Cast & Crew
After another in a series of mock suicides staged by 20-year-old Harold Chasen fails to gain the attention he craves from his wealthy, socialite mother, the sullen young man stages a bloody scene in her bathroom, finally driving her to send him to a psychiatrist. During a therapy session, Harold explains that he finds "fun" in attending funerals. Soon after, Harold buys a hearse and goes to a funeral for a stranger, where he spots another casual observer, the 79-year-old Maude. At home that night, Mrs. Chasen, outraged by Harold's "amateur theatrics," sends him to his uncle, Gen. Victor Ball, a one-armed veteran who urges him to join the military and then salutes a portrait of his hero, Nathan Hale, using his mechanically rigged sleeve. Days later, after Harold fails to shake his imperturbable mother by floating face down in her lap pool, Mrs. Chasen announces that Harold must assume "adult responsibilities" by marrying and arranges for a series of dates. During a funeral for another stranger, Maude offers Harold licorice and then suggests that the deceased, who was 80, died at the perfect age. As the mourners exit the church, the affable Maude introduces herself, tells Harold they will be "great friends" and then steals the minister's car. Later, while Mrs. Chasen recites the dating service survey question "Do you have ups and downs without obvious reason?" Harold fakes shooting himself in the head. At the end of the next funeral Harold attends, Maude steals his hearse for a joy ride, then turns the wheel over to him after he informs her that it is his vehicle. Harold then drives Maude to her home, a converted railroad car full of art and memorabilia. Later, at the psychiatrist's office, Harold admits that he might have one friend, Maude. During his first date with Candy Gulf at the Chasen home, Harold pretends to set himself on fire within sight of young woman, who flees the house in terror. On his next visit to Maude, he finds his friend modeling in the nude for ice sculptor Glaucus. After he agrees with her that the nudity is permissible, Maude shows Harold her paintings, sculpture and "olfactory machine," demonstrating it with a scent called "Snow on 42nd Street." Entranced by Maude's creativity and her insistence on experiencing something new each day, Harold shares with her his favorite activities: watching building demolitions and picnicking at a metal junkyard. Later, at a nursery, Maude explains that she likes to watch things grow and picks a tall solitary sunflower as her favorite flower. After Harold, in turn, chooses a ground cover daisy, saying that all daisies are alike, Maude notes observable differences between them. She advises him that all humans are special; the problem lies in the fact that they allow themselves to be treated all the same. On another outing, Maude, in her zeal, drives over a curb to show Harold a tree being suffocated by the city's smog. When the car is ticketed by police officers, Harold and Maude steal a different vehicle and race through a stop sign, defying the awe-struck police. Later at her home, Maude reminisces metaphorically about her past as a political protestor and explains that now she attempts more idiosyncratic strategies toward change. After playing a song on her player piano for him, Maude gives Harold a banjo. Harold returns home to find his mother has replaced his hearse with a new Jaguar sports car, which he quickly transforms into a mini-hearse with the help of a blowtorch. Days later, when Harold and Maude rush through a tollbooth while delivering the smog-ridden tree to its new home, a motorcycle officer pulls them over. Maude speeds off during the officer's interrogation and drives around in circles until the motorcycle breaks down. Later, when the same officer pulls them over again and reads a list of offenses, Maude and Harold steal his motorcycle. The officer aims his gun at them, but finds his efforts foiled by his unloaded gun. After sharing a hashish pipe at Maude's home, Harold admits that he has not lived, but does enjoy dying and recounts his first "death:" After a school physics lab experiment blows a hole in floor, police mistakenly report to Mrs. Chasen that her son has died in the explosion. Seeing his mother faint and relishing her attention, Harold decides to continue dying. Maude enthusiastically coaches Harold to live in the present and begins to waltz with him. Days later, during a date with Edith Phern, Harold, who has placed a fake plastic arm in the sleeve of his jacket, takes out a meat cleaver and chops off his hand arm, sending Edith fleeing from the room. Learning that his determined mother plans to induct him into the military, Harold and Maude scheme to foil her. Asking Victor to take a walk, Harold endures a minutely detailed account of his uncle's war adventures during another military pep talk. Harold then excitedly enumerates ways to kill and finally reveals a shrunken head, asking if Victor keeps souvenirs. When Maude suddenly appears carrying a peace sign and grabs the head, Harold pretends to start a brawl with her and pushes the elderly woman down a hole in the stone landing. A shocked Victor is convinced Harold killed the protestor and stops talking about the young man's induction. At the close of the day, Harold tells Maude she is beautiful and holds her hand, revealing a number tattoo indicating that she is a Holocaust survivor. During a date with actress Sunshine Doré, Harold performs a mock hara-kiri, but instead of being shocked, the actress recites the suicide scene from "Romeo and Juliet," pretends to stab herself and falls to Harold's side. That night, as Harold gives Maude a gift with the inscription "Harold loves Maude," she throws it in the sea, explaining with a smile that she will always know where it is. After spending the night with Maude, an ebullient Harold announces to his mother that he is marrying her and shows Mrs. Chasen Maude's picture. Horrified by their age difference, Mrs. Chasen sends Harold to see Victor and the psychiatrist, who caution him against the marriage. Finally, Harold is sent to a priest, who suggests that the idea of Harold "commingling" his "firm" body with the elderly woman is perverse. On Maude's 80th birthday, Harold fills her room with paper sunflowers and plans to propose to her, but Maude announces that she has taken enough sleeping tablets to kill her by midnight and wishes him farewell. Harold screams in outrage and calls for an ambulance. On the way to the hospital, as he professes his love to her, Maude looks on approvingly and suggests that Harold "go love some more." A grief-stricken Harold races from the hospital after Maude dies. When his car careens over an ocean cliff, Harold, standing high above on the cliff's edge, plucks at his banjo and skips to the music, celebrating life as Maude would have wanted.
Marjorie Morley Eaton
A. D. Flowers
Elwyn Dale Henry
Joe Marquette Jr.
Charles B. Mulvehill
William Randall [jr.]
James A. Richards
William A. Sawyer
Johann Strauss Ii
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Harold and Maude - HAROLD AND MAUDE - Gallows Humor Meets Romantic Innocence
One of the most interesting directors of the 1970s, Hal Ashby was neither a film school wunderkind nor an instant genius auteur. He had spent fifteen years working his way up the industry ladder, eventually serving as Norman Jewison's editor on big hits like The Cincinnati Kid and the cleverly constructed The Thomas Crown Affair. Ashby's first feature as director was The Landlord, a critical success that didn't see much theatrical play. An odd story about a rich kid (Beau Bridges) who tries to be pals with the tenants of his newly acquired tenement house, The Landlord was unusually sensitive to the issues of class and race in society.
Hal Ashby's second film Harold and Maude is a fairly original slice of black humor, morbidity, alternate lifestyles, and sentimentality. Writer Colin Higgins' script was an extension of his MFA Thesis at the UCLA Film School. The story opens with a series of grim Charles Addams cartoons come to life, before proceeding to statements against the war and for embracing life to the fullest. Young Harold Chasen (Bud Cort of M*A*S*H), a rich kid living on a lavish estate near San Francisco, has taken his antisocial eccentricities to the limit. The tolerant Mrs. Chasen (Vivian Pickles) does her best to ignore the faked but outrageously realistic suicides that her son stages in and around the mansion. Mother sends Harold to his one-armed Uncle Victor, an Army Officer (Charles Tyner) who tries in vain to interest Harold in a tour of military duty. Neither does an appointment with a psychiatrist (G. Wood) produce positive results. Mother also invites several possible romantic partners to meet Harold. One young woman panics at the sight of Harold's faked self-immolation, and exits screaming. An assertive actress named Sunshine Doré (Ellen Geer) annoys Harold by analyzing his ingenious (and bloody) guignol illusion.
