Harry & Tonto (1974)

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By Scott Ross

Paul Mazursky’s masterful, affectionate look at the perils of old age in America, disguised as a warm, comic “road” saga undertaken by a crusty former academic (Art Carney) and his beloved pet tabby. Carney had his finest role in this enormously appealing little movie, for which he won an Oscar, and he’s supported by a superb cast that includes Ellen Burstyn as his alienated daughter, Josh Mostel as his sweetly passive grandson, Geraldine Fitzgerald as an old lover lost in her own gentle dream, Chief Dan George as an ancient medicine-man, and — supremely — Larry Hagman in a shockingly effective performance as Harry’s “swinging” California playboy son who’s nowhere near as cavalier as he seems. Josh Greenfield collaborated with Mazursky on the lovely screenplay and Bill Conti did the sprightly, deliberately quirky arrangements of the old pop songs Harry loves. Seeing this great, bittersweet mini-epic makes you realize just how slick and manipulative On Golden Pond really is.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

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