Why it’s famous:
The chemistry between the bright and lively presence of Ruth Gordon, who plays Maude, and the dark and innocent presence of Bud Cort, who plays Harold, has ensured the place of Harold and Maude as a cult classic, and perhaps one of the greatest love stories of our modern age.
It’s the story of young and death-obsessed Harold who meets, at a funeral, the life-loving and spritely 79-year-old Maude. Its dark humour, contrasting soundtrack, and the undeniable love of its two protagonists has earned the film numerous awards, and has made it one that has stuck with audiences and filmmakers alike.
Why you haven’t seen it:
Unless you were a teen in the early 1970s, or are a big fan of There’s Something About Mary, which has Mary mentioning the film as her favourite to another character, chances are you have not had the pleasure of viewing this insightful and beautiful film. Upon its release a lot of audiences were also offended by the dark humour, and were uncomfortable with the age difference between the lovers. Critics also panned the film’s overall feel as “waxy” and pairing of Harold and Maude as too obvious when compared to its other characters.
Why it might be tough to get through:
There are times when the film moves a little slowly and when you’re used to action or romance-packed moments throughout, it can be what some might describe as boring. The dark humour is also not for everyone and can sometimes be a little off-putting—so if watching someone commit several different styles of fake suicide seems like it might turn your stomach, then this film is probably not for you.
Why you should watch it anyways:
Aside from the fun and upbeat music that sets the tone for much of the film, Harold and Maude remind audiences what true love really is. Maude is “life”—throughout the movie she continues to surprise, shock, and please almost anyone who is watching with her philosophies and sometimes unbelievable antics, both of which can only have come from a person who has lived fully and completely and has never passed up opportunities.
In truth, Maude can be the wake-up for anyone who is feeling like life has turned into the same routine and drudgery day after day. Both Harold and Maude manage to find their way into your heart, and can’t help but be loved by almost anyone who gets to know them. The film also illustrates a truth that is often forgotten—that love and connection are not subject to age.
Maude: “Vice, virtue. It’s best not to be too moral. You can cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live fully.”
Maude: “Let’s play something together!”
Harold: “I don’t play anything.”
Maude: “Nothing? Dear me, everybody should be able to make some music. That’s the cosmic dance.”
Maude: “Reach out! Take a chance! Get hurt even. But play as well as you can.”
Harold: (to Maude) “I love you”
Maude: “Oh, Harold. That is wonderful. Go and love some more.”
Harold “kills” himself eight times in the film.
The film was originally written as a master’s thesis by Colin Higgins. It was subsequently turned into a film, novel, and well-received play.
The original writer, Colin Higgins, also considered doing both a prequel and sequel to the film.
Throughout the film Maude drives several different types of cars, but her portrayer, Ruth Gordon, had never learned to drive, so all of the cars had to be towed.