Harold also has a habit of attending funerals. When his mother gives him a sporty Jaguar XKE, he uses a blowtorch to convert it into a custom sports-hearse. At one funeral he meets his equal in eccentricity, the octagenarian Maude (Ruth Gordon). The lively Maude disregards the law and personal property by frequently "borrowing" other people's cars to run errands. Driving like a maniac, she either outruns the police or confuses them by a sheer force of personality. Maude's home is a disused railroad coach. Its eclectic contents fascinate Harold, who is even more attracted to the woman's constant stream of ideas about friendship, non-violence, and getting the most out of life. Their relationship deepens as the couple pursue liberating daily adventures, until it becomes obvious that their attraction will result in an unforeseen but humanly logical end -- a physical love affair.
As can be guessed, Harold and Maude was not a film that studio executives of 1971 could be expected to understand. It's likely that the theme of the young Harold having an affair with the senior citizen Maude raised more than a few eyebrows. The oddly charming little show was in danger of making a quick exit to obscurity when it suddenly achieved cult status in special midnight screenings. By 1972 it was a film known to most every college student in the country.
Although not as radical as it seemed when new, Harold and Maude is still a pleasant surprise. Young Harold isn't under-aged but actor Bud Cort could easily pass for 14. Although he couldn't be called a proto-Goth he does have a lot in common with sheltered, emotionally insulated kids that adulate horror stars like Vincent Price. Bud Cort's Harold realigns his outlook through Maude's influence. Previously comfortable in his eccentric complacency, Harold's growing investment in another person is quite endearing. This makes the emotional shocks of the final reel all the more traumatic.
The most surprising thing about Harold and Maude is that it doesn't come off as trite or terminally "cute". The movie asks us to accept a kid obsessed with funerals and suicide as the height of cleverness. Was the 13 year-old Tim Burton perhaps somewhere in the audience? With his delicate facial features, Burton's frequent actor Johnny Depp seems an extension of the Harold Chasen character.
The astonishing writer-actress Ruth Gordon was by this time well into a major third act in her stellar career. She played a brash caustic eccentric for laughs in George Axelrod's Lord Love a Duck. She won an Oscar playing a frightening neighbor in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. Interestingly, Ruth Gordon's husband and major screenwriting partner Garson Kanin (Adam's Rib, A Double Life) was sixteen years younger than she. Gordon puts her forceful personality behind the starring role of Maude, giving heft and meaning to Colin Higgins' well-chosen homilies about taking charge of one's opportunities and living life without regrets. We're not surprised that Maude brings Harold out of his shell, because Ms. Gordon does the same for us.
The film's anti-Vietnam War sentiment now seems a little facile, even if well intentioned. The clownish Uncle Victor gives Harold a pep talk about the Army while Higgins and Ashby overlay the sound of a firing squad outside his office. Victor wears a silly rig that makes the empty sleeve over his amputated arm rise in a salute. Some of the other satirical content hasn't aged as well. Good action direction makes Maude's ridiculously hazardous driving habits quite funny, despite the fact that they now seem a writer's concoction to give the old lady an edge of excitement and unpredictability. In a more general sense Maude's disregard for the safety of others seems inconsistent with her positive philosophy.
One aspect of the film that has only gotten better with time is the gentle and melodious music of Cat Stevens. The composer-performer's songs of self-affirmation are such a good fit that the movie seems to have been built around them. Many pictures from this era, even Easy Rider, can be uncomfortable to revisit. Harold and Maude is a nostalgic charmer that appeals to new audiences as well.
Criterion's Blu-ray of Harold and Maude is a handsome encoding of Hal Ashby's offbeat movie fairy tale. John Alonzo's images capture the Northern California greenery under overcast and cloudy skies, often with telephoto lenses. Cat Stevens' music is used liberally throughout the picture, and sounds fine on the Blu-ray's soundtrack. Criterion is offering a DVD release as well.
