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The Graduate(1967)

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teaser The Graduate (1967)

SYNOPSIS

Benjamin Braddock returns home to his wealthy parents in California after finishing college back East, uncertain of his future and unable to make any kind of decisive move in his life. He falls into an affair with an older woman, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner, but the relationship only depresses and confuses him more. Then he reconnects with the Robinsons' daughter, Elaine, and over her mother's violent objections begins to pursue her, discovering for the first time a sense of meaning and purpose in his life.

Director: Mike Nichols
Producer: Lawrence Turman
Screenplay: Calder Willingham, Buck Henry, based on the novel by Charles Webb
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: Sam O'Steen
Production Design: Richard Sylbert
Cast: Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson), Dustin Hoffman (Ben Braddock), Katharine Ross (Elaine Robinson), William Daniels (Mr. Braddock), Murray Hamilton (Mr. Robinson), Elizabeth Wilson (Mrs. Braddock).
C-106m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

Why THE GRADUATE is Essential

After more than 40 years The Graduate remains so iconic that images, lines, and references, both direct and oblique, keep turning up throughout popular culture. It's a measure of the film's lasting impact and appeal that it's still discussed, debated, and dissected among scholars, critics, and fans; some see it as a groundbreaking, sharp satire of the younger generation seeking to break free of the stultifying hypocrisy of their parents while others view it as a superficially clever and essentially conservative take on the youth culture in bloom at the time. The truth probably lies in the middle...or somewhere else altogether.

Witness the various reactions to the final scene alone: Is it an expression of love winning the day even as it faces an uncertain future? Or a cop-out that virtually advertises the most sacred notions of chaste courtship blooming into "the lasting and conventionally monogamous relationship," as one critic put it. Director Mike Nichols has said that scene is the one thing he most likes about the film, the fact that Ben and Elaine don't know what to say to each other, the sense that they're ill-prepared for whatever lies ahead. To him, this last moment shows that Ben and Elaine will end up like their parentsnothing changed, little gained from a moment of sheer impulse.

In fact, Nichols has said The Graduate is not at all about the "generation gap," as it is so often perceived, but about the idea of objectsthe material things people strive to acquire and cling to in their lives, the objects through which people become objects themselves. For him, Benjamin's story is not one of youth in rebellion but of someone trying to become "active instead of passive" and struggling "not to be used as an object" like everything surrounding him.

Despite critical analysis and revision, and Nichols' statements notwithstanding, The Graduate remains in our cultural memory as the quintessential youth picture of its time; it is a portrait of New America (the 60s) versus Old (the 50s), with themes, narrative devices, and cinematic techniques influenced by European and avant-garde movies and popularized in television commercials. Its soundtrack alone became a huge bestselling album, featuring pop songs that, even when not obviously connected to the actions or the characters on screen, added a certain tone. This is a method used (some say overused) to this day, particularly in movies about love and angst among younger generations. Regardless of what one reads into the movie's ideas, intentions, and effects, it certainly signaled a fresh, freer, and more daring Hollywood, paving the way for the new directors and bold films that emerged in the following decade.

In his insightful look at the cinema era that came to be known as "New Hollywood," Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock-'n'-Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, Peter Biskind noted that, along with Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Graduate "sent tremors through the industry," kicking off a decade when film directors enjoyed more power and prestige than they ever had before. Fueled by the auteur theory that had emerged from France in the 1950s and was first popularized in this country in the 1960s by Andrew Sarris of the Village Voice, these young filmmakers were unembarrassed, as Biskind said, "to assume the mantle of artists." They also developed their own personal style that would be as much of the film's attraction as the story and characters. Already established as a promising young director with his debut film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Nichols became one of the most powerful and influentialand the most highly paidof this new breed, thanks to the huge commercial success of The Graduate, his sophomore effort.

With these new directors came a new generation of actors, Dustin Hoffman one of the foremost among them, who broke the mold of the traditional movie star and brought to their roles a new candor, ethnicity, and eagerness to dive deep into complex, even unlikable characters. While Hoffman would go much farther on this track in films to come, in The Graduate he created a lasting resonance as Ben Braddock that made him an overnight sensation and set him on the road to becoming one of our biggest stars and most respected actors. Whether the film reflected the social-protest movement of the decade or romanticized youth for an older mass audience, it was undeniably a phenomenon of the era.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser The Graduate (1967)

