Script To Screen: “Harold and Maude”

February 27th, 2013 by

A scene from the 1971 comedy Harold and Maude, written by Colin Higgins.

Setup: Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral. Here he goes on a… ‘date’.

 	He takes one off the wall.

		This one is particularly
		interesting. It's a hari-kari

		Ohhh. What's hari-kari?

		An ancient Japanese ceremony.

		Like a tea ceremony?

		No. Like this.

	With gusto he plunges the knife into his belly. He drops
	to his knees bleeding profusely. He continues the upper-
	cut and sidecut gouging with appropriate Oriental screams.
	He stops and tumbles forward - lifeless.

  	Sunshine stands in awe.  She slowly bends down.

		Oh, that was marvelous, Harold.
		It had the ring of truth.
		Harold... Who did you study with?
		... Oh, I'm sorry. I don't want
		to break into your private moment.
		I know how exhausting true emotion
		can be. I played Juliet at the
		Sunshine Playhouse. Louie thought
		it was my best performance.

	She goes into Juliet.

		What's here? A cup, closed in
		my true love's hand? Poison, I
		see, hath been his timeless end.
		Oh churl! Drink all, and left
		no friendly drop to help me after?
		I will kiss thy lips.

	Harold opens his eyes. He can't believe this.

		Happily some poison yet doth
		hang on them - to make me die
		with a restorative .

	She kisses Harold, who immediately kneels up.

		Thy lips are warm!

	Harold, startled, knocks over an ashtray.

		Yea, noise? Then I'll be brief.
		Oh happy dagger!...

	She takes stunned Harold's dagger, pressing the blade
	back and forth in the handle to see how it operates.

		... Oh happy dagger! This is
		thy sheath.

	She stabs herself between the breasts.

		There rest--

	She staggers to the couch, clutching the dagger.

		- and let me die.

 	She collapses and expires.

	Harold gets up. He has never seen anything like it.
	He wanders around the couch as if he was looking at
	an idiot.

	Mrs. Chasen enters with a tray full of drinks, sees
	Sunshine dead on the couch, and drops them all with
	a loud crash. She looks over at a bewildered Harold.
	Summing up the situation, she flings out an accusing

		Harold! That was your last date!

Here is the movie scene:

I’ll see you in comments for a discussion of this scene from Harold and Maude.

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

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2 thoughts on “Script To Screen: “Harold and Maude”

  1. Alan D. says:

    Hey Scott,

    Not sure if it’s my monitor, but the new blog format has made the screenplay sections kind of hard to read on posts. Sometimes when I load the mobile version it gets a little bigger though. Just seeing if it’s me or if you’re aware of the issue. Thanks!

    1. Scott says:

      I’ll check with Dino about that.

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