administration, Fonda arrived on set to find that the crew had hung a large American flag. Her costar Donald Sutherland shared her views, however, and the two began an affair. After the film wrapped, he joined her touring in an anti-Vietnam war stage show called F.T.A. (which stood for "F**k the Army," or euphemistically, "Free the Army") and appeared with her in a documentary about the F.T.A. tour.
For Klute, the reviews were mixed. The New Yorker's Pauline Kael had kind words: "Reminiscent of the good detective mysteries of the 40s -- it has the lurking figures, the withheld information, the standard gimmick of getting the heroine to go off alone so she can be menaced." Roger Greenspun of the New York Times found it less effective. "The actual intentions of Klute are not all that easy to spot, though I think they have more to do with its intellectual aspirations than with its thriller plot." But Fonda's performance received nearly unanimous raves. Jay Cocks of Time magazine wrote that she "makes all the right choices, from the mechanics of her walk and her voice inflection to the penetration of the girl's raging psyche. It is a rare performance." According to Richard Schickel in Life magazine, "Jane Fonda has emerged as the finest actress of her generation with a mercurial, subtly shaded, altogether fascinating performance." Kael agreed. "Her performance is very pure, unadorned by 'acting'...she has somehow gotten onto a plane of acting at which even her closest closeup never reveals a false note...There isn't another young dramatic actress in American films who can touch her."
Many observers believed that Fonda's radical activism had cost her an Oscar for 1969's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (Maggie Smith won for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). During the 1971 awards season, Fonda was showered with nominations for Klute. She won a Golden Globe and sent a Vietnam veteran to pick up the award in her place, a move that earned her criticism for politicizing the event. Fonda recalled in her memoir, My Life So Far that as the Oscars approached, she struggled with how she should accept the award if she won, trying to decide whether she should reference the controversy over her political views. She asked her father what he thought. "'Tell 'em there's a lot to say, but tonight isn't the time,' was his recommendation -- and the moment I heard it I knew he was right." Her acceptance speech was brief and to the point, almost verbatim what Henry Fonda had suggested, with an added, simple "Thank you" at the end.
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Producer: Alan J. Pakula
Screenplay: Andy K. Lewis and Dave Lewis
Cinematography: Gordon Willis
Editor: Carl Lerner
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Art Direction: George Jenkins
Music: Michael Small
Principal Cast: Jane Fonda (Bree Daniel), Donald Sutherland (John Klute), Charles Cioffi (Peter Cable), Roy Scheider (Frank Ligourin), Dorothy Tristan (Arlyn Page), Rita Gam (Trina), Nathan George (Trask), Vivian Nathan (Psychiatrist), Morris Strassberg (Mr. Goldfarb)
by Margarita Landazuri
You're not gonna get hung up on me, are you?- Bree Daniel
Don't feel bad about losing your virtue. I sort of knew you would. Everybody always does.- Bree Daniel
I have no idea what I'm going to do. I'm so deeply puzzled. I've done terrible things, I've killed three people. Really, I don't consider myself a terrible man, no more than-than others. See, Tom Gruneman had discovered me. We were here on business together and he found me and Jane McKenna in my hotel room. She had become hysterical and she started screaming and I guess I hit her. I don't actually recall, it all happened so quickly. Anyway, she fell and hit her head and that's when Tom came in the room. I guess he must have heard her screaming. But I never understood really why she...she did that, she had never screamed before. And it was the revulsion and the contempt that I saw in his face. And the certainty that sooner or later he would use it against me within the company. And I tried to endure that as long as I possibly could, you see. Just want me to keep on talking, don't you?- Peter Cable
No, I don't. I do understand, I really do.- Bree Daniel
Make a man think that he's accepted. It's all a great big game to you. I mean, you're all obviously too lazy and too warped to do anything meaningful with your lives so you prey upon the sexual fantasies of others. I'm sure it comes as no great suprise to you when I say that there are little corners in everyone which were better off left alone; sicknesses, weaknesses, which-which should never be exposed. But... that's your stock in trade, isn't it -- a man's weakness? And I was never really fully aware of mine... until you brought them out.- Peter Cable
Tell me, Klute. Did we get you a little? Huh? Just a little bit? Us city folk? The sin, the glitter, the wickedness? Huh?- Bree Daniel
Ah - that's so pathetic.- John Klute
Men would pay $200 for me, and here you are turning down a freebie. You could get a perfectly good dishwasher for that.- Bree Daniel
What's your bag, Klute? What do you like? Are you a talker? A button freak? Maybe you like to get your chest walked around with high heeled shoes. Or make 'em watch you tinkle. Or maybe you get off wearing women's clothes. Goddamned hypocrite squares!- Bree Daniel
Okay...- John Klute
I hope this doesn't make my cold any worse.- Bree Daniels
Barbra Streisand turned down the role of Bree Daniels, which won Fonda an Oscar.