Accompanied by producer Charles B. Mulvehill, Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson contributes a full feature commentary. Audio lectures by Hal Ashby and Colin Higgins are used as the backbone of two featurettes. Given his own interview, Cat Stevens (who now goes by the name of Yussef) is as mellow and contented now as he ever was. The insert booklet contains an essay by Matt Zoller Seitz, an article on Ruth Gordon's career, and two text interviews with Bud Cort, John Alonzo and producer Mildred Lewis.
For more information about Harold and Maude, visit The Criterion Collection.
by Glenn Erickson
Harold and Maude - HAROLD AND MAUDE - Gallows Humor Meets Romantic Innocence
Harold and Maude
A storyline in which a rich, death-obsessed young man of twenty meets, falls in love and consummates his romance with a kooky, life-affirming seventy-nine-year-old woman wasn't exactly the sort of project that had every major studio in Hollywood begging to produce it. The concept, for one thing, was too unlikely and potentially distasteful to treat as anything other than a comedy but even then, there was no guarantee that the film wouldn't end up as a crude, unfunny travesty on the order of other failed black comedies such as Goodbye Charlie (1964) and Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad (1967). One can only imagine what the Farrelly Brothers (whose feature There's Something About Mary (1998) had an in-joke about the popularity of Harold and Maude) or Todd Solondz (Happiness, 1998) would do with this oddball May-December romance today. At the same time, it's also easy to consider how radically different Harold and Maude might have been if the leads had been played by say, Timothy Bottoms and Helen Hayes or Don Johnson and Katharine Hepburn. Whether it was a case of pure alchemy with all of the elements coming together at exactly the right place and time or a happy accident, Harold and Maude works because it takes a stylized screwball comedy approach to the characters but grounds them in a believable milieu - the smog-challenged city of Los Angeles in the seventies when computer dating, anti-war protests, and regular visits to the therapist were reflections of the current culture. And, more importantly, it makes the title characters' attraction to each other believable on a physical and non-physical level. Colin Higgins' quixotic script and Hal Ashby's sly, poker face direction straddle a tightrope between despair and sentimentality, occasionally breaking the third wall and acknowledging the audience with a wink. Even when it loses its balance and stumbles into maudlin territory or obvious sermonizing, it always bounces back with unexpected moments of twisted humor and the odd detail, all of it anchored by the undeniable chemistry of Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort.
It all began as a thesis film for UCLA film student Colin Higgins who first developed the idea for Harold and Maude as a twenty-minute short. When he showed the script to his landlady, Mildred Lewis, the wife of a Hollywood producer, she suggested they form their own production company and shop it around to studios. Eventually the script found a home at Paramount where Howard Jaffe was first slated to be the producer but later passed the project on to Charles B. Mulvehill. Peter Bart, the vice president of production at Paramount then, had seen Hal Ashby's The Landlord (1970) and was impressed by the way the director had handled the movie's complex racial issues in the context of a satire. On the basis of that, he asked Ashby to direct Higgins' fledging effort as screenwriter and associate producer. "To me, Harold and Maude was a symbol of that era. It would have been unthinkable in the '80s or '90s. In those days...people would walk in, wacked out, with the most mind-bending, innovative and brilliant ideas for movies. Harold and Maude was written by a pool cleaner." (from Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind).
Although Ruth Gordon was always the front runner for the role of Maude, Higgins had initially written the part of Harold for rising actor and aspiring musician John Rubinstein (Zachariah, 1971), the son of conductor Arthur Rubinstein. Character actor (Midnight Cowboy, 1969) and future director (Parents, 1989) Bob Balaban also tested for the part but Ashby favored Bud Cort, a New York stage-trained actor who had recently attracted attention for his unique screen presence in such films as Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1970) and Brewster McCloud (1970). When Cort finally did a trial rehearsal with Gordon (the screen tests were filmed by Haskell Wexler), it was immediately obvious he was the right choice.
