The Long Shadow of Bud Cort

From Ashby to Altman and emo boys everywhere

The Long Shadow of Bud Cort

First things first. Bud Cort wants you to know that he does not have a bit part in Larry Hagman's 1972 magnum goopus Beware! The Blob. He is, in fact, nowhere to be found in the film, because he did not act in the film, despite decades of erroneous reports to the contrary. For those of us who, over the years and at the Alamo Drafthouse, have witnessed J.R.'s folly and occasionally whispered knowingly to each other, pointing at who's most likely some underpaid, ill-framed production assistant and/or boyfriend – "There he is, dude! 'Birthday Party Guest uncredited!' That's Bud Cort" – no, dude; it's not. (Now, that guy over there? The rotund, bald one in the scoutmaster getup? Hell, yeah. That's Dick Van Patten of TV's Eight Is Enough. He dies, or should.)

Bud Cort, while not in that particular wipeout, is, to be fair once more, fucking everywhere these days. Seriously. Every time you see a mopey emo kid slouching down the street, all black Chucks and pegged Emericas, or, even better, a nattily dressed young lad-about-town toting Rimbaud in one hand and a mini-DV cam in the other, wearing a nonexpression that magnificently says everything in a superlatively existential manner but could, in the wrong light or from the opposite end of the cradle, be mistaken for mere scream-age ennui – that, my friend, is Bud Cort, right there.

Or, rather, it's the echo of Bud Cort's doleful perfection in the role of the morbidly self-attentive teen Harold Chasen in Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude. Think about it. Necktie-partying Harold, stick-thin, immaculately depressed, oppressed, unloved, yet still daring to die to hope to love someday, maybe, please? With Ruth Gordon, no less.

Harold was the proto-goth; he had the eyes.

"But, you know," says Cort, from his home in California, "a lot of that was also the costume designer on the film, Bill Theiss, who met me in New York and took me shopping. We bought this great black trench coat and then lined it in red, and there's one little scene in the film where it kind of blows open in the wind and you see, just for a second, that little line of red. It's so subtle, but it's so cool."

Grave, chilling black masking warm, heart-beating red, with just a hint of innocence redacted. A lot like, say, Houston's airborne Brewster McCloud or M*A*S*H's wide-eyed Pvt. Lorenzo Boone, both courtesy of the missed Robert Altman.

And then there's Maude.

"I saw [Ruth Gordon] in a play called The Loves of Cass McGuire with the wonderful Irish actor Donal Donnelly, and I just remember seeing this little Minnie Mouse in a miniskirt and stiletto heels, racing across that stage from left to right, and I thought, 'Good God almighty, what a torpedo!' And it was Ruth. So it was nice when I finally got to meet her, when we did our screen test together. I said, 'I'm playing this part,' and she said, 'Yes, you are!' And then I told her I'd seen her in Cass McGuire, and she says, 'You're definitely playing the part.' So it pays to go to the theatre."

Bud Cort will be in attendance at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz on Tuesday, March 18, to introduce Harold and Maude at 7pm, Brewster McCloud at 9:45pm, and Ted & Venus at midnight. To purchase tickets, visit

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Bud Cort, Brewster McCloud, Harold and Maude, Ruth Gordon

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