Harold and Maude
|Harold and Maude|
1971 re-release poster
|Directed by||Hal Ashby|
|Produced by||Colin Higgins
Charles B. Mulvehill
|Written by||Colin Higgins|
|Music by||Cat Stevens|
|Editing by||William A. Sawyer
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||91 minutes|
Harold and Maude is a 1971 American black comedy romantic film directed by Hal Ashby and released by Paramount Pictures. It incorporates elements of dark humor and existentialist drama, with a plot that revolves around the exploits of a young man named Harold (played by Bud Cort) intrigued with death. Harold drifts away from the life that his detached mother (Vivian Pickles) prescribes for him, and develops a relationship with a 79-year-old woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon).
The film was based on a screenplay written by Colin Higgins and published as a novel in 1971. The movie was shot in the San Francisco Bay Area. Harold and Maude was also a play on Broadway that closed after four performances. A French adaptation for television, translated and written by Jean-Claude Carrière, appeared in 1978. It was adapted for the stage and performed in Québec, starring Roy Dupuis.
The film was critically and commercially unsuccessful on original release, but subsequently received critical and commercial success. The film is ranked number 45 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Funniest Movies of all Time, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1997 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The Criterion Collection released a special edition version of the film on Blu-ray and DVD on June 12, 2012.
Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is a young man obsessed with death. He regularly stages elaborate fake suicides, attends funerals, and drives a hearse, all to the chagrin of his mother, socialite Mrs. Chasen (Vivian Pickles).
At a funeral service for a total stranger, Harold meets Maude (Ruth Gordon), a 79-year-old woman who shares Harold's hobby of attending funerals. He is entranced by her quirky outlook on life, which is bright and excessively carefree in contrast with his own morbidity. The pair form a bond, and Maude slowly shows Harold the pleasures of art and music (Harold is taught to play banjo), and teaches him how to "[make] the most of his time on earth". Meanwhile, Harold's mother determines, much against Harold's wishes, to find him a wife to settle down with. One by one, Harold frightens and horrifies each of his appointed dates by appearing to commit gruesome acts such as self-immolation, self-mutilation, and seppuku.
As they become closer, Harold announces that he will marry Maude, resulting in disgusted outbursts from his family, psychiatrist, and priest. Maude's 80th birthday arrives, and Harold throws a surprise party for her. As the couple dances, Maude tells Harold that she "couldn't imagine a lovelier farewell". He immediately questions Maude as to her meaning, and she reveals that she has purposely taken an overdose of sleeping pills and will be dead by midnight. She restates her firm belief that 80 is the proper age to die.
Harold rushes Maude to the hospital, where she is treated unsuccessfully and dies. In the final sequence, Harold's car is seen going off a seaside cliff, but after the crash, the final shot reveals Harold standing calmly atop the cliff, holding his banjo. After gazing down at the wreckage, he dances away, picking out on his banjo Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out".
- Ruth Gordon as Dame Marjorie "Maude" Chardin, a 79-year-old free spirit who wears her hair in braids. Maude believes in living each day to its fullest, and "trying something new every day". Her view of life is so joyful that, true to the film's motif, it crosses a blurred, shifting line into a carefree attitude toward death as well. We know little of her past, except that as a young woman she lived in pre-war Vienna, was once married, and has a Nazi concentration camp tattoo on one arm.
- Bud Cort as Harold Parker Chasen, a young man in his 20s who is obsessed with death. He drives a hearse, attends funerals of strangers, and stages elaborate suicides. Through meeting and falling in love with Maude, he discovers joy in living for the first time.
- Vivian Pickles as Mrs. Chasen, Harold’s opulently wealthy mother, is controlling, snooty, and seemingly incapable of affection. Hoping to force him into respectability, Mrs. Chasen replaces Harold's beloved hearse with a Jaguar (which he then converts to a miniature hearse), and sets up several blind dates, or more accurately, "bride interviews" with young women. It is clear that she, not Harold, will make the final choice.
- Cyril Cusack as Glaucus, the sculptor who makes the ice statue of Maude and lends them his tools to transport a tree.
- Charles Tyner as General Victor Ball, Harold's uncle who lost an arm in the war and now pulls a hidden cord to make his wire prosthetic "salute". On Mrs. Chasen's orders, he attempts to prepare Harold to join the armed forces. The effort is thwarted by a stunt in which Harold appears to kill Maude.
