Film: A New Leaf

A New Leaf is a 1971 Black Comedy written and directed by Elaine May. Walter Matthau plays Henry Graham, a spoiled, pompous man who has spent all of his inherited wealth and has no way of earning a living for himself by working, so he decides to marry into wealth. Henry marries botany professor Henrietta (played by May), and plots to murder her.

During the film's troubled post-production, May was unable to turn in a final cut of the film; after she refused to show Paramount a rough cut of the film, which was supposedly three hours long, the film was taken out of May's hands. Robert Evans shortened the film to 102 minutes, deleting some of the film's darker elements, which included a subplot in which Henry murders two men who are blackmailing Henrietta. The final released version presented the ending as a display of redemption and affirmation of love, with Henry falling in love with Henrietta, whereas the original ending essentially depicted Henry's fate of remaining with Henrietta as an Ironic Self-Inflicted Hell for his murders. Walter Matthau stated that he preferred the studio's cut of the film, rather than the longer, darker version.

Though well received by critics, it was not a commercial success.

For more on Elaine May's battles with film studios, read about Ishtar.

A New Leaf provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adorkable: Elaine May takes it up to eleven as the socially inept Henrietta. She forgets to remove price tags from her clothes; has to be vacuumed after she eats; spills multiple cups of tea in one sitting; and accidentally "puts her head through the arm hole" of a Grecian nightgown.
  • Black Comedy: Subjects such as attempted murder and suicide are played for laughs. In the director's cut, successful murder is also played for laughs.
  • Catch Phrase: "There's Carbon on the valves."
  • Executive Meddling: Recut by the studio without the director's involvement. Didn't deter the enjoyment of its fans and admirers, however.
  • Ironic Hell / Self-Inflicted Hell: Henry staying with Henrietta is this in the director's cut of the film.