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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. It tells the story of a high-priced prostitute who assists a detective in solving a missing person case.

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)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.5 million
Box office$12,512,637[1]

Klute is the first installment of what informally came 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 music was composed by Michael Small.

Upon its release, the film received widespread critical acclaim for its direction, screenplay, and performances - in particular that of Jane Fonda. Fonda won an Academy Award for Best Actress, and the film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Klute was a commercial success, grossing $12 million against a $2.5 million budget.



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 became a drug addict and has disappeared.

Klute and Bree develop a romance, though she tells her psychiatrist that she wishes she could go back to "just feeling numb". She admits to Klute a deep paranoia that she is being watched. They find Page, who tells them the customer was not Gruneman based on the photo but 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 probably also killed Gruneman and 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 an additional $500 to buy the "black book" of clients of McKenna, telling Cable he is certain it will reveal the identity of the abusive client. Cable corners Bree and reveals that he sent her the letters, explaining that Gruneman had interrupted him when he was with McKenna and 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. Cable follows Bree and traps her and then confesses to the killings. After playing an audiotape he made as he murdered Page, he attacks Bree. Klute rushes in, and Cable jumps or is thrown out a window to his death (the conclusion is ambiguous).

Bree moves out of her apartment with Klute's help, though her voiceover with her psychiatrist reveals her fear of being able to adapt to domestic life and the likelihood that the doctor will "see me next week".



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".[2] She 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.[3]


Box officeEdit

The film earned $8 million in theatrical rentals at the North American box office.[4]

Critical receptionEdit

Jane Fonda received widespread acclaim and won an Academy Award for her performance.

Klute received wide critical acclaim on its release with major appreciation drawn towards the screenplay and Jane Fonda's performance. It currently holds a 93% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews with an average rating of 8.1/10.[5] 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."[6]

Jane Fonda received unanimous praise for her performance. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus declares: "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."[5] She won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role and the film was nominated for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced. Fonda also received awards for her performance from the New York Film Critics Circle, Kansas City Film Critics Circle, and the National Society of Film Critics.[7]

Home mediaEdit

Klute was released on DVD in 2005, and on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in July 2019.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Movie Klute - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  2. ^ Susan Lacy (2018). Jane Fonda in Five Acts. HBO Films.
  3. ^ BFI (2018-11-16). In conversation with...Jane Fonda BFI Comedy Genius. Retrieved 2019-03-30.
  4. ^ "All-Time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976, pg 44.
  5. ^ a b Movie Reviews for Klute. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Awards for Klute. IMDb. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  8. ^ Klute Blu-ray.

External linksEdit