Harry and Tonto


by Tuna

The title roles in Harry and Tonto are played by Art Carney (Harry) as a 72-year-old widower who has retired from teaching English, and a cat (Tonto). Harry lives in Manhattan, walks Tonto on a leash, visits his friends and, other than getting mugged from time to time, lives a happy life until the city condemns his apartment. Harry is forcibly evicted, and goes to live with his son on Long Island. His presence there obviously puts a strain on the family, which has enough troubles of its own with a son who has opted for a speechless life of macrobiotics and psychedelics.

When Harry's best friend dies, he decides it is time to move on, so arranges to visit his daughter in Chicago. He is to fly, but won't let airport security take his cat carrier from him, and decides on a bus. He forces the bus driver to stop in the middle of nowhere so the cat can pee. When Tonto runs off, Harry refuses to leave, and the bus leaves without him. Then Harry buys a car, even though his license had expired decades earlier. On the way to his destination, he picks up two hitchhikers -- a young man, and Melanie Mayron. The young man eventually catches a different ride, but Melanie stays with Harry. She is a 16-year-old runaway heading for a commune in Colorado.

Thus begins one of the best road movies ever filmed. When Harry ascertains that he can't get along with his daughter, he heads off to another son who lives in California, but experiences a whole country full of adventures on the way. A few highlights of the many picaresque episodes include a visit to an old girlfriend, an encounter with a high-priced hooker, and a hilarious scene with Chief Dan George in a Las Vegas jail.

It will aid your enjoyment of the film if you lived through the early 70's, since all of the cultural references may not otherwise make sense, but everyone should enjoy this film, which was co-written and directed by Paul Mazursky, who is responsible for many of my personal favorite films, including Moscow on the Hudson, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Bob and Carol & Ted & Alice. Mazursky always had a knack for portraying the common man, but it was actually Art Carney, in a letter-perfect performance, that earned this film universal praise from critics, and a 7.3 score at IMDb. Carney won the best actor Oscar against one of the most distinguished line-ups in the history of the academy, including Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II, and Dustin Hoffman in Lenny!

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:



  • Melanie Mayron shows breasts.



Art Carney won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor. Mazursky was nominated for both of those and the WGA award for his screenplay, but walked away empty-handed.

3 TV Guide (of 4 stars)
4 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
100 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)




Estimated gross: $4.5 million






7.3 IMDB summary (of 10)






While the movie is not especially good, the DVD is full of special features, including the non-nude scenes shot for Spanish release, a commentary, and a choice of English or Spanish with optional English subtitles.