“Try and be a little more vivacious.” [Harold and Maude]

Macabre, tender, funny and altogether weirdly wonderful, Harold and Maude would be in my Top 10 movies.  If I had such a list.  It’s beautifully written, not a word wasted.  The acting is spot-on and the direction is inspired.  Released in December 1971, I’m surprised I only discovered it a few years ago.

“Dinner at 8:00 Harold, and try to be a little more vivacious.”

Harold and Maude is based on an original screenplay by Colin Higgins (a Hollywood pool boy) and directed by Hal Ashby.  Ashby fought Paramount on edits.  He won some battles and lost others.  One swear word was omitted to avoid an R rating.  Is there any word that would result in an R rating today?

How did Harold and Maude flop at the box office?  Audiences preferred Carnal Knowledge, Clockwork Orange, Diamonds Are Forever, Dirty Harry, Fiddler on the Roof and The French Connection.  And many other titles, evidently.

Watching it for the first time in a while, the music caught my attention from the opening credits.  How had I forgotten Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ musical accompaniment?  I loved the story that much.

“Oh trouble please be kind.”

The Harold and Maude soundtrack includes Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1”, Strauss’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314” and Rosas’ “Over the Waves”.  The other tracks are all written and performed by Stevens.

He wrote two songs especially for the movie: “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”.  The movie release featured Stevens’ original demos of both songs.  He’d planned to re-record them and wasn’t happy the demos were used instead.  Understandable, especially since he found out after the fact.  The rationale was probably, “Easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission”.

The result couldn’t have been better.  The songs are a perfect fit to the movie.  The soundtrack was finally released in 2007 — thirty-six years after the movie release.  Vinyl Films Records released 2,500 vinyl-only copies.

If this collectors’ item is a little out of reach, you can find the tracks on the Cat Stevens box set (2001) and Remember Cat Stevens (1999).  It’s not the same as the soundtrack, but that’s what the playlist option is for.  Here are Stevens’ contributions to the soundtrack:

– Don’t Be Shy
– On the Road to Find Out
– I Wish, I Wish
– Miles from Nowhere
– Tea for the Tillerman
– I Think I See the Light
– Where Do the Children Play?
– If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out
– Trouble

This particular mix is worth a listen even without the movie.

Here is “Trouble” by Yusuf/Cat Stevens on vinyl.  This song is featured in my favorite Harold and Maude scene.  Enjoy!


Stevens also has an uncredited cameo in the movie.  Watch for a bearded man wearing a long coat and hat giving Maude disapproving looks during a graveside service.


Video posted to youtube by user mirhaba – Vlastimil Vojáček já su fotograf.

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43 thoughts on ““Try and be a little more vivacious.” [Harold and Maude]

    1. Thank you for your great comment and compliment! I hope the greatness continues throughout your day. I’d be delighted if readers are inspired to watch Harold and Maude. It definitely should have enjoyed a lot more success at the time. Hopefully we can make up for that oversight. 🙂


    1. I believe you’d enjoy this film. I know, I was reminded how much I liked his music when I watched the movie again. Every element works so well, the result is masterful. If you do end up seeing it let me know your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Kevin

    Fantastic movie. Fantastic soundtrack. I first saw this movie in my high school senior year religion class (I can’t for the life of me remember why my teacher thought this was appropriate or relevant to what we were learning at the time – death, maybe?). This is also when I really discovered the wonderful music of Cat Stevens. “On The Road To Find Out” is extra special to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, that must have been an excellent religion class! 🙂 I can think of a few other themes that could be relevant, but they’re stretches. (To avoid spoiler alerts, I won’t mention them here.)
      Cat Stevens’ music is so wonderful that it’s noteworthy, even in such an outstanding film. “On The Road To Find Out” — nice choice!


      1. J.

        It wasn’t specifically the movie at fault. I’ve stumbled across it when it’s already been on a while. The one time I sat down to watch it I fell asleep! (I was fairly tired).

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I can pretty much guarantee you’d like this movie. I’m a little surprised so many others here have seen it and it makes me happy that they loved it as much as I did. If you do see it let me know how much you loved/loathed it.

      Liked by 1 person

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