Harold and Maude  

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"Priest: I would be remiss in my duty, if I did not tell you, that the idea of... intercourse - your firm, young... body... comingling with... withered flesh... sagging breasts... flabby b-b-buttocks... makes me want... to vomit."


Maude: "Then I became infatuated with these, my odorifics. Give the nose a treat, I thought, a kind of olfactory bandwidth. So I began first with the easiest. Roast beef, old books, mown grass. And Mexican farmyard. Here’s one you’ll like: Snowfall on 42nd Street. I'll put it on."

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Harold and Maude is a cult classic movie directed by Hal Ashby in 1971. The film, featuring slapstick, dark humor, and existentialist drama, centers around the exploits of a morbid young man — Harold — who drifts away from the life that his detached mother prescribes him as he develops a relationship with septuagenarian Maude.

The film is number 45 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Funniest Movies of all time, and number 42 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In 1997, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The film was a commercial failure when it was released and the critical reception was extremely mixed. It now has a large cult following.

The screenplay upon which the film was based was 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 for some time.

The movie has given rise to two new words: "Harolding" (hanging around cemeteries) described by Douglas Coupland in Harolding in West Vancouver (1996); and "Maudism" or "Maudianism", the philosophy of living each day to the fullest. This may also have a link to the phonetically-similar philosophy of Mod-ism.

The entire soundtrack for the movie is by Cat Stevens.

Plot

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is a young man obsessed with death. He stages elaborate fake suicides, attends funerals and drives a hearse, all to the chagrin of his socialite mother (Vivian Pickles).

At another stranger's funeral service, 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 morbidity. The pair form a bond and Maude slowly shows Harold the pleasures of art and music (including how to play banjo), and teaches him how to "[make] the most of his time on earth". Meanwhile, Harold's mother is determined, against Harold's wishes, to find him a wife. 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, their friendship soon blossoms into a romance and 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 dance, Maude tells Harold that she "couldn't imagine a lovelier farewell". Confused, he questions Maude as to her meaning and she reveals that she has taken an overdose of sleeping pills and will be dead by morning. She restates her firm belief that eighty 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".

Cast

  • Ruth Gordon as Dame Marjorie "Maude" Chardin, a 78-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, but learn 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 18-year-old man who is obsessed with death. He drives a hearse, attends funerals of strangers and stages elaborate fake 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.
  • Cyril Cusack as Glaucus, the sculptor who makes an 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". At Mrs. Chasen's request, he attempts to prepare Harold to join the armed forces. The effort is thwarted by a planned stunt in which Harold appears to kill Maude.
  • Eric Christmas as the Priest
  • George Wood as Harold's Psychiatrist
  • Ellen Geer as Sunshine Doré, an actress, Harold’s third blind date. She mimics his suicide, giving a histrionic rendition of Juliet's death scene.
  • Judy Engles as Candy Gulf, Harold's first blind date, whom he scares off by apparently 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 the Motorcycle Officer who stops Maude and Harold.

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.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Harold and Maude" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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