Oral History: Jane, Dolly, Lily and Sexual Harassment

by Jack Tewksbury May 30, 2019
Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton

hfpa archives

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items - is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.

In this excerpt from our archives from 1980, the three stars of the Golden Globe-nominated comedy Nine to Five tell their stories of sexual harassment.

Jane Fonda: "A European director told me that he wasn’t sure he could hire me for a part unless he thought that I could have an orgasm.  But I was supposed to prove it… (Laughs ). He never found out and the movie was a flop.” 

Lily Tomlin: “I can see that because of Ms. Fonda’s description of her experience, mine is going to be pale by comparison. Peter Sellers and I were guest stars on a show. Peter went in to discuss with the producer something about the script that he didn’t like, that he wanted to be changed. And I was standing in the room and I watched the producer deal with Peter on a very professional, businesslike level. And then I went over and I had similar kinds of requests and complaints. And I began to enumerate them and the producer grabbed me by the hand and pulled me down on his lap and started teddy-bearing me and just kissing me and hugging me and trying to tease me out of it, you know. I can deal with this on some levels, I said… I  want you to call Peter back in here and when he makes a request to you, do the same thing to him. And it was all laughed off. But it’s still harassment. And some of it is cultural and unconscious. But harassment certainly does go on, there’s no  question.”

Dolly Parton: “Well…I have six brothers and a father and husband. So I’ve always understood the nature of men. I also had a stubborn streak. When I first went to Nashville, I had heard a lot of stories about people who would come on to you, I’ve seen it happen too, (but) I  would always try to keep the upper hand. Or if I saw it getting out of hand, I would turn it into a joke or I would just stand firm.  I’ve pretty much asked for it by being flirty. But of course I’ve had men flirt with me, but I’ve also flirted with a lot of men.  So... I mean, I’ve had it happen, but like I say, I’ve also caused some of it.”