The timing of the College of Arts and Letters Film Series’ exhibition of “9 to 5” seems particularly appropriate, as recently, the news tells us of one powerful man after another being toppled from their pedestals, due to revelations of their unwanted and inappropriate behavior toward women. This 20th Century Fox film, a comedy conceived of by Jane Fonda, rails against the abusive behavior of powerful men, is startlingly timely 37 years after its premiere.
It only seems fitting that three of the most powerful women in the entertainment industry are the stars of the movie -- Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda. Between them, they have starred in more than 75 films, and their work extends far beyond acting in Hollywood films. Now in their seventies, Parton, Tomlin and Fonda continue to be entirely engaged in the entertainment industry. The popular Amazon TV series “Grace and Frankie” stars Fonda and Tomlin, who is also an executive producer of the series, while Parton’s career in music and entertainment continues on its decades-long stellar trajectory.
A sweet and funny but bitter denouncement of abusive men in power, “9 to 5” tells the story of three women who work in the office at Consolidated Companies. When Judy Bernly (Fonda) is hired as a secretary, she meets senior office supervisor Violet Newstead (Tomlin) and the boss’s secretary Doralee Rhodes (Parton). Bernly quickly discovers that her new boss exploits and mistreats his female subordinates. He berates her on her first day, takes credit for Newstead’s ideas and spreads rumors that he and Rhodes have had an affair.
One evening the three women get high at Newstead’s house and tell each other their fantasies of revenge against their boss, Franklin Hart, Jr. (brilliantly played by Dabney Coleman). By many twists and turns of comedic fate, the women’s fantasies of revenge become their reality
The movie’s stars and its theme clearly resonated with audiences, as it grossed over 103 million dollars at the box office and is the 20th highest grossing comedy film.
Parton was an already established singer songwriter, but “9 to 5” was her first film. And even though she was working with two of the finest actors in the movie business, she definitely steals the show. She is a true beauty and a natural star.
Parton also wrote and recorded the theme song “9 to 5,” which became one of her greatest hits of the 1980s. While filming the movie, Parton found she could use her famous acrylic fingernails to stimulate the sound of the typewriter. She wrote the song on set by clicking her nails together and forming the beat. The song went on to be nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Song.