Brought to us as part of the Masters of Cinema series of films #131, A New Leaf was first released in 1971. It was the feature directorial debut of American comedy legend Elaine May (Primary Colours, The Birdcage) who wrote, directed and starred in the film.
Henry Graham (Walter Matthau – The Odd Couple, Grumpy Old Men) is a playboy who has been living the good life on the back of a trust fund left for him by his father. He has however been living somewhat beyond his means and a s a result suddenly finds himself completely destitute.
His long suffering “gentleman’s gentleman” Harold (George Rose – The Pirates of Penzance, A Night To Remember) has a plan to save him from this terrible fate. He is to ask his Uncle Harry (James Coco – Man of La Mancha) for a loan of $50,000, repayable within six weeks or he forfeits all of his belongings, during which time he must find and marry a wealthy woman and extract from her the money to pay back the loan.
Henry is not keen on this plan, he is very happy as a bachelor and doesn’t want to share anything with anybody. He is forced to agree because he has no other options, but as he has an unfortunate habit of running away from women it is rather tricky.
As luck would have it, with only a week left he discovers the perfect candidate, Miss Henrietta Lowell (Elaine May). She is an extremely wealthy and single professor of botany who is very shy and has had few suitors. She is also incredibly clumsy and “has to be hoovered every time she eats”.
What follows is an unlikely and very amusing love story as they struggle to deal with her attorney who is in love with her, the staff at her house and of course each other.
This is a thoroughly heartwarming film, very enjoyable to watch and as ever Walter Matthau is absolutely hilarious. Elaine May is also brilliant as the hapless and ineffectual Henrietta. The comedy is very dead pan and you do find yourself wondering quite a few times how on earth they kept a straight face while filming it.
A New Leaf is a real classic, this is an excellent package and will grace any collection.
“If you do not commit suicide sir then you will be poor. In the only real sense of the word sir in that you will not be rich. You will have a little after you’ve sold everything but in a country where every man is what he has, he who has very little is nobody very much.”
A New Leaf is available to buy now on Dual Format DVD and Blu-ray