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AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) PG
Few trips down memory lane have been filmed with the atmosphere and magical acuity as American Graffiti, George Lucas's loving ode to innocence and the long-lost car culture of the early 60s. The film, set on the last night of summer in 1962, follows the adventures of four people -- best friends Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) as they wrestle with big decisions about college and relationships, drag-strip king John Milner (Paul Le Mat) and uber-nerd Terry "The Toad" Fields (Charles Martin Smith).
American Graffiti... the movie that invented modern nostalgia and inspired many television series, including: Happy Days.
#77 on the AFI Top 100.
AMERICAN GRAFFITI was nominated for the Best Picture award.
Director George "STAR WARS" Lucas' first hit offers a timeless look at early sixty's teens. Lucas received a nomination for best directing.
"Where were you in '62?"
It's in the fall of 1962, and Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve Boland (Ron Howard) are about to leave for college. The film details the events that happen on that night before they are to spread their wings and leave the security of a small town and familiar people, some of whom they love deeply. The film skillfully intertwines 4 interrelated stories of 4 high school graduates, involving various eternal teenage problems, concerning love, change, growing up, and fitting in, all with a sense of humor and punctuated with '50's / '60's rock and roll music, as a back drop.
The screenplay is originally refreshing, and expertly blends humor with serious thoughts and drama, as it explores various issues that faced teenagers then, and now as well. Much of the film, set in the sleepy California town of Modesto, in 1962, is said to have been drawn from Lucas' high school period. He may have written the role of the aspiring writer, (Dreyfuss), to represent his young self.
The film, most of which was shot at night, on a shoestring budget, has a gritty, realistic look. This was achieved by shooting the film, whenever possible, in available light.
Because much of the film takes place in a single night. It gives the viewer a "real time" feel, similar to that recently achieved by the film, "Before Sunrise." Many of the film's characters have their lives changed in the course of the film, undergoing interesting "character arcs."
The talented cast, of basically unknown actors/actresses, under the inspired direction of George Lucas, did a terrific job, bringing to life this innovative, cutting edge screenplay. This movie helped just about everyone in the cast to advance their careers; not bad for a low-budget film!
This film made Dreyfuss a star, as his role really showcased his talent. A few years later, he won an Oscar for Best Actor in "The Goodbye Girl."
Many others also enjoyed fast career advancement from their performances in this film, as doors were opened to them. Cindy Williams, Ron Howard, and Mackenzie Phillips landed TV sitcoms. Ron Howard turned to directing, becoming very successful as well.
Harrison Ford landed a lot of films with Lucas, Speilburg, and others, going on to achieve star status, melting the hearts of women with his good looks, and wowing his fans with his ability to tell a good tale through his own style of acting.
Charles Martin Smith (Toad), while not becoming a huge star, has been able to make a living in acting, being in movies and television continually throughout the years.
Also, look for Suzanne Somers ("Step by Step"), in the small but important role of the mysterious blonde in the Thunderbird.
My favorite scene involves Curt Henderson (Dreyfuss) and the gang, 'the Pharaohs', that Curt inadvertently get involved with, when he accidentally scratches a gang member's car, by sitting on the hood of it. Threatened by the gang with being dragged behind their car if he refused, Dreyfuss does the required anti-social act which would gett back at the obnoxious Officer Holstein, by disabling Officer Holstein's car, as the police are sitting in it in a parking lot, with humorous results. The film is filled with fun and antics, such as this instance.
The film's soundtrack is filled with vintage 1950's and '60's music. These nostalgic, feel-good songs really set the tone for the picture.