Colin Higgins was one of Hollywood's most beloved directors & screenwriters. He is responsible for one of the most influential films of my youth- Harold & Maude.
Born in the South Pacific island of New Caledonia to an Australian mother & American father, Higgins moved with his family to Redwood, CA from Sydney in the 1950s. After attending Stanford University for a year, he dropped out to hitchhike across the country. His travels took him first to the Actors Studio in NYC & then to Europe where he volunteered for the Army as a sports reporter for The Stars & Stripes. He eventually returned to Stanford to receive his degree in English & later attended film school at UCLA. During his final year, he wrote the screenplay for Harold & Maude.
While today it is considered to be one of the greatest of Hollywood films, Harold & Maude was a huge flop when it opened during the Christmas season of 1971 with little fanfare or advertising. The unusual romance between a young man & a much older woman, starring Bud Cort & my muse- Ruth Gordon, struck a chord with audiences & soon became a cult favorite around the world. His stage version ran for just 9 performances on Broadway, but ran in Paris for 7 years.
Following the success of Harold & Maude, Higgins went on to write & direct some of the most successful films of the 1970s &1980s: Silver Streak, Foul Play, 9 to 5, & The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.
In 1986, Higgins established a foundation in his name. The Colin Higgins Courage Awards recognizes ordinary but remarkable individuals who have endured overwhelming hostility & hate, yet have handled themselves with the utmost grace as they educate & enlighten others about the LGBT experience. Each winner receives $10,000 as part of the prize.
In addition to the Courage Awards, the Foundation also funds film scholarships & has supported over 390 LGBT groups, ranging from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender outreach & AIDS prevention programs in places like as Fayetteville, Arkansas & Biloxi, Mississippi.
In 1986, he also completed a mini-series based on Shirley MacLaine's book Out on a Limb, which turned out to be his last film project. Higgins died of AIDS in 1988.