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The Man Who Understood Women

This is a divided movie that spends the first half being witty and satiric and very "inside" on the subject of Hollywood, but falls apart when it goes into farce and then into drama. Fonda is an aging motion picture wunderkind many of whose films have won Oscars but failed to ignite much audience approval. We see his life in Tinseltown and all the silly things movie people do. Fonda meets Caron, a young actress, and decides to make her into the next reigning screen star. He writes, produces, directs, and acts in a film with Caron that finally achieves the popular success everyone knew he was capable of. Caron feels that he cares more for her as a vehicle for his writing and directing than as a flesh-and-blood Frenchwoman. While in Nice, Caron is charmed by Danova, a good-looking pilot, who knows his way around women as well as he knows how to fly blind. Fonda learns of their attraction and hires killers to erase the Gallic Romeo. The assassin, Hoffman, is persuaded by his partner, Jerome, that love must triumph, and that killing Danova alone would be an error. So it's either let them both live or knock them both off. Once Fonda hears that, he changes his mind and tries to save Caron. By this time, Caron and Danova are planning to part company as Hoffman, gun in hand, nears the duo. Jerome, a sentimental old coot, shoots Hoffman as he is about to dispatch the lovers. This action takes place at a wooded spot high on a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean; Fonda, rushing to save Caron, falls off the cliff and winds up in a hospital swathed in bandages as he and Caron reconcile. Fonda was so disappointed in this film that he did not make another for nearly three years. Johnson and Fonda had been pals for more than two decades and Fonda just could not say no to a man with such a long history of tasteful films, but Johnson, wearing three hats, was too near the project to see the faults.