Book Vs Movie: Harold and Maude
The Colin Higgins Story & the Direction of Hal Ashby
The Margos want to sing out! Today’s special episode is based on the novelization of a screenplay by the talented Colin Higgins who manages to good luck his way into having his first attempt at a screenplay produced by Paramount in 1971. Before that, he was an American-Australian who traveled around the globe trying to figure out how to turn his passion for writing into a career. (He would go on to write & direct 9 to 5!)
Harold and Maude became the second film of legendary director Hal Ashby who won an Oscar for editing In The Heat of the Night in 1967 and was eager for the challenge of creating a movie about peace and love.
The film stars Bud Cort as Harold Chason, a young, lonely man obsessed with death and pranks his stiff, upper-crust mother (played by Vivian Pickles) by staging phony suicides. (This is a very dark comedy, by the way!)
One of his hobbies is attending funerals for strangers where he meets his soulmate–Maude Chardin. Maude is 79 years old and lives her life to the fullest. Together they discover the glories of planting trees, stealing cars, music, and fighting the good fight.
Academy Award-winning actress Ruth Gordon plays Maude and this ultimately uplifting film has been a cult favorite since its release in 1971 (though it was trashed by the critics at the time.)
We talk about the journey of Harold and Maude from the script stage to the inclusion of Cat Stevens’s music which makes the whole movie feel like a wonderful daydream.
We also want to give a special shout-out to the Hal documentary directed by Amy Scott and the book Hal Ashby and the Making of Harold and Maude by James A. Davidson which were essential to our research.
Listen to this episode to hear us talk about the book & movie and decide which we like better.
In this ep the Margos discuss:
- The intriguing lives of Colin Higgins and Hal Ashby
- Behind the scenes trivia about the filming of the movie in the Bay Area
- How the music of Cat Stevens is its own character in the story
- The controversial nature of the May December romance between the leads
- The cast: Bud Cort (Harold,) Ruth Gordon (Maude,) Vivian Pickles (Mrs. Chasen,) Cyril Cusack (Glaucus,) Charles Tyner (Uncle Victor,) Eric Christmas (Priest,) George Wood (Psychiatrist,) Ellen Geer (Sunshine Dore,) Judy Engles (Candy,) Tom Skerritt (credited as “M. Borman”) as the cop.
- Maude encourages Harold to LIVE
- Maude steals a car
- Mrs. Chasen applies for computer dating for Harold
- Harold’s Date, Sunshine Dore, and her scene as Juliette
- Tom Skerrit as the police officer
- Music by Cat Stevens
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