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
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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