Pop Culture 101: THE GRADUATE

Charles Webb wrote a sequel to his famous book but did not publish it for several years because he had sold all the film rights to his novel and any sequels or other writings about the characters; the rights are now owned by France's Canal+. That meant the studio could film the sequel without his permission and with no compensation to Webb. The book, Home School was finally published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2008 and drew good reviews for its satire of the counter-culture in the years immediately following Vietnam. The story is set eleven years after the original. Ben and Elaine are now married suburbanites living in Westchester County, New York, and home schooling their sons, their single concession to an alternative life. (Webb and his wife also home-schooled their children at a time when it was still not legal, and had to move frequently to escape the consequences.) The situation gets out of hand when Mrs. Robinson shows up at their door and Ben and Elaine, in an effort to get rid of her, invite into their home an obnoxious hippie family. The book slyly skewers the notion that The Graduate was about youthful rebellion by portraying Ben and Elaine as a typically square suburban couple.

The Graduate was adapted into a play by Terry Johnson that began its run in London, then ran on Broadway in 2002-03, starring Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson, Jason Biggs as Ben, and Alicia Silverstone as Elaine.

The lines "Plastics." and "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me." are #42 and #63 on the American Film Institute's list of the Greatest Movie Quotes.

In the movie Rumor Has It... (2005), Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who learns that her family was the inspiration for the book and film of The Graduate. Shirley MacLaine plays her grandmother, who may be the basis for Mrs. Robinson, and Kevin Costner plays a man who could be the inspiration for Ben Braddock.

In (500) Days of Summer (2009), the narrator says that Tom, the male lead, has a notion of love and romance based on a complete misreading of the ending of The Graduate, his favorite film. Later in the movie, Tom and Summer, the woman he's in love with, go to see the movie. She breaks down crying at the end and, probably reading the film correctly, ends her relationship with him.

In one episode of the offbeat TV comedy series Northern Exposure, a character is told to pursue his love the way Ben does Elaine, and we see him do it in a dream sequence.

In The Player (1992), Buck Henry, who co-wrote the screenplay, pitches a sequel to a studio executive in which Ben and Elaine are married and Mrs. Robinson lives with them after suffering a stroke.

The ending of The Graduate was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons animated TV series, and the whole third act of the movie was spoofed in Wayne's World 2 (1993).

The TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which off-screen characters make fun of the movies being screened, featured famous dialogue from The Graduate, either directly or slightly altered to suit the movie being shown.

The list of other direct or oblique references to The Graduate, and allusions to it that fans swear they've spotted in film and on television, is too long to detail every incident. There have been multiple instances of characters discussing the movie (e.g., A Small Circle of Friends, 1980; Slaves to the Underground, 1997); shots that mimic the famous poster with Ben framed inside Mrs. Robinson's naked leg; spoofs of the final wedding scene; and uses of the line "Are you trying to seduce me?" In the various Shrek movies alone, there have been several references.

It's a sign of the impact of The Graduate that on the film's "Movie Connections" page of the Internet Movie Database users have listed dozens of stories in which an older person seduces a younger one as references to this movie, when in fact such seductions have taken place throughout film history.

Although used repeatedly throughout The Graduate, only a small portion of the Paul Simon song "Mrs. Robinson" is heard on the soundtrack. Simon wrote additional verses and altered the lyrics; the new version was included in the 1968 Simon and Garfunkel album Bookends. The single, released the same year, hit #1 on the Billboard charts and won the duo a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1969.

The scenes in the Taft Hotel were actually filmed in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was assassinated less than six months after the film's release.

The son of Charles Webb, the author of the book on which the film was based, is a performance artist who once cooked a copy of his father's novel and ate it with cranberry sauce.

When The Graduate was first released in Portugal, it was cut to end with Ben behind the glass at the church, watching Elaine get married. The ruling military regime at the time did this to preserve Catholic doctrine and to let no suggestion pass that church, state, and parents could be opposed.

Webb was named in a British publication in 2006 in its list of "World's Biggest Mugs And the Blunders That Cost Them a Fortune" for signing away all film rights to his book and its characters for $20,000. Also named in the article were Dick Rowe, the Decca Records executive who passed on signing the Beatles, and Kane Kramer, who invented the precursor to the iPod in 1979 then let the patent lapse.

In the 1970s, a bus on the campus of Kent State University bore a plaque that said "Movie Star," claiming it was the bus used in the final scene when Ben escapes with Elaine.

by Rob Nixon

back to top
teaser The Graduate (1967)

Pop Culture 101: THE GRADUATE

Charles Webb wrote a sequel to his famous book but did not publish it for several years because he had sold all the film rights to his novel and any sequels or other writings about the characters; the rights are now owned by France's Canal+. That meant the studio could film the sequel without his permission and with no compensation to Webb. The book, Home School was finally published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2008 and drew good reviews for its satire of the counter-culture in the years immediately following Vietnam. The story is set eleven years after the original. Ben and Elaine are now married suburbanites living in Westchester County, New York, and home schooling their sons, their single concession to an alternative life. (Webb and his wife also home-schooled their children at a time when it was still not legal, and had to move frequently to escape the consequences.) The situation gets out of hand when Mrs. Robinson shows up at their door and Ben and Elaine, in an effort to get rid of her, invite into their home an obnoxious hippie family. The book slyly skewers the notion that The Graduate was about youthful rebellion by portraying Ben and Elaine as a typically square suburban couple.

The Graduate was adapted into a play by Terry Johnson that began its run in London, then ran on Broadway in 2002-03, starring Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson, Jason Biggs as Ben, and Alicia Silverstone as Elaine.

The lines "Plastics." and "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me." are #42 and #63 on the American Film Institute's list of the Greatest Movie Quotes.

In the movie Rumor Has It... (2005), Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who learns that her family was the inspiration for the book and film of The Graduate. Shirley MacLaine plays her grandmother, who may be the basis for Mrs. Robinson, and Kevin Costner plays a man who could be the inspiration for Ben Braddock.

In (500) Days of Summer (2009), the narrator says that Tom, the male lead, has a notion of love and romance based on a complete misreading of the ending of The Graduate, his favorite film. Later in the movie, Tom and Summer, the woman he's in love with, go to see the movie. She breaks down crying at the end and, probably reading the film correctly, ends her relationship with him.

In one episode of the offbeat TV comedy series Northern Exposure, a character is told to pursue his love the way Ben does Elaine, and we see him do it in a dream sequence.

In The Player (1992), Buck Henry, who co-wrote the screenplay, pitches a sequel to a studio executive in which Ben and Elaine are married and Mrs. Robinson lives with them after suffering a stroke.

The ending of The Graduate was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons animated TV series, and the whole third act of the movie was spoofed in Wayne's World 2 (1993).

The TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which off-screen characters make fun of the movies being screened, featured famous dialogue from The Graduate, either directly or slightly altered to suit the movie being shown.

The list of other direct or oblique references to The Graduate, and allusions to it that fans swear they've spotted in film and on television, is too long to detail every incident. There have been multiple instances of characters discussing the movie (e.g., A Small Circle of Friends, 1980; Slaves to the Underground, 1997); shots that mimic the famous poster with Ben framed inside Mrs. Robinson's naked leg; spoofs of the final wedding scene; and uses of the line "Are you trying to seduce me?" In the various Shrek movies alone, there have been several references.

It's a sign of the impact of The Graduate that on the film's "Movie Connections" page of the Internet Movie Database users have listed dozens of stories in which an older person seduces a younger one as references to this movie, when in fact such seductions have taken place throughout film history.

Although used repeatedly throughout The Graduate, only a small portion of the Paul Simon song "Mrs. Robinson" is heard on the soundtrack. Simon wrote additional verses and altered the lyrics; the new version was included in the 1968 Simon and Garfunkel album Bookends. The single, released the same year, hit #1 on the Billboard charts and won the duo a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1969.

The scenes in the Taft Hotel were actually filmed in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was assassinated less than six months after the film's release.

The son of Charles Webb, the author of the book on which the film was based, is a performance artist who once cooked a copy of his father's novel and ate it with cranberry sauce.

When The Graduate was first released in Portugal, it was cut to end with Ben behind the glass at the church, watching Elaine get married. The ruling military regime at the time did this to preserve Catholic doctrine and to let no suggestion pass that church, state, and parents could be opposed.

Webb was named in a British publication in 2006 in its list of "World's Biggest Mugs And the Blunders That Cost Them a Fortune" for signing away all film rights to his book and its characters for $20,000. Also named in the article were Dick Rowe, the Decca Records executive who passed on signing the Beatles, and Kane Kramer, who invented the precursor to the iPod in 1979 then let the patent lapse.

In the 1970s, a bus on the campus of Kent State University bore a plaque that said "Movie Star," claiming it was the bus used in the final scene when Ben escapes with Elaine.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser The Graduate (1967)

Charles Webb, author of the original book, and his partner have been described as "the world's most notoriously eccentric arts couple." Originally named Eva, she changed her name to Fred in solidarity with a California self-help group of the same name for men with low self-esteem. Their first date was in a graveyard, and they married soon after, but later divorced in protest of the lack of marriage rights for gay couples, although they are still together. Fiercely anti-materialistic, Webb donated the book's copyright to the Anti-Defamation League. The couple gave away their tickets to the film's premiere. They eventually settled in England, where Webb continued to write and care for his "ex-wife," who suffered a nervous breakdown in 2001.

