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Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlan J. Pakula
Produced byAlan J. Pakula
Written byAndy Lewis
Dave Lewis
StarringJane Fonda
Donald Sutherland
Charles Cioffi
Roy Scheider
Music byMichael Small
CinematographyGordon Willis
Edited byCarl Lerner
Gus Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • June 25, 1971 (1971-06-25) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.5 million
Box office$12 million[1]

Klute is a 1971 American neo-noir crime thriller film directed and produced by Alan J. Pakula, written by Andy and Dave Lewis, and starring Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Charles Cioffi, and Roy Scheider. The film follows a high-priced call girl who assists a detective in solving a missing persons case.[2]

Klute is the first installment of what has informally come to be known as Pakula's "paranoia trilogy". The other two films are The Parallax View (1974) and All the President's Men (1976). The film was theatrically released on June 25, 1971 by Warner Bros to critical acclaim and commercial success, grossing $12 million against a $2.5 million budget. Reviewers praised the film's direction, screenplay and most notably Fonda's performance. It received two nominations at the 44th Academy Awards; Best Original Screenplay, with Fonda winning Best Actress.


A Pennsylvania chemical company executive, Tom Gruneman, has disappeared. The police reveal that an obscene letter was found in Gruneman's office, addressed to a prostitute in New York City named Bree Daniels, who had received several similar letters. After six months of fruitless police work, Peter Cable, a fellow executive at Gruneman's company, hires family friend and detective John Klute to investigate Gruneman's disappearance.

Klute rents an apartment in the basement of Bree's building, taps her phone, and follows her as she turns tricks. Bree appears to be liberated by the freedom of freelancing as a call girl while trying to get into acting and modelling, but in a series of visits to her psychiatrist, she reveals the emptiness of her life. Bree refuses to answer Klute's questions at first. After learning that he has been watching her, Bree says she does not recognize Gruneman. She acknowledges being beaten by a john two years earlier, but cannot identify Gruneman from a photo.

Bree takes Klute to meet her former pimp, Frank Ligourin, whose fellow prostitute Jane McKenna passed the abusive client on to Bree. McKenna has apparently committed suicide, and their other colleague Arlyn Page has since become a drug addict and has disappeared.

Klute and Bree develop a romance, although she tells her psychiatrist that she wishes she could go back to "just feeling numb." She admits to Klute a deep paranoia or "feeling" that she is being watched. They find Page, who tells them the customer was not Gruneman based on the photo but rather an older man. Page's body subsequently turns up in the river. Klute connects the "suicides" of the two prostitutes, surmising that the client was using Gruneman's name and likely also killed Gruneman, and very well might kill Bree next. He revisits Gruneman's acquaintances. By typographic comparison, the obscene letters are traced to Cable, to whom Klute has been reporting on his investigation.

Klute asks Cable for money to buy the "black book" of clients of McKenna, telling Cable he is certain it will reveal the identity of the abusive client. He makes sure to leave enough bread crumbs to see whether Cable reveals his own complicity. Cable follows Bree to one of her client's office and reveals that he sent her the letters, explaining that Gruneman had interrupted him when he was with McKenna and had seen what they were doing. Believing that Gruneman would use the incident as leverage against him within the company, Cable attempted to frame Gruneman by planting the letter in his office. After playing an audiotape he made as he murdered Page, he attacks Bree. Klute rushes in, and Cable is seen crashing out through a window to his death.

Bree moves out of her apartment with Klute's help, although her voiceover with her psychiatrist reveals her fear of being able to adapt to domestic life, and the (probably sarcastic) likelihood that the doctor will "see me next week". Just as they are ready to leave the apartment, Bree answers the phone, telling the caller that she is actually leaving New York entirely and doesn't expect to be back.




To prepare for her role as Bree, Jane Fonda spent a week in New York City observing high-class call girls and madams; she also accompanied them on their outings to after hours clubs to pick up men. Fonda was disturbed that none of the men showed interest in her, which she believed was because they could see that she was really just an "upper-class, privileged pretender".[3]

Fonda had doubts about whether she could portray the role and asked Alan Pakula to release her from her contract and hire Faye Dunaway instead, but Pakula refused. Eventually, Fonda turned to her memories of several call girls she had known while living in France, all of whom worked for the famed Madame Claude. All three had been sexually abused as children, and Fonda used this as an "entry" to her own character, and as a way to understand Bree's motivations in becoming a prostitute.[4]


Home media[edit]

Klute was released on DVD in 2005, and on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in July 2019.[5]


Box office[edit]

The film earned US$8 million (equivalent to $50,504,519 in 2019) in theatrical rentals at the North American box office.[6]

Critical response[edit]

Jane Fonda's performance garnered widespread critical acclaim winning her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Klute received critical acclaim on its release with major praise drawn towards the screenplay and Fonda's performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, Klute holds an approval rating of 93% based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 8.19/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Donald Sutherland is coolly commanding and Jane Fonda a force of nature in Klute, a cuttingly intelligent thriller that generates its most agonizing tension from its stars' repartee. On Metacritic, which assigns a rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[7]

Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave Klute 3.5 stars out of a possible 4, writing that while the thriller elements were poorly executed, the performances of Sutherland and especially Fonda carried the film. He suggested that the film should have been titled Bree after her character, who is the soul of the movie and avoids the hooker with a heart of gold stereotype:

"What is it about Jane Fonda that makes her such a fascinating actress to watch? She has a sort of nervous intensity that keeps her so firmly locked into a film character that the character actually seems distracted by things that come up in the movie."[8]

Jane Fonda's performance garnered unanimous praise. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus declared: "Fonda 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."[9]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Actress Jane Fonda Won
Best Original Screenplay Andy and Dave Lewis Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Jane Fonda Nominated
Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Motion Picture Andy and Dave Lewis Nominated
Fotogramas de Plata Best Foreign Movie Performer Jane Fonda Won
Gotham Independent Film Awards Classic Film Tribute Award Klute Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Jane Fonda Won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Andy and Dave Lewis Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Jane Fonda Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Donald Sutherland Won
Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Jane Fonda Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Written Directly for the Screenplay Andy and Dave Lewis Nominated


  1. ^ "Movie Klute – Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  2. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
  3. ^ Susan Lacy (2018). Jane Fonda in Five Acts. HBO Films.
  4. ^ BFI (November 16, 2018). In conversation with...Jane Fonda BFI Comedy Genius. YouTube.com. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  5. ^ Klute Blu-ray. Blu-ray.com.
  6. ^ "All-Time Film Rental Champs", Variety, January 7, 1976, pg 44.
  7. ^ "Klute". Metacritic. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1971). "Klute Movie Review & Film Summary (1971) | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com.
  9. ^ Movie Reviews for Klute. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on December 16, 2013 from https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/klute/.

External links[edit]