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HAROLD AND MAUDE (1972)
Harold is a spoiled, rich 20-something boy filled with typical aristocratic ennui. With an eclectic penchant for funerals, Harold spends his days living out macabre fantasies, including trying to commit suicide in front of his mother and his three potential wives. Upon meeting the intriguing Maude, however, Harold’s life forever changes. A 79 year-old woman with a zest for life, Maude shows Harold al there is to love about life, including her. This unique couple will forever challenge onscreen romance as Hollywood has come to define it!
Director Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude" is a classic, black comedy about love, life, and death.
"They met at the funeral of a perfect stranger. From then on, things got perfectly stranger and stranger."
A disturbed, wealthy young man, Harold Chasen, is in love with the idea of killing himself. When he meets a lively old lady, Maude, his life changes radically, as she shows them the possibilities for life.
A famous Quote of Maude: "A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they're not dead, really. They're just... backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt, even! Play as well as you can. Go team! GO! Give me an L! Give me an I! Give me a V! Give me an E! L. I. V. E. LIVE! ..."
This unique screenplay, by Colin Higgins, begins with an unhappy, Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) who likes to attend funerals, drives a hearse, and likes to pretend to commit suicide in front of his emotionally distant, self-absorbed mother, Mrs. Chase (Vivian Pickles). Instead of examining her own behavior, Mrs. Chasen had sent Harold to a shrink, which doesn't seem to be helping him much.
At one of the funerals that Harold goes to, he meets an eccentric old lady, Maude (Ruth Gordon), and becomes friends with her. A developing relationship ensues as Maude shares her view of life, shows him how to live by example, and single handedly helps Harold metamorphous into a person who can love someone else, and see life for its possibilities, instead of dwelling on past hurts and failures.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Chasen decides that Harold's problems stem from the fact that Harold's life has been too carefree, and wants to either marry him off or send him into the military. After his mother enrolls him in a dating service, as she attempts to find a suitable wife for Harold, Harold devises his own plans to thwart his mother, using his special talents that are annoying her perfect world. When he manages to freak out his 3 set-up dates, by committing a fake suicide in front of each girl, his mother sends him to her brother Victor (Charles Tyner), an overly enthusiastic officer in the military to induct Harold into the service. Maude's influence inspires Harold to find a creative way to handle this dilemma.
Harold and Maude fall in love, but will Maude accept Harold's marriage proposal, or will she stay on her own course of action that she had already decided on before meeting Harold?
This dark comedy was the first filmed screenplay by Collin Higgins. Higgins went on to write such popular movies as "Silver Streak," "Foul Play," and "Nine to Five" which he also directed. It is a shame that this talented comedic writer/director died so young at 47.
The very talented Hal Ashby, who had won 1 Oscar ("In the Heat of the Night") and 1 nomination ("The Russians Are Coming"), for his editing work before he became a director, did an outstanding job directing this quirky comedy, which was his second attempt at directing. He went on to direct such classics as "The Last Detail," "Coming Home," "Shampoo," and "Being There."
Ashby and his editor, William Sawyer, present great montage sequences set to Cat Stevens music. Steven's music helped the popularity of the movie, and the movie's cult status helped boost the popularity of Stevens' music. Talk about a win-win pop culture event!
The cast for this 1971 one of a kind classic cult comedy is right on the money, as they have the talent to bring their eccentric characters to life, breathing a comedic uniqueness into the fabulous screenplay.
75 year old Ruth Gordon as Maude was electric, as she brings her years of acting/ writing experience to portray a very dynamic, positive character who was not afraid to be herself, and do what she thought was right, even if it wasn't politically correct. The first two-thirds of her long, successful career was on the stage, and in writing many scripts, she wrote with her husband in New York, (such as "Pat and Mike," & "Adam's Rib.") It was only in the 60's that she started to do a lot of films and T.V. work. A favorite sequence of scenes with Ruth Gordon, starts when she digs up a dying city tree, with Harold in tow, and manages to get the tree out to the forest, in between amusing run-ins with the police.
Bud Cort as Harold Chasen shows his unique comedic talent for playing odd characters. Favorite scenes showcasing his talent are Cort's various faked death scenes, staged for the benefit of his oblivious mother. A favorite sequence of scenes with the talented British actress Vivian Pickles and Bud Cort together has to be when she takes the first step in her new plan for Harold. As he hangs himself from the ceiling of the drawing room in yet another of his fake suicide attempts, she fills out the forms to enroll him in a dating service, answering the questionaire herself.
Also, particularly good is a scene where Cort sets himself on fire, much to the horror of one of his arranged dates from the dating service, and much to the annoyance of his mother.
Cort's big break came when he was cast in another black comedy, "MASH," whose director, Robert Altman then cast him in "Brewster McCloud" (1970). With his following appearance in "Harold and Maude," Cort had found his niche as a character actor, becoming something of a cult film poster boy in the early 1970s. Unfortunately Cort's acting career suffered a hug delay when he was in a serious road accident in 1979, causing him to have years of plastic surgery. Cort did get back in the acting saddle, and still is at work in film and TV to this day, usually in odd or eclectic projects. He even has directed a film, "Ted and Venus."
This film is rated PG. The film's positive message is that the individual has choices in how to live life, and should dwell on the positive, and experience what life has to offer. There is one implied bedroom scene but nothing is shown except Harold and Maude in bed together the morning after, talking, which in itself may offend some people, because they are not married, their age difference is so great, or that Harold is so emotionally messed up this experience may push him over the edge if it doesn't work out as he sees things. Thank goodness it was a comedy!