glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Higgins, Colin  (1941-1988)   
page: 1  2  

Although Paramount Pictures was enthusiastic about the film, it was critically panned and commercially unsuccessful upon its initial release. Over time, however, Harold and Maude became profitable as well as a highly regarded cult classic.

Higgins wrote a novelization of his film script, which was published by Lippincott in 1971. He was also commissioned to adapt Harold and Maude for the stage by the French actor and director Jean-Louis Barrault as a vehicle for his wife, the actress Madeleine Renaud. Higgins worked on the French translation with the screenwriter and actor Jean-Claude Carrière; the two-act stage version ran in Paris for seven years.

During this time, Higgins also wrote the script for the occult television movie The Devil's Daughter (1973), which stars Shelley Winters.

In 1974, while back in Paris working on the Harold and Maude stage adaptation, Higgins met the experimental director Peter Brook. Brook commissioned Higgins to adapt for the stage Colin Turnbull's The Mountain People (1972), an anthropological study of a displaced Ugandan tribe known as the Ik. Higgins ultimately collaborated with the British dramatist Denis Cannan on the play The Ik, which Brook directed.

The play premiered in Paris in 1975, and was later produced in London and toured the United States in 1976 as a bicentennial gift from the French government.

Returning to the United States, Higgins then wrote the script for the Hollywood thriller Silver Streak (1976), which combined elements of romance, slapstick comedy, and suspense. Directed by Arthur Hiller, and starring Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, and Jill Clayburgh, the film was an enormous box office success.

Higgins was able to parlay the success of that film into his directorial debut. Written and directed by Higgins, Foul Play (1978) is a continuation of the comedy-thriller genre and an overt homage to the films of director Alfred Hitchcock. It stars Goldie Hawn, Dudley Moore, and the comedian Chevy Chase, in his first film role.

The film was another box office triumph for Higgins. The film was nominated for a 1979 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy, and Higgins himself was nominated for Best Screenplay.

Higgins continued his run of box office successes with the 1980 workplace comedy 9 to 5, which he directed and co-wrote with Patricia Resnick. The film stars Jane Fonda, out actress Lily Tomlin, and country music singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, in her feature-film debut, as three secretaries who fantasize about wreaking revenge against their sexist, egotistical boss, played by Dabney Coleman.

The film later inspired a short-run television series, as well as the 2009 Broadway musical, with music by Dolly Parton and directed by Joe Mantello.

Higgins again teamed up with Dolly Parton on Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), a screen adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. The original 1978 Broadway production had been co-directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune.

Higgins co-wrote the film script with the musical's original book writers, Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, with music and lyrics by Carol Hall.

The film also starred Burt Reynolds, Charles Durning, and Jim Nabors, whose homosexuality had been an open secret for decades, but who came out publicly in 2013.

The film was nominated for a 1983 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy.

Higgins next worked with the actress Shirley MacLaine, co-writing the script with her for a five-hour television miniseries Out on a Limb (1987), which he co-produced with Stan Margulies. This would prove to be Higgins's final project.

Based on MacLaine's 1983 autobiographical bestseller of the same name, Out on a Limb charts the actress's adventures in spirituality and self-discovery, including reincarnation and meditation. MacLaine stars as herself in the television film.

MacLaine wrote about her friendship with Higgins and their experience of turning her memoir into a television miniseries in another autobiographical book, It's All in the Playing (1987).

In 1985, while working on Out on a Limb, Higgins was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

In order to ensure that a major portion of his estate would go toward the eventual eradication of HIV/AIDS and to help improve the lives of glbtq youth in underserved communities, Higgins established the Colin Higgins Foundation in 1986.

In addition to awarding grants to glbtq programs and organizations "that foster and build leadership and empowerment," the Foundation also annually awards the Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award to "acknowledge remarkable young people who refuse to be silenced by societal norms and demonstrate profound courage in the face of hardship, intolerance and bigotry based on sexual orientation, gender identity and national origin."

Higgins died in his home from complications due to AIDS on August 5, 1988. He is buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery, in North Hollywood, California

Craig Kaczorowski

  <previous page   page: 1  2    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts

   Related Entries
arts >> Overview:  AIDS Activism in the Arts

In response to the AIDS epidemic, a number of activist groups, including Gran Fury and the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, have used art as a means to raise awareness about the epidemic.

arts >> Overview:  Film Directors

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual film directors have been a vital creative presence in cinema since the medium's inception over one hundred years ago.

literature >> Overview:  Musical Theater

There has always been homosexual involvement in American musical theatre and a homosexual sensibility even in straight musicals, and recently the Broadway musical has welcomed openly homosexual themes and situations.

arts >> Overview:  Screenwriters

Although film may be a director's rather than a writer's medium, gay and lesbian screenwriters have made significant contributions to both mainstream and independent film.

arts >> Mantello, Joe

Having staged a variety of well-received and award-winning productions, actor-turned-director Joe Mantello has emerged as one of the most accomplished artists now working in the American theater.

arts >> Tomlin, Lily

Less well-known for being herself than for the many memorable personages she "becomes" during her performances, comedienne Lily Tomlin has long been a supporter of gay and lesbian rights, but only recently came out herself.

social sciences >> The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project, a Los Angeles-based educational organization, operates the only national 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention hot line in the U.S. aimed at glbtq youth.

arts >> Tune, Tommy

The first person to have won Tonys in four different categories, dancer, director, and choreographer Tommy Tune is known for his choreographic sense of humor and for his celebration of the chorus line.


Collin Higgins Foundation.

Lyall, Sarah. "Colin Higgins, 47, Director and Writer of Hollywood Films." The New York Times (August 6, 1998): /colin-higgins-47-director-and-writer-of-hollywood-films.html

MacLaine, Shirley. It's All in the Playing. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.

Summers, Claude. "Jim Nabors' Belated Coming Out." (January 30, 2013):


    Citation Information
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Higgins, Colin   
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2014  
    Date Last Updated March 7, 2014  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.