Harry and Tonto: Anybody remember this movie?

It’s on TCM tonight, and I’m watching it. An old man and his cat on a cross-country adventiure. I saw it when it first came out, and I’m enjoying it again now.

Anybody else like this movie?

Yeah, long long ago. Thanks. I just changed the channel. I can watch the second half. I noticed this would be on earlier in the week. It didn’t seem worth watching again. But now it’s 2:00AM and there’s nothing else I want to see.

Wow, nobody looks as old as I thought last time I saw it.

I think I’ve seen that. Maybe.

Is that a '55 Chevy that Harry is driving? Looks like it might be.

Great little movie, unfortunately mostly only remembered now because Art Carney won Best Actor Oscar for it in 1974, beating out Jack Nicholson in Chinatown *and * Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II.

Yes, I saw it years ago, and Tivo’d it this time. Probably watch it sometime tomorrow.

Loved it. I liked that Harry wasn’t just a sweet forlorn old man- he was kind of a horse’s ass, which made it more believable.

And I loved Chief Dan George’s cameo. For some reason anything that came out of that old man’s mouth sounded like he was about to impart the wisest thing ever said. “I had a cousin named Ironsides… but he was a fool.”

I remember that I saw it, many years ago. I remember that I liked it. I remember that it starred Art Carney and a cat. But that’s all I remember about it.


Pointless anecdote time!

In the mid 70s a buddy of mine and I would drive past the Geneva Motel on Rt 38 in Geneva, Illinois. Every last time he would say, “Oh, there’s the Geneva Motel; they filmed Harry and Tonto there.” I continued the annoying tradition after I got married, until working in the neighborhood and often commuting past it robbed the stupid bit of even the ability to amuse me.

The Point!

Obviously, there is none. However, the Geneva Motel is practically next door to American Science and Surplus, which should be the focus of regular pilgrimages by all Dopers. Or you can visit their website: http://www.sciplus.com/

I saw it in the theater. All I remember is near the end when Harry sings “In the Gloaming” to Tonto dying in the vet’s cage.

Tears me up.

I “remember” this movie because it was just about the only time when I was a kid that my dad suggested going to see a movie.

I remember saying, “Dad, I think it’s rated ‘R’.” I was only about ten years old at the time.

“So what? It’s probably just got a woman’s naked breast showing somewhere. You’ve seen that before, right?”

While my mouth was going “Yeah, sure,” my brain was slipping into shock at the casual mention of “naked breast” emanating from my dad.

While this story makes him sound like a candidate for “Cool Dad of the Year 1974,” he actually wasn’t. It was just that he really liked Art Carney.

There is no payoff to this story. Of course, my mom put the kibosh on my Dad’s plans, and I have never seen the movie to this day. I have seen a woman’s naked breast at least once since then, though.

I own the DVD.
I bought it because it was very highly rated on IMDB, but I didn’t have the “guts” to watch it for many years (one of the reviews said: the saddest movie I’ve ever seen, sad beyond tears). As an animal lover, I didn’t know if I would be able to watch it. I finally had the perfect opportunity on a plane flight, where I had plenty of time alone. It is indeed very sad, but in a very realistic bittersweet way - it was not filmed as a tearjerker. I enjoyed it, particularly since it’s the type of movie that Hollywood rarely makes anymore.

Why is it rated R, anyway? I watched it and never understood that rating.

Well, it was 1974. In those days, language, boobs, and “sexually suggestive” situations seemed to be enough to gain an R rating.

Harry and Tonto had all three: the language, while not similar to that you might hear in a trucker’s or sailor’s bar, was close enough; we do get a very quick look at Melanie Mayron’s boobs (and she was playing a 16-year-old, which may have had some kind of influence on the ratings people); and at one point, Harry, while hitchhiking, accepts a ride from a woman who turns out to be a prostitute. We never actually see anything happening, but we do see her car veering off the road after Harry mentions that it’s been a while since he last had sex, and they discuss price. Next thing we know, Harry has arrived in LA, looking quite happy and satisfied.

I agree that the final scenes, where Tonto is at the vet’s, are particularly touching. Harry knows he will soon follow Tonto (so it seems to me, anyway); and perhaps it is not so much a “goodbye” as it is an “until we meet again” moment. I can’t tell, but as a cat owner, I would prefer to think of it as the latter.

I remember an interview with Larry Hagman many years ago where he said this film was the most autobiographical role he ever shot. He was playing a character who was personally and professionally on his ass (I think that’s the line he uses in the film), and at the time Hagman was personally and professionally on his ass due to his substance abuse (mainly alcohol), major financial problems due to mismanagement and an IRS problem (he was living in a house that belonged to his mother and renting out his own so he could pay as much as possible to the IRS- his character IIRC is hoping to get a place with his dad [Harry]), marital problems because his wife- while supportive- was basically to the point of ‘I can’t live like this’ with his moping and self pity and boozing, and a pretty much dead-in-the-water career that for all he knew would never get any better. (A not particularly good looking actor in his 40s typecast as the star of a silly sitcom- it’s amazing that he exploded the way he did in the late '70s/early '80s, and he ultimately [after many years] got sober, and he’s still married to his wife so they worked things out as well.)

The Straight Story is more than a decade old now, but it has a lot of the same qualities; it goes for poignancy through realism rather than being “quirky” or saccharine, and it ends up feeling very true.

All I remembered was that one of them was a cat, and yet, I recall the movie with a certain fondness.