The film opens with the image of the small reel-to-reel tape recorder. The recorder, which was the same one used by "Peter Cable" to record his sexual encounters with "Bree Daniel" and "Jane McKenna," is not playing a taped conversation, however, but seems to be nestled on a dinner table. The sound of people talking at a social gathering is heard over the recorder, which is followed by a cut to a Thanksgiving dinner at the Gruneman house. Seated at the table are "Tom Gruneman," his family, friend "John Klute" and colleague Cable. After the camera dollies down the table to reveal those present, there is a cut to the same table, but it is now six months later, Tom's chair is empty, and Tom's wife, Cable and Klute are being questioned by "Lt. Trask" about Tom's disappearance.
That scene is followed by a cut to the tape recorder against a black background, over which the credits roll and Bree's voice is heard. Although the film ends as Bree and Klute are leaving her apartment, an offscreen conversation between Bree and her psychiatrist is heard over the image in which Bree confides that she has no idea what will happen [between her and Klute] and that she might come back [to New York].
According to a 1976 AFI Seminar with Klute's producer-director, Alan J. Pakula, the tape recorder never appeared in the original script for the film but was added several weeks after shooting began. Pakula also stated that the script originally ended with "Klute and Bree laughing and loving their way down the street." Jane Fonda, who played Bree, objected to the ending and when she refused to follow the script, Pakula agreed with her judgment.
Gus Productions, Inc., one of the film's copyright holders and production companies, was owned by Pakula and his producing partner, David Lange, who was the brother of Pakula's former wife, Hope Lange. As noted in publicity materials contained in the film's file at the AMPAS Library, Klute was filmed entirely on location in New York City. Location shooting was done in Harlem and Wall Street, and the disco scene was shot in an old Lutheran church. Klute marked the screen debuts of actor Charles Cioffi and African-American actress Rosalind Cash (1938-1995). Cash made The Omega Man at around the same time as Klute, but Klute was the first of the two films to be released. Although modern sources indicate that Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Dobson appeared as dancers in the brief disco scene, neither actor was identifiable in the print viewed.
Jane Fonda, whose performance as Bree won her an Academy Award for Best Actress, was roundly praised by reviewers. The Los Angeles Times reviewer noted that "she has become one of the best actresses around." The LAHExam reviewer suggested that "for such a performance one would like to invent a new word." Fonda also received the following awards for Best Actress: Golden Globe, New York Film Critics Circle and National Society of Film Critics Award. Klute's screenplay was also nominated for an award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Golden Globes and the Writers Guild of America. Pakula received the 1971 London Film Critics Award for Best Direction for his work on Klute.
Although Fonda was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War at the time she won her Academy Award, she refrained from making any political remarks during her acceptance speech. Several months after the awards, in July 1972, Fonda embarked upon a highly publicized trip to North Vietnam to protest American involvement in the war.
Voted Best Actress (Fonda) by the 1971 National Society of Film Critics.
Voted Best Actress (Fonda) by the 1971 New York Film Critics Circle.
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States Summer July 1971
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Out of the Seventies: Hollywood's New Wave 1969-1975" May 31 - July 26, 1996.)
Released in United States Summer July 1971