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The Importance of the film Harold and Maude

Updated on May 20, 2015

Harold and Maude: The beginning

UCLA student Colin Higgins wrote Harold and Maude as his master’s thesis. While working as producer Edward Lewis' pool boy, Higgins showed the script to Lewis's wife, Mildred. Mildred was so impressed that she got Edward to give it to Stanley Jafe at Paramount. Higgins sold the script with the understanding that he would direct the film but he was told he wasn't ready, after tests he shot proved unsatisfactory to the studio heads. Ashby would only commit to directing the film after getting Higgins' blessing and then, so Higgins could watch and learn from him on the set, Ashby made Higgins a co-producer. Higgins says he originally thought of the story as a play. It then became a 20 minute thesis while at film school. After the film came out, the script was turned into a novel then a play, which ran for several years in Paris. Now imagine his Master's Thesis was an actual book and soon to be cult film. Little did he realize this was his moment.

Harold and Maude


Harold's Obession With Death

Harold was a young man obsessed with death. This was how he had originally met Maude at a funeral. They both loved attending funerals. Harold and Maude incorporates elements of dark humor and drama, with a plot that revolves around the exploits of a young man named Harold intrigued with death. Harold drifts away from the life that his detached mother prescribes for him, and slowly develops quite a strong and close friendship and eventually a romantic relationship with a 79-year-old woman named Maude who teaches Harold about living life to its fullest and that life is the most precious gift of all.

Analyzing The film Harold and Maude

Years pass by and I am assigned to analyze the film Harold and Maude in the context of the time period it was written 1971). Harold and Maude was written by Colin Higgens an UCLA. Master's graduate. This great film was directed by Hal Ashby and co-produced by Colin Higgens. The Stars were Bud Cort as Harold and Ruth Gorden as Maude. It was an exceptional black comedy taking place in the arena of a higher plane of love a May / December relationship.

The theme of this film was that life is certainly worth living, It is our greatest gift The protagonist's objective presented Harold as an introverted trust fund baby who was trying desperatlely to get the attention of his mother (MS Chasen). There were quite a few unusual characters which included Uncle Victor who presented himself as some one who had a stiff upper lip, who actually had given his right arm for his country (literally).

Harold and Maude


My Gut Reaction

My gut reaction? I first viewed the film in the late 1970s after its achieving cult film status. I was enthralled and laughed so hard at times I was crying. It was so funny in a dark way. It gained the rating of black humour. I have seen this film way too many times to count and have always come away with something different. The style of Harold and Maude is fascinating.

Mize En Scene

There were scenes in this film that were very out of context. An example is the pool scene where the body of Harold is floating in the pool as Harold's mother just swims right by without acting if anything is wrong or out of place. Another example is when Harold's mother is filling out the dating questionnaire and reading the questions out loud and answering them herself as Harold is sitting there loading a gun. The way these scenes were set up adds shock value to you the viewer.

Sing Out

Music by Cat Stevens

The music is by Cat Stevens, the lyrics were right on point explaining Harold's actions. The early 1970s had become easy listening and explored themes of lost loves and broken relationships which is right on cue with this film's emotional content.


The scene where Harold's mother proposes to Harold that it is time for him to marry. We immediatley were transended into the scene in the church where a funeral is taking place. Marriage signifies a beginning and a funeral signifies death (the end). I think this transition places us directly into Harold's psyche.

If you want to be free be free

How Many

Have you ever had the opportunity to view Harold and Maude?

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At the time this story was written and the film was being made we were just emerging get from the psychedelic era and the social upheaval of the Vietnam Nam War. The older generation at that time was very troubled by the late 1960s blossoming of individuality and freedom amongst the younger generation. This is demonstrated at several different points such as the dating questionnaire "Should sex be taught outside the home?" Harold's mother replied "No." Is sex over exploited by the mass media?" Harold's mother replies yes." She is most concerned with turning Harold around to her way of thinking which is exactly what was happening at that time in history.

Establishment vs Anti-establishment attitudes. Well people we are now the establishment and look at what we have done.


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