Harry and Tonto
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|Harry and Tonto|
|Directed by||Paul Mazursky|
|Produced by||Paul Mazursky|
|Written by||Paul Mazursky
Chief Dan George
|Music by||Bill Conti|
|Edited by||Richard Halsey|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$4.6 million (rentals)|
Harry and Tonto is a 1974 road movie written by Paul Mazursky and Josh Greenfeld and directed by Mazursky. It features Art Carney as Harry in an Academy Award-winning performance. Tonto is his pet cat.
Harry Coombes (Art Carney) is an elderly widower and retired teacher who is forced from his Upper West Side apartment in New York City because his building is going to be knocked down in order for a parking lot to be built. He initially stays with his eldest son Burt's family in the suburbs but eventually chooses to travel cross country with his pet cat Tonto in tow.
Initially planning to fly to Chicago, Harry has a problem with Airport Security checking his cat carrier. He instead boards a long-distance bus. He gets off so Tonto can urinate (Harry tries to get Tonto to use the bus toilet, to no avail), then buys a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air from a used car salesman. During his episodic journey, he befriends a Bible-quoting hitchhiker (Michael Butler) and underage runaway Ginger (Melanie Mayron), with whom he visits an old sweetheart (Geraldine Fitzgerald) in a retirement home, who only half-remembers him. He visits his daughter (Ellen Burstyn), a bookstore owner in Chicago, with whom he shares a prickly but mutually admiring relationship. Ginger and Harry's shy grandson (who was supposed to bring him back to New York) end up going off to the commune together in Harry's car, with his blessing, so he and Tonto are on their own again.
Continuing west, Harry accepts a ride with a health-food salesman (Arthur Hunnicutt), makes the acquaintance of an attractive hooker (Barbara Rhoades) on his way to Las Vegas, then spends a night in jail with a friendly Native American (Chief Dan George). He eventually makes it to Los Angeles, where he stays with his youngest son (Larry Hagman), a financially strapped real-estate salesman, before finding a place of his own with Tonto, who, much like Harry, is dealing the best he can with the hardships of old age.
After Tonto's death, Harry is living alone by the Pacific Ocean, making new friends, enjoying the climate. As the film ends, he sees a young cat who looks exactly like Tonto, and follows him to the beach, where a child is building a sand castle. They share a smile as the sun sets.
- Art Carney as Harry Coombes
- Tonto as Tonto
- Herbert Berghof as Jacob Rivetowski
- Ellen Burstyn as Shirley Mallard
- Geraldine Fitzgerald as Jessie Stone
- Larry Hagman as Eddie Coombes
- Chief Dan George as Sam Two Feathers
- Melanie Mayron as Ginger
- Joshua Mostel as Norman Coombes
- Arthur Hunnicutt as Wade Carlton
- Barbara Rhoades as Stephanie, Hooker
- Cliff DeYoung as Burt Coombes Jr.
- Phil Bruns as Burt Coombes
- Dolly Jonah as Elaine Coombes
- Avon Long as Leroy
- Louis Guss as Dominic Santosi
- Cliff Norton as Nick Lewis, Used Car Dealer
- Rashel Novikoff as Mrs. Rothman
- Michael Butler as Hitchhiker
- René Enríquez as Jesús, Deli Manager
- Michael McCleery as Mugger
Cast as an elderly man, Carney, born in 1918, was actually only 13 years older than the actors who played his sons, Larry Hagman and Phil Bruns, and 14 years older than Ellen Burstyn, who played his daughter. Thanks to the makeup of Emmy winning artist Bob O'Bradovich, Carney was effectively transformed into the elderly Harry.
Awards and nominations
Carney beat Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino, for their performances in Murder on the Orient Express, Lenny, Chinatown and The Godfather Part II respectively, for the 1974 Academy Award for Best Actor. The film was nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.
Carney also won the Golden Globe for Best Actor Musical/Comedy, while Greenfeld and Mazursky were nominated for Best Picture Musical/Comedy. The screenplay was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award as Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen. The film was also selected as one of the ten best of 1974 by the National Board of Review.
At the time, Carney noted that prior to his work in Harry and Tonto, he "never liked cats" but said he wound up getting along well with the cat in the film.
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p174.
- "Show Business: Art Who?". Time. April 21, 1975. Retrieved October 29, 2007.