Harold and Maude
“If you want to sing out, sing out…”
One of the most beloved cult movies of the 70s, this oddball black comedy mixes social satire, Cat Stevens’ ballads (seven of ’em), and a life-affirming romance between morbid 16-year-old Harold (Bud Cort), whose hobbies include staging elaborate suicide stunts, and octogenarian rebel Maude (Ruth Gordon). They meet cute gatecrashing a stranger’s funeral. Hard to imagine Hollywood bankrolling this kind of scenario at any other time, and indeed when it came out in December 71 the movie flopped. Yet it never went away, and become a staple on the rep circuit – so much so that Paramount rereleased it in 1974 and again in 1979. Easy to see why: director Hal Ashby hits on just the right balance between salt and sugar; Harold’s disgust for the establishment feels valid and it’s refreshing hearing flower power philosophies coming from the mouth of a wise-cracking old dame like Ruth Gordon (an actress who began in the silent era and went on to cowrite several Katharine Hepburn comedies in the 1940s and 50s, and who won an Academy Award for her supporting performance in Rosemary’s Baby in 1966 at the age of 72.)
A former editor, Ashby was directing his second film (after The Landlord). He would become one of the leading filmmakers of the decade, counting The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, Coming Home and Being There among his credits (he was also attached to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for a long time). Cat Stevens came in at the suggestion of Elton John, who was at one point considered for the role of Harold. The movie was a clear influence on Wes Anderson (and inspired Judd Apatow to name his daughter Maude).
Colin Higgins, Charles Mulvehill
William A. Sawyer, Edward Warschilka
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