- Ellen Geer as Sunshine Doré, an actress. On Harold’s third blind date, she mimics his suicide, giving a histrionic rendition of Juliet's death scene.
- Eric Christmas as Priest
- G. Wood as Psychiatrist
- Judy Engles as Candy Gulf, Harold's first blind date, whom he scares off by setting himself on fire.
- Shari Summers as Edith Phern, Harold's second blind date, whom he dissuades by pretending to cut off his hand.
- Tom Skerritt (credited as "M. Borman") as Motorcycle Officer
- Director Hal Ashby appears in an uncredited cameo, watching a model train at an amusement park. The amusement park is Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (California USA) / Penny Arcade.
Colin Higgins says he originally thought of the story as a play. It then became a 20 minute thesis while at film school. After the film came out, the script was subsequently turned into a novel then a play, which ran for several years in Paris.
Anne Brebner, the film's casting director, was almost cast as Harold's mother when Vivian Pickles was briefly unable to do the role.
Hal Ashby, the film's director, shared certain ideals with the era’s youth culture, and in this film he contrasts the doomed outlook of the alienated youth of the time with the hard-won optimism of those who endured the horrors of the early 20th century, contrasting nihilism with purpose. Maude's past is revealed in a glimpse of the Auschwitz ID number tattooed on her arm as well as her talk with Harold about using an umbrella to defend herself from thugs at political meetings before moving to America.
Harold is part of a society in which he is of no importance; existentially, he is without meaning. Maude has survived and lives a life rich with meaning and deliberate choice. It is in this existential crisis, shown against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, that we see the differences between one culture, personified by Harold, handling a meaningless war, while another has experienced and lived beyond a war that produced a crisis of meaning.
Harold's "deaths" 
Harold tells Maude when they are talking candidly at her house that he has "died a few times". He describes how, when he was at boarding school, he set his chemistry lab on fire and, escaping through a hole in the floor, went home, believing his school career to be at an end. When the police came to his house, Harold watched as they told his mother that he had died in the fire, and saw her collapse into the policemen's arms. As he reaches this part of the story, Harold bursts into tears and declares, "I decided then I enjoyed being dead."
Throughout the movie, Harold appears to "die" a total of seven to eight times. He tells his psychologist at one early juncture that he has made similar attempts in all fifteen times now, which he calls a rough estimate.
- Hanging himself in opening scene: Harold hangs himself while his mother is on the phone in the opening scene. She barely seems to notice this display and continues her conversation.
- Letting his mother find him in her bathtub, throat and wrists slit and the mirrors drenched in blood: After this act, Harold sees a psychiatrist.
- Floating dead in pool: Harold floats face down, fully clothed, for an impossibly long time as his mother swims laps past him. Camera shots from below establish that he has no breathing apparatus.
- Shooting himself in the forehead: As his mother reads the questionnaire for the dating service (and answers it according to her preferences, not his), Harold surreptitiously loads a revolver with live rounds, then wheels around and points it at his mother. When after several moments she still does not notice, he turns around and shoots himself. As the blast sends him toppling backward with a hole in his forehead, his mother snaps, "Harold! Please!" and calmly continues with the questionnaire.
- Fire: For the first blind date, Harold sets himself on fire on the diving board in view of the horrified girl, then calmly walks in behind her with his body still apparently burning outside the window.
- Hand chopping: The second blind date ends abruptly with Harold chopping off an obviously fake hand. This is the incident that makes his mother decide to send him to the military.
- Seppuku: For the final date, Harold disembowels himself with a sword. Instead of running off like the other dates, Sunshine Doré, a would-be actress, assumes that the act was staged and eagerly joins in. Reciting lines from Romeo and Juliet, she tests the blade with one hand to see its retraction and plunges the fake blade into her chest and acts out a death scene. At that instant, Harold's mother enters and, seeing what she presumes is a dead girl, declares indignantly, "Harold! That was your last date!"
- Car: Grief-stricken over Maude's death, Harold drives his Jaguar/hearse recklessly up a winding dirt road, sending it flying off a cliff to the rocks below. But, when the camera tilts from the wreckage up the cliff face, we find Harold standing at the top. He calmly begins to play the banjo Maude gave him and slowly dances away.