Charles Webb's mother-in-law, Jo Rudd, bitterly resented the implication that she was the real-life Mrs. Robinson and denied it vehemently, as did Webb, until her death.

Mike Nichols was offered The Graduate as his debut film but decided to do Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) first. His reputation was very high coming off that project, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, then the most in-demand star team in movies; that first effort earned five Academy Awards and an additional eight nominations, including one for Nichols.

Buck Henry began his career on television. He and Mel Brooks created the spy spoof series Get Smart, for which Henry won an Emmy. This was the first of three films he wrote for Mike Nichols. They also made Catch-22 (1970) and The Day of the Dolphin (1973), which like The Graduate, had been adapted from novels.

Co-writer Calder Willingham was a respected and sometimes controversial novelist and playwright from Atlanta. His book End as a Man was made into the film The Strange One (1957), the screen debut of Ben Gazzara. His first screenplay was for Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957), where he first worked with Kirk Douglas. It was a relationship that would get him employed as the scriptwriter on the actor's next project, The Vikings (1958) as well as uncredited work on some scenes in Spartacus (1960), also directed by Kubrick. He wrote another script for Dustin Hoffman, Little Big Man (1970), and adapted his own novel based on his experiences in small town Georgia, Rambling Rose (1991). Willingham died in 1995 at the age of 72 and was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2008.

Much of the feel of The Graduate comes from the production design, especially in the earlier suburban California sequences and in the scenes in the hotel where Ben meets Mrs. Robinson. The design was the work of Richard Sylbert, a six-time Academy Award nominee and two-time winner. His first nomination and win was for Mike Nichols' first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. He became the first production designer to take the job of chief of production when he was selected to succeed Robert Evans at Paramount. Among his other memorable films are The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974), Reds (1981), Oscar®-winner Dick Tracy (1990), as well as four other Nichols films. The annual production design award presented by the Hollywood Film Festival was named in his honor after his death in 2002.

Editor Sam O'Steen worked on 12 of Mike Nichols' films, from Nichols' first, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, to Wolf (1994). Among his notable films without Nichols are Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and the Dustin Hoffman drama Straight Time (1978).

Dustin Hoffman was only paid $17,000 to make The Graduate and after taxes and living expenses, he had only $4,000 left. An overnight success in The Graduate, he nevertheless found himself collecting unemployment checks after its release. It wasn't long, however, before he landed his next major feature role, Ratso in Midnight Cowboy (1969), a part Mike Nichols warned him not to take for fear it would ruin his image and emerging career.

"No one had any idea what it was going to be. Even after the film was made, they had no idea. They did not know until they showed it to a general audience at a preview. We never saw any rushes." Dustin Hoffman, interviewed by Leonard Probst for his book Off Camera.

"It's Nichols's picture, his victory, not mine. I look terrific up therenobody will ever take such care with lighting on me again, I'm surebut I don't have much feeling of personal accomplishment about it." Dustin Hoffman, interview in the New York Times, December 30, 1967

The Graduate was released in December 1967 in time for Academy Award consideration, following its New York premiere. It was immediately a huge hit, bringing in more than $40 million on its initial release. It was the top grossing movie of 1968, and has reportedly brought in well over $100,000 in the years since its release. For a time, it was ranked third, after Gone with the Wind (1939) and The Sound of Music (1965) on Variety's list of all-time box office champions. With domestic gross receipts adjusted for inflation, it still ranks at #18 of the all-time box office champs.

"I went to the theater, a regular showing [of The Graduate], and the theater was full and actually, it was more than full. They were sitting on the steps, breaking the fire laws." Buck Henry in a December 9, 2002, interview on National Public Radio

Anne Bancroft was actually only six years older than Dustin Hoffman, who was a 30-year-old playing 20.

Dustin Hoffman was named after silent screen star Dustin Farnum.

Nichols said he felt bad for the gentle and very shy Hoffman, who became an instant celebrity after The Graduate, because he would see his great discomfort and reticence while being interviewed on television. "He seemed exactly like the boy in the picture."

Charles Grodin was reportedly cast as Ben but didn't play the part due to salary disagreements. Nichols still offered him a role in his next picture, Catch-22.

