1941 - 1988

“Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing. Ah, my. How the world still dearly loves a cage.”

– Colin Higgins

Born on the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia, Colin Higgins's family moved to Australia and eventually California. There he attended Stanford on a scholarship but dropped out to hitchhike to New York to pursue acting. Finding little success, he eventually enlisted in the U.S. Army and worked overseas for the newspaper 'Stars and Stripes' until his discharge in 1965. Returning to the U.S., he re-entered Stanford where he wrote a rough treatment for the story of 'Harold and Maude' as part of his Master's thesis. Later, while working as a chauffeur and pool cleaner, Higgins showed his employer, producer Ed Rich, the screenplay. Rich was impressed and Paramount showed enthusiasm. Though it has since achieved cult status, the iconic Ruth Gordon-Bud Cort film version of 'Harold and Maude' was a commercial flop at the time of its release in 1971. Higgins next wrote the TV-Movie 'The Devil's Daughter' (1972), followed by a stage version of 'Harold and Maude' which ran in Paris for seven years. Major success came in 1976 with his screenplay for the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder blockbuster 'Silver Streak.' Higgins followed this by writing and directing Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase in 'Foul Play' (1978) before writing and directing Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin in the smash hit '9 to 5' in 1980. He then directed the film version of the popular stage musical 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas' in 1982, which starred Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. In 1986 Higgins adapted and co-produced a mini-series based on Shirley MacLaine's book Out on a Limb. The eminently successful and openly gay screenwriter and director established the Colin Higgins Foundation in 1986 to further his humanitarian goals. In addition to grant-making activities, the foundation bestows the Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award for bravery in the face of discrimination, intolerance and bigotry based on sexual orientation and/or gender. Higgins passed away from complications due to AIDS in Los Angeles on August 5, 1988. He was 47.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated France Australia United States

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present) Cold War (1945-1991) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution






Commemorations & Honors

Colin Higgins Foundation Established by Him (1986)

Annual Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award Created in His Honor (2000)


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell