The 1970s in Film

I Finally Watched HAROLD AND MAUDE

“I haven’t lived. I’ve died a few times.”

This is one of those movies that had fallen under the category of “I really want to see this movie” for a good while.

Harold and Maude (1971) was the first movie I ever watched at the TCM Classic Film Festival. My friend Jeremy and I lined up for the screening on Thursday night (the first official day of the festival). We stood next to a woman whose name I recognized from the “Going to TCM Classic Film Festival!” Facebook group. She has attended the festival for several years and comes from Canada each spring to indulge in the delights of TCMFF. Before we even set foot in the theater, she assured me that Harold and Maude is an incredible movie. I had no reason to doubt her.

From the moment Harold (Bud Cort) appeared onscreen, I knew I was going to fall in love with it. It also opens up with a Cat Stevens song (the whole film is filled with his music, actually) and a perfect moment of dark comedy, setting the tone for the rest of the flick.

Although I greatly enjoy many movies, there are just a handful of them that really have a profound impact on my life and Harold and Maude is one of them.

If you haven’t seen the film before, you probably at least know its general plot: it’s a love story between a young man and an old woman. Don’t be fooled; it’s so much more than that.

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is a nineteen-year-old obsessed with death. To amuse himself, he simulates committing suicide in order to get attention from his mother. Every time he does it, his uptight and emotionally detached mother (Vivian Pickles) either ignores it or throws a fit. (Finally, she decides that Harold needs to get married in order to grow out of his “shenanigans”, so she sets out to find the perfect girl for him.)

Her reactions make every situation so funny.

Oh, Harold also drives a wicked Jaguar hearse.

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(courtesy of imcdb.org)

Harold’s hobby is attending random funerals for fun. During one particular funeral, he first spots 79-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon) who also happens to attend funerals in her spare time. They became fast friends despite their totally opposite outlooks on life. Whereas Harold sees through a scope of darkness, Maude sees light all around. They realize that they’re a good match and begin spending all of their time together. Harold begins to see life as something not terrible, but beautiful. Then, they become more than friends.

A note about the performances and reception at the time of the film’s release: Did you know that Harold and Maude was actually a flop when it was released into theaters in 1971? Looking back, I think it was a flop on the part of the Academy to give it a total of zero Oscar nominations. How was it not at least nominated for Best Picture? How did Ruth Gordon not get the recognition she deserved? And did they even see Bud Cort’s performance? Wow. Back then, I think a lot of people were too weirded out by the movie’s portrayal of Harold and Maude’s romance and overlooked its brilliance. Too bad for them!

The movie sat around – unloved – for several years, then people actually started watching it and loving it. Now, forty-five years after it was released, Harold and Maude is one of the quintessential cult classics.

As much as I adore Ruth Gordon’s performance (seriously, old age goals), Bud Cort has been the one who has stuck the most in my mind since viewing the movie. I was so touched to see his character transform from a miserable teenager into a man who embraced life. Because of her, Harold steps outside of his “comfort zone”. He learns how to play the banjo, he smiles, he goes out… I was touched when he declared his love to Maude because, despite it being unorthodox for those two people to fall in love, it was pure.

In real life, Bud Cort is someone who I hope to meet someday. I’ve heard he’s a nice guy and he seems like such an interesting person and I’d like think we’d make good friends. He’s held bitter feelings toward Harold and Maude for years because he makes almost nothing off of residuals from the last forty-six years. What a shame that is. 

To top it off, the soundtrack is made up of Cat Stevens tunes and it’s just about perfect.


Harold and Maude will be airing on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on June 21, 2017 at 8:00 PM (EST). If you’re active on Twitter and like to live-tweet movies, be sure to join the #TCMParty hashtag for lots of extra fun.

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(courtesy of all-that-is-interesting.com)
1950s Film

Recommended Film: “It Should Happen to You” (1954)

It’s been awhile since I last updated. At some point, I’d love to get more posts up at a faster rate. Balancing everything doesn’t leave a ton of time to do this. But hooray, “Holliday” breaks are quickly approaching. Anyway, I hope to accomplish some more writing during break. Without further ado, here we go…

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Have your wondered what it would be like to see your name on signs all across the city you live in? The idea of being famous for being famous?  That’s what Gladys Glove (Judy Holliday) dreams of in the 1954 film It Should Happen to You. Directed by George Cukor and co-starring Jack Lemmon (in his onscreen debut) and Peter Lawford, this film is a romantic comedy set in the hustle and bustle of 1950s New York City.

Gladys Glover is a quirky, naive young woman whose big goal in life is to see her name printed on a huge billboard for no other reason than for fame itself. Just after she’s fired from her job as a girdle model, she runs into a lovely young man named Pete Sheppard (Jack Lemmon) while he is out in Central Park filming for his upcoming documentary. He is a budding (but still amateur/unknown) filmmaker and new to NYC. They become fast friends and he soon moves to her apartment building after she gives him her address so that he can send her the film he has shot so far. Let me back up and add that, as creepy as that last sentence sounded, he’s not a creep. I PROMISE.