After working in New York for a few years, Hoffman went to Los Angeles for The Graduate and found the atmosphere there depressing. "There is so much class consciousness out there you can cut it," he said in an interview about six months after the film's release. "You walk into those shrouded temple studios, and nobody talks to the crew, and the extras are treated like scum."

Richard Dreyfuss has a bit part in The Graduate as the Berkeley boarding house tenant who offers to call the cops on Ben. It was his second (uncredited) feature film bit, after Valley of the Dolls (1967).

The famous poster shot of Benjamin framed by Mrs. Robinson's leg was not taken with Anne Bancroft's leg but that of then- unknown model Linda Gray, who years later starred in the TV series Dallas; she would play Mrs. Robinson in the London stage version.

According to Dustin Hoffman, speaking at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts graduation in 2003, his old friend and former roommate Gene Hackman was cast as Mr. Robinson but was fired after a few weeks of work. Mike Farrell, later famous as B.J. Hunnicut on the TV series M*A*S*H, made his film debut here in an uncredited bit as a bellhop in the hotel.

by Rob NixonMemorable Quotes from THE GRADUATE

MR. BRADDOCK: What is it, Ben?
BEN: I'm just
MR. BRADDOCK: Worried.
BEN: Well...
MR. BRADDOCK: About what?
BEN: I guess about my future.
MR. BRADDOCK: What about it?
BEN: I don't know. I want it to be...
MR. BRADDOCK: To be what?
BEN: Different.

MR. MCGUIRE: Ben.
BEN: Mr. McGuire.
MR. MCGUIRE: Ben.
BEN: Mr. McGuire.
MR. MCGUIRE: Come with me for a minute. I want to talk to you. ... I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
BEN: Yes, sir.
MR. MCGUIRE: Are you listening?
BEN: Yes, sir, I am.
MR. MCGUIRE: Plastics.
BEN (after a pause): Exactly how do you mean?

BEN: Are you always this much afraid of being alone?
MRS. ROBINSON: Yes.
BEN: Well, why can't you just lock the doors and go to bed?
MRS. ROBINSON: I'm very neurotic.

BEN: For God's sake, Mrs. Robinson. Here we are, you got me into your house, you give me a drink, you put on music, now you start opening your personal life to me and tell me your husband won't be home for hours.
MRS. ROBINSON: So?
BEN: Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me.

CLERK: Are you here for an affair, sir?
BEN: What?
CLERK: The Singleman party?
BEN: Ah yes, the Singleman party.
CLERK: It's in the main ballroom.
BEN: Ah. Thank you.

BEN: I think you're the most attractive of all my parents' friends.

MR. BRADDOCK: Would you mind telling me what that four years of college was for, why all that work?
BEN: You got me.

MRS. ROBINSON: How about art?
BEN: Art! That's a good subject. You start it off.
MRS. ROBINSON: You start it off, I don't know anything about it.
BEN: Well, what do you want to know about it? Are you interested more in modern art or in classical art?
MRS. ROBINSON: Neither.
BEN: You're not interested in art?
MRS. ROBINSON: No.
BEN: Then why do you want to talk about it?
MRS. ROBINSON: I don't.

BEN: What was your major subject?
MRS. ROBINSON: Art.
BEN: Art? I thought you... Hnh, I guess you kinda lost interest in it along the way.

BEN: So old Elaine Robinson got started in a Ford!

BEN: I'm not proud that I spend my time with a broken-down alcoholic.

MR. BRADDOCK: This whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.
BEN: Oh no, it's completely baked. It's a decision I made.
MR. BRADDOCK: Well what makes you think she wants to marry you?
BEN: She doesn't. To be perfectly honest, she doesn't like me.

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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teaser The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate's journey from page to screen began with the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb, son of a well-to-do San Francisco doctor. In a 2005 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Webb acknowledged that the Benjamin Braddock character was based on himself and Elaine was modeled after his real-life spouse, an artist known as Fred. Webb denied Mrs. Robinson was Fred's mother and insisted the character grew out of a fantasy he had about one of his parents' friends. The book had its genesis when Webb went to the Pasadena Library one day and jotted down a short plot outline "to get that person out of my system."

Webb said he wrote the novel partly to win his mother's approval, but it didn't work. His father was furious about the book's publication and what he considered shame being brought to his family. But when The Graduate came out, according to Webb, his father finally began bragging about him.

Producer Lawrence Turman read about the novel in the New York Times, picked up a copy, and decided he could make a good film out of it while remaining almost entirely faithful to the book.