Harold and Maude is #45 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years... 100 Laughs, the list of the top 100 films in American comedy. The list was released in 2000. Two years later, AFI released the list AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions honoring the most romantic films for the past 100 years, Harold and Maude ranked #69. Entertainment Weekly ranked the film #4 on their list of “The Top 50 Cult Films.”
In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten Top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Harold and Maude was acknowledged as the ninth best film in the romantic comedy genre.
- American Film Institute recognition
- 2000: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs #45
- 2002: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions #69
- 2006: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers #89
- 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10 #9 Romantic Comedy
Critical response 
Harold and Maude received mixed reviews at the time of its release, with several critics being offended by the film's dark humor. Critic Roger Ebert, in a review dated January 1, 1972, did not care for the film. He wrote, "And so what we get, finally, is a movie of attitudes. Harold is death, Maude life, and they manage to make the two seem so similar that life's hardly worth the extra bother. The visual style makes everyone look fresh from the Wax Museum, and all the movie lacks is a lot of day-old gardenias and lilies and roses in the lobby, filling the place with a cloying sweet smell. Nothing more to report today. Harold doesn't even make pallbearer."
The film did garner praise over time. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 85% based on 41 reviews, with an average score of 7.6/10. In 2005, the Writers Guild of America ranked the screenplay #86 on its list of 101 Greatest Screenplays ever written.
|Harold and Maude|
|Soundtrack album by Cat Stevens|
|Released||December 28, 2007|
The soundtrack is by Cat Stevens, and includes two songs, “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”, that he composed specifically for the movie, and which were unavailable on vinyl for over a decade; they were eventually released in 1984 on the compilation Footsteps in the Dark. The first official soundtrack to the film was released in December 2007, by Vinyl Films Records, as a vinyl-only limited edition release of 2,500 copies. It contained a 30-page oral history of the making of the film, the most extensive series of interviews yet conducted on Harold and Maude.
Additional music include "Greensleeves", played on the harp during dinner, during the scene where Harold is floating face-down in the swimming pool, the opening bars of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 are heard and a marching band is also heard playing a John Philip Sousa march outside the church following a funeral.
- Track listing
This is the track listing for the first official release of the soundtrack to Harold and Maude.
- Side one
- "Don't Be Shy"
- "On the Road to Find Out"
- "I Wish, I Wish"
- "Miles from Nowhere"
- "Tea for the Tillerman"
- "I Think I See the Light"
- Side two
- "Where Do the Children Play?"
- "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out"
- "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out (banjo version)"—previously unreleased
- "Don't Be Shy (alternate version)"—previously unreleased
- "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out (instrumental version)"—previously unreleased
- Bonus 7" single
- "Don't Be Shy (demo version)"—previously unreleased
- "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out (alternative version)"—previously unreleased
See also 
- After 12 Years, a Profit For 'Harold and Maude' By ALJEAN HARMETZSpecial to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 08 Aug 1983: C14.
- Harold and Maude | PlaybillVault.com
- National Film Registry list of films 1989-2006. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- "Harold and Maude; Criterion Collection".
- Peary, Danny (1981). Cult Movies. Delta Books. ISBN 0-517-20185-2.
- Bozzola, Lucia. "Harold and Maude > Overview". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
- Up From the Underground Harold; Maude; Wilson, John M. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 Apr 1978: g14.
- Brebner, Anne (guest); Morrison, John (Host) (May 6, 2011). Aspect Ratio - April 2011. blip.tv. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- 100 Years, 100 Passions. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- "The Top 50 Cult Films". Entertainment Weekly. May 23, 2003.
- American Film Institute (2008-06-17). "AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- "Top 10 Romantic Comedies". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- Actor In A Leading Role - Musical Or Comedy. TheGoldenGlobes.com. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1972). "Harold and Maude". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- "Harold and Maude". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
- Savage, Sophia (February 27, 2013). "WGA Lists Greatest Screenplays, From 'Casablanca' and 'Godfather' to 'Memento' and 'Notorious'". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
- WELKER, HOLLY (Spring 2010), "FOREVER YOUR GIRL". Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. (46):26–30
- Harold and Maude at Allmusic
- Harold and Maude at Discogs
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Harold and Maude|
- Harold and Maude at the Internet Movie Database
- Harold and Maude at AllRovi
- Harold and Maude at Rotten Tomatoes
- Photos of Harold and Maude film locations as they appear today
- Guide to shoot locations
- Criterion Collection page