In shooting Harold and Maude, Ruth Gordon recalled in her autobiography, Ashby "followed the Gertrude Stein theory: chronology has nothing to do with anything. We shot where and when and what Hal said to. Hal is his own man. Do you care about sequence? Not me. We don't think in sequence, we rarely talk in sequence, we don't rehearse a play in sequence, so why shoot a script that way?"
According to Peter Biskind in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, "Ashby's marriage to [his wife] Joan fell apart as the production began. He started seeing a girl who was a stand-in for Ruth Gordon. She lived in a van, had a diamond drilled into one of her front teeth. But after four divorces, Ashby had learned not to marry again. He liked tall, thin, athletic girls built like boys and, as [Haskell] Wexler puts it, 'they'd usually end up with a Mercedes, if nothing else.' Luckily, the filming of Harold and Maude proceeded smoothly and generated quite a strong buzz among the Paramount executives. 'We felt it was going to be the best film of the year, it was gonna knock 'em dead,' recalls Mulvehill. 'We were gonna have control over what we were gonna do.'" Mulvehill and Ashby even created a film company, DFF (Dumb F*ck Films), in anticipation of the film's success.
The elation was short lived. When Harold and Maude was released it died a quick death at the box office and its cause wasn't helped by most of the mainstream critics. Vincent Canby in The New York Times suggested "You might well want to miss Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude." Variety wrote that it "has all the fun and gaiety of a burning orphanage." Pauline Kael's review for The New Yorker was more favorable but faulted Ashby's eccentric direction; "The actors are often seen at a great distance and the dialogue reaches us from a great distance, too; the sound level varies so much that we keep losing the voices, and Harold's lines often fade away." The film's producer, Charles B. Mulvehill, recalled, "You couldn't drag people in. The idea of a twenty-year-old boy with an eighty-year-old woman just made people want to vomit. If you asked people what it was about, ultimately it became a boy who was f*cking his grandmother. We were devastated, couldn't believe it, and the scripts and phone calls that had been coming in just stopped. It was as though somebody had taken an ax to the phone lines. It was really a rude awakening. It was a big, big shock to Hal."
Then a strange thing began to happen. Harold and Maude "became a cause celebre among college-age moviegoers throughout the United States and Canada, breaking longevity records in cities like Detroit, Montreal, and, most memorably, Minneapolis, where residents actually picketed the Westgate Theatre trying to get management to replace the picture after a consecutive three-year run." (from Cult Movies by Danny Peary). Even if it was ignored at Oscar® time, it was nominated for Golden Globe awards for the performances of Cort and Gordon and Cort even won a Crystal Star in Paris, the French equivalent of an Academy Award®. The film began to play in heavy rotation at repertory cinemas around the world and especially on college campuses where its fans would return to it repeatedly; one 22-year-old filmgoer made the news in 1974 for claiming to have seen it 138 times.
Not all cult movies age gracefully, however, but after more than thirty-four years Harold and Maude holds up much better than other cult films of its era such as that other repertory favorite, Philippe de Broca's King of Hearts (1966), in which the inmates of an insane asylum escape and take over a French village during World War II. Although both films celebrate the unconventional and individuals who march to the beat of a different drum, King of Hearts now seems unbearably cloying and self-indulgent while Harold and Maude continues to impress with its lighthearted juggling of such usually grim themes as death, suicide and lives not lived.
Some former devotees of Harold and Maude may be afraid to revisit the film for fear of spoiling their fond memories of the experience but the film was never a masterpiece and the parts that never worked still don't. You sometimes wish there was an off button for Ruth Gordon's irrepressible Maude who is often more affecting in her quieter scenes, the Cat Stevens soundtrack, if you're not a fan, could ruin your viewing pleasure and the strangely upbeat ending sends mixed signals. Maude commits suicide after spending the entire movie encouraging Harold to live life? What's up with that? On the other hand, Ashby's slow-by-today's-standards-of-pacing, works in the film's favor, drawing you into Harold's private world to the point where you suddenly achieve liftoff into pure fantasy with the introduction of the first blind date and Harold's staged self immolation. Vivian Pickles as Harold's domineering, status-conscious mother, creates a hilarious caricature that improves on each viewing and, best of all, is Cort who transforms the pale, creepy Harold into an oddly appealing but unconventional protagonist.