Judy Holliday, 1950s (courtesy of doctormacro.com)
Judy Holliday, 1950s
(courtesy of doctormacro.com)

Gladys saves up money and achieves her dream: her name is painted on to a humongous billboard in Columbus Circle, a very busy area in Manhattan. Over a short period of time, she becomes a city-wide sensation. Everyone starts talking about Gladys Glover, the girl whose name is everywhere–but the question of “Just who is Gladys Glover?” is asked all over town. She begins “going public” and starts modeling for ads, making public appearances, and even finds herself appearing on popular television variety shows. It’s the things she says–usually unintentionally hilarious–that captivates everyone. It’s a gag on the whole “famous for being famous” concept. Pete is not a fan of this and often tries to talk Gladys out of the whole thing. He is aware that she is being exploited (I won’t go into the details of that. I’ll leave that for the movie; that’s where Peter Lawford’s sleazy character comes in and it’s a lot to explain). Anyway, Gladys is sweet and naive and a bit of a ditz, and for awhile she isn’t aware that she’s being used. But deep down, she’s intelligent and tough, which comes through especially by the end when she has to make some tough decisions.

Jack Lemmon, date unknown Courtesy of doctormacro.com
Jack Lemmon, date unknown
(courtesy of doctormacro.com)

I think Judy Holliday herself is way underrated. Why isn’t she remembered as she should be? It’s said that she had a crazy high IQ score but she was often cast in roles very similar to Marilyn Monroe: ditzy blondes. Marilyn was another brilliant lady, not often credited for her intelligence.

Judy’s so funny in this film. She was a brilliant comedienne. She just says things that are so off the wall, you can’t help but laugh out loud (like how she pronounces the name Pfeiffer as “Puh-feiffer”). And that voice of hers…nothing like it in the world! I didn’t really know anything about her until I caught this movie by chance one day earlier this year on TCM. I had flipped the channel on and caught it near the end, when….nah, I won’t give it away.

But I was totally captivated. It’s an extremely bittersweet, touching scene. I want so desperately to share the whole scene in this post with all of the romantic details but I just can’t bring myself to do it. For those of you reading this who may have seen this sometime in the past, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Luckily we have DVR, so I went back to the beginning of the movie and recorded it. I watched it from beginning to end (which I was obviously already familiar with) and adored it. Then, to my pleasant surprise, I was roaming around Walmart one day with a friend awhile after that and happened to find this film in a 5-pack classic film DVD in the $5 bin. I never would have imagined I’d find it in a small town Walmart of all places. I was so happy.

Judy Holliday and George Cukor, behind the scenes of "It Should Happen to You" (1954) Image courtesy of doctormacro.com
Judy Holliday and George Cukor, behind the scenes of “It Should Happen to You” (1954)
Image courtesy of doctormacro.com

And I think this movie made me kind of fall in love with Jack Lemmon. Don’t get me started on how much I LOVE him in Some Like It Hot (“Most of the time…I slllap it.”) but there’s something about him in It Should Happen to You that’s wonderful and sweet. Pete has a more sensible mind than Gladys and they balance each other out perfectly. He’s really not given many funny lines in this movie, but he’s so darn lovable.

The parts that really stand out to me are the moments when Pete has his 16 mm video camera in his hand and films random things that are happening around him, and his interactions with Gladys: their first meeting, their arguments, and everything in between. Judy and Jack really had great chemistry. I love the subtle things Jack did body language-wise as you could see Pete falling in love with Gladys, while she is totally unaware. It’s all in his eyes. Watch closely. The way he does double takes, stares at her, and sings “Let’s Fall in Love” with–and secretly– to her. It’ll make you melt. It’ll make you want to travel back in time and marry the guy. Or is that just me?

So, if you find the chance to watch this film, please do. The chemistry between Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday really make this movie extra special. The film itself is pretty far ahead of its time because of its theme: famous for being famous. It’s pretty typical for a romantic comedy, at least how the story is structured. There are no big plot twists. But, in my opinion, it’s a great film–very underrated and virtually forgotten by modern audiences. I hope I’ve done at least an “okay” job of explaining the outline of the story. I tried to bring out the big points, but there’s a lot more to it than what I’ve mentioned. What I’m here for is to simply say: “Hey! This movie is special and I’d like to bring it to the attention of other people out there.”

While you’re at it, be sure to check out Jack in Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960) and Judy in Born Yesterday (1950- she won the Oscar for this role, which was a very competitive year for the Academy) and Bells are Ringing (1960). If you enjoy those movies, check out all of the others that you can find. But those are just a few titles I recommend.

Happy watching.