A New Leaf

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Elaine May became the first woman to write, direct and star in a major American studio feature with A New Leaf. Critics loved the comedic confrontations of the film's two cartoon-like eccentrics, played with uncommon understatement by May, as a socially inept but wealthy botanist heiress, and Walter Matthau as a conniving and murderous misanthrope in pursuit of her fortune. Their encounters reminded reviewers of the droll sensibility that made the legendary Mike Nichols and Elaine May satiric sketches created years earlier for nightclubs and records so appealing.

For A New Leaf, May drew on classic Hollywood comedy traditions of Depression-era screwball comedy and slapstick. Despite a failed lawsuit by May to have her name removed from the credits because the released version did not match her vision of the film, audiences flocked to it and the film has become a cult classic. May's conflicts with Hollywood studios continued, eventually ending her career as a feature film director in 1987.

A New Leaf was added to the National Film Registry in 2019.

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