Whether the film was a blessing or a curse for Bud Cort who was thereafter typecast as sickly, neurotic young men (until his career was temporarily derailed by a serious car accident in 1979), it certainly will be the movie he is remembered by and that is probably true for Ruth Gordon as well, in spite of her Oscar®-winning role as Mia Farrow's pushy next-door neighbor in Rosemary's Baby (1968). Cort had reason to be bitter about the film's success for other reasons. In a New York Times magazine article, he complained that "All the delicious moments were on the floor. Anything moving between me and Ruth was on the floor; the reason I go to bed with her was on the floor." Ashby said: "I totally agree with you. But they [the studio] won't listen to me." As a result, Cort became difficult. "I said: 'Gentlemen, until this film is recut, not only to my specifications, but to Ms. Gordon's and to Mr. Ashby's, I am not available for any publicity on this film...' From that moment on I've been persona non grata over at Paramount." Cort also grumbled that he was poorly paid for his work: "I receive a residual check maybe once every two years for $11 made out to Bob Cort for Harold and Maude."
Even Cort, however, acknowledges the film as a special time in his life. "It was a genius director and it was a genius actress and a genius script....and it was just the right combination of people at the right moment...It was a blessing." The reasons for the film's enduring appeal are still open to debate but screenwriter Colin Higgins, who would go on to become a commercially successful film director (Foul Play , 9 to 5 ) before succumbing to AIDS in 1988, had his own theory for why it had such deep resonance with younger audiences: "We're all Harold, and we all want to be Maude. We're all repressed and trying to be free, to be ourselves, to be vitally interested in living, to be everything we want." It's a message delivered with all of the excesses and enthusiasm of a young filmmaker who is still finding his voice.
Producer: Colin Higgins, Mildred Lewis, Charles B. Mulvehill
Director: Hal Ashby
Screenplay: Colin Higgins
Cinematography: John Alonzo
Film Editing: William A. Sawyer, Edward Warschilka
Art Direction: Michael Haller
Music: Cat Stevens
Cast: Ruth Gordon (Maude), Bud Cort (Harold Parker Chasen), Vivian Pickles (Mrs. Chasen), Cyril Cusack (Glaucus), Charles Tyner (Uncle Victor), Ellen Geer (Sunshine Dore).
by Jeff Stafford
My Side: The Autobiography of Ruth Gordon
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
The Unofficial Bud Cort Fan Site www.geocities.com/budcortfanclub/
The New York Times
All Movie Guide www.allmovie.com
Harold and Maude
What were you fighting for?- Harold
Oh, Big Issues. Liberty. Rights. Justice. Kings died and kingdoms fell. You know, I don't regret the kingdoms--I see no sense in borders and nations and patriotism--but I do miss the kings.- Maude
What kind of flower would you like to be?- Maude
I don't know. One of these, maybe.- Harold
Why do you say that?- Maude
Because they're all alike.- Harold
Oh, but they're NOT! Look. See, some are smaller; some are fatter; some grow to the left, some to the right; some even have lost some petals. All kinds of observable differences! You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world's sorrow comes from people who are *this*, yet allow themselves to be treated as *that*.- 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! ...Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.- Maude
Tell me, Harold, how many of these, uh, "suicides" have you performed?- Psychiatrist
An accurate number would be difficult to gague.- Harold
Well, just give me a rough estimate.- Psychiatrist
A rough estimate? I'd say... fifteen.- Harold
He thought they were the most beutiful birds in the world. Then he found they were only seagulls.- Maude
When considering the role of Harold, Bud Cort asked the opinion of director 'Altman, Robert' , his mentor. Altman cautioned that rising star Cort might find himself forever typecast.
