"You're so good with people."--Harold (Bud Cort) "Aww, they're my species!"
- Maude (Ruth Gordon)
Entertainment Weekly - 05/23/2003
"...An acquired taste, but connoisseurs will discover a supremely endearing love story..."
In the days before home video, when access to anything but first-run Hollywood movies was limited to repertory houses and college film societies, Hal Ashby's HAROLD AND MAUDE achieved cult status and became a surprise hit. In a broad sense, the film is a simple love story about how opposites attract--only, this time around, he's 19 and she's 79. Harold, played with deadpan humor by Bud Cort (M*A*S*H), is under extreme pressure from his overbearing mother, Mrs. Chasen (Vivian Pickles, in a performance that is a sheer delight), to enter the dating world. Unfortunately, the shy and morose Harold would rather spend his time attending the funerals of complete strangers. It is at one of these where he meets Maude (Ruth Gordon), who has the spunk and energy of a teenager. Maude is convinced that Harold needs to come out of his shell and enjoy life, so she brings him into hers.
The taboo relationship between Harold and Maude, created by screenwriter Colin Higgins, embodied the spirit of an experimental generation guided by the mantra "If it feels good, do it." The love affair between the film's two eccentrics remains one of Hollywood's most unexpected, but tender, romances. The soundtrack, with songs by Cat Stevens, provides an effective thematic bridge as Harold crosses from extended adolescence into manhood.
This whimsical black comedy became a cult favorite, tapping into some inexplicable early 1970s zeitgeist. Harold is a rich teenager obsessed with slashed wrists, self-inflicted gunshot wounds, personal vivisection, drowning, hanging, and being burned alive--just to annoy his mother. Maude is a poor 79-year-old optimist who has a peerless affinity for all things living. Together they attend strangers' wakes and find in each other a most unlikely romantic partner.
Black Comedy |
Cult Film |
Essential Cinema |
Theatrical release: December 20, 1971
HAROLD AND MAUDE was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1997.
Ruth Gordon's first movie appearance was in CAMILLE, in 1915.
Colin Higgins's script was inspired by the thesis he wrote for UCLA's graduate screenwriting program.