7.4/10
4,052
62 user 51 critic

A New Leaf (1971)

Henry Graham lives the life of a playboy. When his lawyer tells him one day that his lifestyle has consumed all his funds, he needs an idea to avoid climbing down the social ladder. So he intends to marry a rich woman and - murder her.

Director:

Elaine May

Writers:

Elaine May, Jack Ritchie (story "The Green Heart")
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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Walter Matthau ... Henry Graham
Elaine May ... Henrietta Lowell
Jack Weston ... Andy McPherson
George Rose ... Harold
James Coco ... Uncle Harry
Doris Roberts ... Mrs. Traggert
Renée Taylor ... Sharon Hart
William Redfield ... Beckett
Graham Jarvis ... Bo
Jess Osuna Jess Osuna ... Frank
David Doyle ... Mel
Fred Stewart ... Mr. von Rensaeller
Mark Gordon Mark Gordon ... John
Rose Arrick Rose Arrick ... Gloria Cunliffe
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Storyline

Henry Graham is a man with a problem: he has run through his entire inheritance, and is completely unequipped to provide for himself. His childhood guardian, Uncle Harry (a deliciously mean-spirited James Coco), refuses to give him a dime, and Henry, completely unwilling to exercise the only solution he sees--suicide-- devises a plan with the help of his imaginative butler: he can make money the old-fashioned way--he can marry it. With a temporary loan from Uncle Harry to tide him over, Henry has six weeks to find a bride, marry her, and repay the money, or else he must forfeit all his property to his uncle. With only days remaining, Henry meets clumsy, painfully shy heiress Henrietta Lowell (played by director Elaine May). She's the answer to his prayers--if only Henry can overcome the obstacles placed in his path by Uncle Harry, Henrietta's lawyer, and Henry's own reluctance to wed. Written by Drew from Baltimore

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"Do you take this woman?" "Yes, for everything she's got." See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 July 1971 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Bogata, wolna, samotna See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Elaine May had wanted Christopher Plummer for her leading man. See more »

Quotes

Harold: Oh, I'm so glad you found a nice suitable young lady.
Henry Graham: She is NOT suitable. She's primitive, she has no spirit, no wit, no conversation, and she has to be vacuumed every time she eats.
Harold: Oh, she must be very wealthy sir...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Rewrite (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Wedding March
(uncredited)
Music by Richard Wagner
[Played on violin at wedding ceremony]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Directed and acted with a kind of off kilter perfect pitch...an unexpected find
1 September 2012 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

A New Leaf (1971)

A kookie, forcibly odd movie. If at first you think it's just plain stupid, keep watching. It's really well balanced, smartly written, and acted with more restraint than usual for a madcap movie like this.

It's billed (by some) as filled with dark humor, but it didn't strike me as dark, not like the contemporary "Harold and Maude" for example. But there is an unusual tone achieved here that is just slightly different and worth getting a feel for. There is, for another example, a parallel in general plot and scenario to "How to Murder Your Wife" from 1965, complete with the willing butler and the hapless rich bachelor, but that movie is a silly 1960s farce and this one has an edge of almost poignancy to it. (I write that word and think Elaine May would cringe--only because I don't think there is an intention to be sentimental or even romantic, the last scene notwithstanding.)

The star is singularly Walter Matthau, who is almost necessarily goofy just by appearances. But maybe the first clever trick by the director, Elaine May, is putting the goofy man in even goofier situations so that he comes off as actually someone serious and believable. To have his character, Henry Graham, driving in his red Ferrari wearing a crash helmet is pure insanity, yet you don't blink an eye. The guy is self-absorbed and nuts. But also very likable, a little out of touch the way we all are, or wish we could be (if we had his money).

And of course the man's dilemma is stated immediately: the money he once had so much of is used up. And you have to see to appreciate the one long scene in the first twenty minutes with Graham meeting his financial adviser about some bounced checks. This is comedy at its absolute best--I mean that. Watch only this scene if you must (and I dare you to skip the rest of the movie once you do). The actor opposite Matthau here is William Redfield, who pulls off the most brilliant of performances.

The other leading character, eventually, is Elaine May herself as the clumsy, naive, filthy rich scientist who Graham sets his sights on for salvation. She is terrific, as well, and like Woody Allen of the same time ("Bananas" is also 1971) seems to direct her own comic zaniness with a calculated distance. The rest of the shenanigans play out with the necessary twists, and it's consistently funny.

So, see this for its freshness even four decades later. No wonder it has a (small but growing) cult following. May has suffered historically from having made the bizarrely awkward "Ishtar" and for being forever linked in the early 1960s as the comedy partner of Mike Nichols, whose movie career overshadows almost everyone's. But here, at least, she shines on her own terms, without distraction.


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