Harry and Tonto

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Harry and Tonto
Directed by Paul Mazursky
Produced by Paul Mazursky
Written by Paul Mazursky
Josh Greenfeld
Starring Art Carney
Herbert Berghof
Ellen Burstyn
Geraldine Fitzgerald
Larry Hagman
Chief Dan George
Melanie Mayron
Joshua Mostel
Arthur Hunnicutt
Barbara Rhoades
Cliff DeYoung
Tonto (cat)
Music by Bill Conti
Cinematography Michael C. Butler
Edited by Richard Halsey
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • August 12, 1974 (1974-08-12)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $980,000
Box office $4.6 million (rentals)[1]

Harry and Tonto is a 1974 road movie written by Paul Mazursky and Josh Greenfeld and directed by Mazursky. It features Art Carney as Harry in an Academy Award-winning performance. Tonto is his pet cat.


Harry Coombes (Art Carney) is an elderly widower and retired teacher who is forced from his Upper West Side apartment in New York City when his building is condemned. He initially stays with his eldest son Burt's family in the suburbs but eventually chooses to travel cross country with his pet cat "Tonto" in tow.

Initially planning to fly to Chicago, he instead boards a long-distance bus, then buys a used car after Tonto wanders away from the bus. During his episodic journey, he befriends a Bible-quoting hitchhiker (Michael Butler) and underage runaway Ginger (Melanie Mayron), visits his daughter (Ellen Burstyn), a bookstore owner in Chicago, and drops in on an early sweetheart (Geraldine Fitzgerald) in a retirement home, where she suffers from dementia.

Continuing west, Harry accepts a ride with a health-food salesman (Arthur Hunnicutt), makes the acquaintance of an attractive hooker (Barbara Rhoades) on his way to Las Vegas, then spends a night in jail with a friendly Native American (Chief Dan George). He eventually makes it to Los Angeles, where he stays with his youngest son (Larry Hagman) before finding a place of his own with Tonto, who, much like Harry, is dealing the best he can with the hardships of old age.


Also appearing toward the end of the film as Celia is Sally K. Marr, mother of Lenny Bruce.


Cast as an elderly man, Carney, born in 1918, was actually only 13 years older than the actors who played his sons, Larry Hagman and Phil Bruns, and 14 years older than Ellen Burstyn, who played his daughter.

Awards and nominations

Carney beat Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino, for their performances in Murder on the Orient Express, Lenny, Chinatown and The Godfather Part II respectively, for the 1974 Academy Award for Best Actor. The film was nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

Carney also won the Golden Globe for Best Actor Musical/Comedy, while Greenfeld and Mazursky were nominated for Best Picture Musical/Comedy. The screenplay was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award as Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen. The film was also selected as one of the ten best of 1974 by the National Board of Review.

At the time, Carney noted that prior to his work in Harry and Tonto, he "never liked cats" but said he wound up getting along well with the cat in the film.[2]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p174.
  2. "Show Business: Art Who?". Time. April 21, 1975. Retrieved October 29, 2007. 

External links