Webb sold the film rights to the book for $20,000, a good sum at the time but far short of the millions he might have earned by holding out for percentages. It was typical of his anti-materialist philosophy and attitude toward his parents and the wealth he grew up with, all of which found its way into the book. He turned down a huge inheritance from his father, gave thousands of dollars to a range of causes and charities over the years, and even donated the book's royalties to the Anti-Defamation League, preferring to live life on the most meager means.

Joseph E. Levine was the epitome of the independent producer who turned out top-grossing films after the collapse of the Hollywood studio system. After producing a number of hits, he formed his own company in the late 1960s, Avco Embassy, and The Graduate was his first project.

This was actually going to be Mike Nichols' first film, following his successful career as part of a comedy team with Elaine May and then as a Broadway director. He had put the word out that he wanted to direct, but he wasn't interested in the scripts he was offered. Then Lawrence Turman brought him The Graduate. He agreed but at the same time got the chance to direct the film adaptation of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), so he decided to do that first.

Nichols said what convinced him he wanted to make The Graduate was one moment in the book, when Ben and Mrs. Robinson are trying to have a conversation and she is reluctant to discuss art. We find out shortly after that art was her major in college, where she met her husband and became pregnant. "That tiny moment allowed me to see a Mrs. Robinson I knew very wella woman who had been one kind of person and had consciously moved away from what she was into something for which she had contempt, a woman who had a very low opinion of herself, who was now almost parodying herself out of anger with herself for having left who she had been," Nichols told Leonard Probst in an interview for the book Off Camera.

Buck Henry was one of the writers brought in to adapt the book to the screen. Henry had been working in television, most notably on the development of the comedy series Get Smart with Mel Brooks. He had written one screenplay, The Troublemaker (1964), an independent production made with members of The Premise, a comedy group Henry joined in 1960. It displayed much of his satiric talent and offbeat humor but lacked a tight narrative structure in order to allow improvisation by the cast. Adapting Webb's book gave him a good structure as a starting point.

Another writer who was brought in to develop the script was Atlanta-born novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Calder Willingham.

Much of the book's dialogue made it into the film version of The Graduate. One of the biggest alterations was the novel's ending. In the book, Ben snatches Elaine away from her wedding just in time. In the screenplay, she has already taken her vows, but she runs off with Ben anyway.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to cast," Nichols said in an interview during pre-production. "These people are so far removed from stock characters."

Warren Beatty, Charles Grodin, Robert Redford, and Burt Ward (who played Robin on the TV series Batman) were all considered for the role of Benjamin.

Nichols had worked with Redford on Broadway and favored him, but producer Lawrence Turman found Redford to be too much the classic matinee idol and insisted the story would only work if Ben were 21-going-on-16 and sexually insecure. About a third of the way into Redford's test, Nichols turned to Turman and conceded he was right.

Dustin Hoffman said his test for the role of Ben was a disaster but that Nichols saw something in him that was right for the movie. "Panic, maybe?" Nichols said Hoffman was chosen because he had a face that suggested suffering. Hoffman was sure he was wrong for the role, however, because after reading the book he found Ben to be "a young, conventional, square-jawed Time magazine Man of the Year type."

Nichols said he tested a number of actors who were the actual age of the character, but he chose 30-year-old Hoffman because he had enough distance from his early 20s to have an attitude about that period in his life and "get rid of that self-pity."

Dustin Hoffman had worked on stage and appeared in some television programs and had only one other film role to his credit, a small part in The Tiger Makes Out (1967). He was already cast to play the playwright Franz Liebkind in Mel Brooks' The Producers (1968) when he was offered the part of Ben, so he asked to be released from his contract. Brooks, whose wife, Anne Bancroft, was going to play Mrs. Robinson, agreed, almost certain Nichols would reject Hoffman.

Hoffman was told before his test that all the other actors who tested had agreed to a six-picture contract, but he refused, telling his agent he would rather do it for free and not be obligated to appear in pictures he didn't like. He ended up getting paid $17,000 without further contracted films.

Patricia Neal, Susan Hayward, and Doris Day were considered for the part of Mrs. Robinson. In her autobiography, Day wrote that she was offered the part but turned it down because it offended her sense of values. "I could not see myself rolling around in the sheets with a young man half my age whom I'd seduced."

Nichols said he also discussed the part with Jeanne Moreau but realized a non-American Mrs. Robinson would throw the whole picture off balance.

Candice Bergen was considered for the role of Elaine, Sally Field allegedly tested for it, and Patty Duke is reported to have turned it down.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser The Graduate (1967)

The budget for The Graduate was approximately $3 million.

