Paul Mazursky's Countercultural Contributions to Film

Paul Mazursky got his start with end-of-the-’60s movies like "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" and "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice."

Writer/director Paul Mazursky, who died on June 30 at 84, made a huge impact early in his career, co-writing I Love You, Alice B. Toklas and directing Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

Mazursky apparently liked to name his female characters Alice. In I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968), written with Larry Tucker, Peter Sellers plays Harold, a square who falls for a hippie chick. Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young) bakes some pot brownies and leaves them on the counter without letting Harold know they're loaded. After he and his girlfriend Joyce (Joyce Van Patten) and their friends get hilariously stoned, Harold decides to change directions, starting with leaving Joyce. When Nancy invites her long-haired friends to crash at Harold's pad, he has a hard time digging the scene, so Nancy calls him "unhip." "I've got pot. I've got acid. I've got LSD cubes," Harold replies. "I'm so hip it hurt." I Love You, Alice B. Toklas ends on an existential note, with Harold not quite sure where his life is heading. By the way, the title is based on The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, published in 1954, which includes a recipe for "haschich fudge."

For his next movie, Mazursky both co-wrote (again with Tucker) and directed for the first time. Starring Natalie Wood, Elliot Gould, Robert Culp and Dyan Cannon, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) reflects the period's flirtation with free love and open marriages. Bob (Culp) and Carol (Wood) are the cool couple who encourage Ted (Gould) and Alice (Cannon) to share one big bed. When Bob offers a wooden peace pipe to the reluctant couple (see clip below), Ted asks, "Is this Acapulco Gold?" "Ah, no, this is beautiful downtown Burbank," Bob replies. "It's pretty heavy stuff." Mazursky let the marital-troubled conversations play out in this groovy flick.

Better known for his later work (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Moscow on the Hudson, Moon Over Parador, An Unmarried Woman), Mazursky made his mark at the turn of the '60s - a fertile time for auteurs like this influential Brooklyn-born writer/director.

Portions of this article are excerpted from Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.