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Theatre / On Golden Pond

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"Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't forget it. You're going to get back on that horse and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight and away we're going to go, go, go!"
Ethel Thayer

A 1979 play by Ernest Thompson, On Golden Pond is best remembered for its 1981 film version directed by Mark Rydell. It starred Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn (both of whom won Oscars for their work, his first and her fourth respectively), along with Jane Fonda (appearing alongside her father for the first and only time). Thompson also won an Oscar for adapting his play to the screen.

Retired professor Norman Thayer, Jr. and his wife Ethel head off to their lake-house on Golden Pond for the summer. They're visited this year by their estranged daughter, Chelsea, who brings with her her new boyfriend Bill and his son Billy. The two leave Billy with Norman and Ethel for a few weeks as they go to Europe, a situation Billy resents. Over time, however, Billy's influence softens Norman's grumpy heart, which may help heal the rift between him and his own daughter.


This work features examples of:

  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Chelsea always addresses her father as "Norman", an indication of their emotional distance. She finally calls him "Dad" when she says goodbye after they've reconciled toward the end.
  • The Catfish: Walter, although he's actually The Trout if you want to get technical about it.
  • Cool Old Lady: Ethel Thayer
  • Defrosting Ice King: Both Norman and Billy go through this over the course of the summer.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Norman Thayer, Jr.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: The other characters sing it for Norman's birthday.
  • Hollywood New England: The original play is set in Maine. The film version takes place in New Hampshire and was shot on Squam Lake, resulting in much Scenery Porn.
  • Insult of Endearment: "You old poop!"
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Billy and Norman.
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  • Scatterbrained Senior: Norman is clearly having memory problems among his other health issues.
  • Title Drop: In almost every scene.
  • Totally Radical: Lampshaded, when Norman amusedly repeats the slang he heard from Billy to Ethel at the end.
    Norman: Wanna dance or would you rather just suck face?
  • "Well Done, Daughter" Guy: Much of Chelsea's alienation from her father stems from his having withheld his approval from her growing up.