Director Mike Nichols says the scene of Ben's seduction by Mrs. Robinson "was all about him being stalked....We talked about it being a jungle, and it was a jungle. There were all these plants and the Beverly Hills garden behind the glass that surrounded the sun porch. And we talked about her being the tiger in the jungle and she had a tiger-striped dress on and it was all built to be a trap, a tender trap. We wanted to find a way to express the fact that she was being provocative... And there was her leg and it was up and it seemed logical."

Hoffman found it difficult to make The Graduate because he was used to acting on stage. Nichols would tell him what he was doing was good but to try it again without doing anything. Hoffman said he soon adapted to Nichols' minimalist style, which turned out to be just right for his character.

In the scene of Benjamin's first sexual encounter with Mrs. Robinson in the hotel room, no one knew Dustin Hoffman was going to grab Anne Bancroft's breast. He was inspired to do it by recalling schoolboys' attempts to nonchalantly grab girls' breasts. When he did it, Nichols starting laughing loudly, and Hoffman began to crack up, too. He covered by turning away, walking to the wall, and banging his head against it. Although surprised by his action, Bancroft never missed a beat and continued with the scene.

Many of the exterior campus shots of The Graduate were actually the University of Southern California in Los Angeles which served as a stand-in for UC Berkeley. Some of the scenes, however, were actually filmed on the Northern California campus and in the town of Berkeley.

The wedding scene was filmed at a Methodist church in the town of LaVerne, a suburb 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Hoffman later commented he was uneasy about doing the scene in which he pounds on the glass because a church official was watching the filming with obvious disapproval.

Nichols said the use of images to suggest Ben is "underwater" and out of his depth in lifee.g., the fish tank, the pool, the scuba outfitwas deliberate, although he didn't care if anyone noted this or not. He also emphasized the use of glass as barriers with people cut off from each other and the life around them.

Nichols and production designer Richard Sylbert talked at length about how to accurately capture the look of middle class Southern California in a unique way and not just what had been seen in movies for 20 years, "like a Doris Day picture." In a later interview, he said, "California is like America in italics, like a parody of everything that's most dangerous to us."

Anne Bancroft loved Nichols' description of Mrs. Robinson as someone who was angry with herself for giving up who she really was for wealth and security, the moment in the book that really captured his interest. When they shot the scene of Mrs. Robinson and Ben discussing art in the hotel room, Bancroft had forgotten Nichols' initial revelation about the character but managed to capture that anger and regret on subsequent takes. Nichols thought this was very important because he really wanted to drive home the point about the character having bargained away her life. "That seems to me the great American danger we're all in, that we'll bargain away the experience of being alive for the appearance of it."

The Graduate takes a different visual approach before and after Ben falls in love with Elaine. The first part is meant to have a cold, glassy, plastic look, Nichols explained, while the romantic scenes were done with long lenses and diffused shots (although he later noted it was time to retire that pictorial style for good).

Cinematographer Robert Surtees was given license to experiment with filming techniques, such as shooting Dustin Hoffman running toward the camera in extreme depth with a telephoto lens. Even though Hoffman is running very fast as his character races to prevent Elaine's marriage to someone else, the effect of the shot is that he is furiously running in place, getting nowhere.

Mike Nichols has often remarked about how Ben and Elaine in the final scene looked frightened and confused after their initial elation over escaping on the bus. Yet during an appearance on Inside the Actor's Studio in 1994, he said the looks on their faces were due to being nervous and scared after he shouted at them to laugh during the scene. He liked it so much, he decided to keep the cameras rolling and cut it into the final movie.

Nichols wanted to change the notion of a musical score by using popular songs that didn't necessarily correlate to the scene but set a certain mood. He secured the rights to several previously released Simon and Garfunkel recordings. Paul Simon also wrote one song specifically for the film, "Mrs. Robinson" (although some sources say it was a song he was already working on with the tentative title "Mrs. Roosevelt"). Dave Grusin, who had written music mostly for television shows prior to this, was hired to compose the incidental score for scenes not using Simon and Garfunkel songs.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate (1967) is one of those films that's been quoted and parodied and referenced so often that you might think you've seen it even if you haven't. Even if you have it's a film that's always good for another viewing, especially with a clear eye. The Graduate packed in the audiences in 1967 and gained seven Oscar nominations but it really hasn't dated much.