Henry Dieckoff, who appeared as Mrs. Chasen's butler, was the actual butler of Rose Court Mansion in Hillsborough, California, south of San Francisco, which served as the setting for the Chasen mansion.
Fearing that he would be typecast as crazy (as Robert Altman had warned), Bud Cort, who was offered the part of Billy Bibbit, turned down that role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). He wanted the role of McMurphy, which belonged to Jack Nicholson but was denied it by director Milos Forman. His next film wasn't until 1977.
Colin Higgins' screenplay for "Harold and Maude" was based on his thesis for the UCLA screenwriting MFA program.
the bearded man seen briefly in the amusement park arcade.
The composer and performer of the original music for the movie can be seen in one of the funeral scenes. He is the person behind which Maude hides after she tries to get Harold's attention by hissing.
During the opening credits for the film, Bud Cort, as the character "Harold Chasen," sets the stage for a mock suicide. As director Hal Ashby's credit appears, Harold jumps from a chair, hanging himself from the ceiling of his family home. Although onscreen credits list the "motorcycle cop" as M. Borman, the actor was actually Tom Skerritt. Ashby also has a bit part in the film as a carnival bystander.
Writer and producer Colin Higgins wrote the screenplay for Harold and Maude for his graduate thesis at the UCLA Film School and had originally planned it to be a 20-minute short. He then formed his own production company and made a deal with Paramount to produce the film. According to a September 24, 1970 Daily Variety article, Howard Jaffe was originally to co-produce the film, but was later replaced by Charles Mulvehill. Location shooting for Harold and Maude took place in and around San Francisco and San Mateo, CA. In her autobiography, Ruth Gordon specifies the following locations within those areas: Half Moon Bay, Redwood City, Oyster Point, Oakland, Palo Alto, Soldier's Cemetery in Daly City and the Dumbarton Bridge for the motorcycle officer sequence.
As noted in a February 5, 1971 Daily Variety article, Higgins wrote a novelization of his screenplay for the film that also was entitled Harold and Maude (Philadelphia, 1971). Soon after the film's release, Higgins adapted his screenplay for a theatrical version that became a hit play in Paris. Higgins also wrote a Broadway adaptation of Harold and Maude, which was directed by Robert Lewis and starred Janet Gaynor and Keith Dermott. The play ran for only four performances from 7 February-9 February 1980.
There are a number of satirical moments in the film, which modern critics hailed for its darkly comic, ironic situations. For example, in one sequence "Uncle Victor Ball," salutes a portrait of Nathan Hale, the American Revolutionary war hero, who, upon his imminent execution, was reported to have said that his only regret was having but one life to give his country. Several reviews of the film noted the age difference between characters Harold and Maude with disdain; however, other reviews lauded the film as an upbeat love story. Despite its lack of critical acclaim or financial success at the time of its release, Harold and Maude garnered record-breaking runs in both Detroit and Minneapolis and soon established a "cult" following with repeat audiences throughout the United States. After Paramount re-released the film in February 1979, an August 8, 1983 New York Times article noted that Harold and Maude was still being shown in rented halls and theaters and was finally making a substantial profit.
Oscar-winning actress Ruth Gordon was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress-Musical or Comedy, while Bud Cort was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor-Musical or Comedy. British actress Vivian Pickles made her American film debut in Harold and Maude. The soundtrack for the film featured songs written and performed by popular 1970s performer Cat Stevens, including "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," which was specifically written for the film. In 1997, the picture was selected for inclusion on the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Released in United States Winter December 25, 1971
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States July 1999
Released in United States January 2010
Selected in 1997 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Released in United States Winter December 25, 1971
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Out of the Seventies: Hollywood's New Wave 1969-1975" May 31 - July 25, 1996.)
Released in United States July 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) July 23-29, 1999.)
Released in United States January 2010 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival (From the Collection) January 21-31, 2010.)