In his breakthrough role, Dustin Hoffman plays Benjamin, the graduate of the title. He returns to his home in the California suburbs where his family pressures him to make a decision about his immediate future. To complicate matters Benjamin is being pursued by one of his parents' best friends, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), while falling in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). It's a classic triangle situation kept fresh by a sly sense of humor and top-notch acting.

Casting the lead part of Benjamin turned out to be tough. Robert Redford turned it down because he didn't think he could do it justice so Charles Grodin ended up being cast only to quit over money issues. By the time Dustin Hoffman got the part on the strength of a screen test he had already committed to a different film but was able to break his agreement. After all, it would have been hard to say no to a director as innovative as Mike Nichols. He'd done famous comedy routines with Elaine May and made a mark on Broadway before making his directorial debut in 1966 with the film version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Nichols had actually been planning The Graduate earlier, deciding on doing it because of a scene in Charles Webb's original novel where he realized Mrs. Robinson would be "the most interesting person in the picture." Casting that role was a bit easier since Anne Bancroft had been in his mind, though Jeanne Moreau was briefly considered. Also, keep an eye out for the film debuts of Richard Dreyfuss and Mike Farrell (Capt. Hunnicut on TV'sMASH).

Buck Henry and Calder Willingham wrote the Oscar-nominated script, which was followed very closely by Nichols since he didn't believe in improvising. The cast spent three weeks in rehearsals to get it right. (As a joke, in Robert Altman's The Player (1992), Buck Henry can be seen pitching a remake of The Graduate to studio executives.) The Simon and Garfunkel songs were added both as commentary and as a marketing scheme. Paul Simon had written a fragment specifically for the film but was asked to expand it into a full song.

Producer: Lawrence Turnman
Director: Mike Nichols
Screenplay: Buck Henry, Calder Willingham
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Costume Design: Patricia Zipprodt
Film Editing: Sam OSteen
Original Music: Dave Grusin
Principal Cast: Dustin Hoffman (Benjamin Braddock), Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson), William Daniels (Mr. Braddock), Elizabeth Wilson (Mrs. Braddock), Murray Hamilton (Mr. Robinson).
C-106m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Lang Thompson

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teaser The Graduate (1967)

Awards & Honors

The Graduate won the Best Director Oscar and nominations for Best Picture, Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Actress (Anne Bancroft), Supporting Actress (Katharine Ross), Cinematography (Robert Surtees), Screenplay (Calder Willingham, Buck Henry)

Other awards for The Graduate include:British Academy Awards for Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Editing (Sam O'Steen), and Most Promising Newcomer (Hoffman); nominations for Actress and Supporting Actress
Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement
Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy, Actress in a Musical or Comedy, Director, Most Promising Newcomers (Hoffman and Ross); nominations for Actor in a Musical or Comedy, Screenplay
The Grammy Award for Best Original Motion Picture Score (Dave Grusin, Paul Simon)
The Laurel Award (Producers Guild of America) to Katharine Ross for Female Supporting Performance; 2nd place Best Comedy; Nominations to Bancroft (Female Dramatic Performance) and Hoffman (Male Comedy Performance)
The New York Film Critics Circle Best Director Award

Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy

In 1996, The Graduate was chosen by the National Film Preservation Board to be one of the films preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

The film was #7 on the list of the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Movies in 1998. It was listed at #17 in the updated 10th anniversary edition.

The Graduate turns up on several other lists of great American movie moments compiled by the American Film Institute: #9 Funniest Movies, #52 Greatest Love Stories, #6 Greatest Movie Music ("Mrs. Robinson").

In 2006, the Writers Guild of America ranked the screenplay #13 in its list of the top 101 of all time.

The Critics' Corner: THE GRADUATE

"The freshest, funniest, and most touching film of the year. ... Delightful surprises, cheekiness, sex, satire, irreverence toward some of the most sacred of American cows, gives us the distinct feeling that the American film will never be the same again."
Hollis Alpert, Saturday Review, December 23, 1967

"Devastating and uproarious ... not only one of the best films of the year but also one of the best serio-comic social satires we've had from Hollywood since Preston Sturges was making them. ... With Mr. Hoffman's stolid, deadpanned performance, [Nichols] gets a wonderfully compassionate sense of the ironic and pathetic immaturity of a mere baccalaureate scholar turned loose in an immature society. He is a character very much reminiscent of Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye."
Bosley Crowther, New York Times, December 22, 1967

"Directed in modern, uptight fashion, which wears well for two-thirds of the pic. ...Anne Bancroft, feline and slinky in a manner very much like Lauren Bacall, is excellent, as is Katharine Ross, an exciting, fresh actress.... Only in the final 35 minutes does the film falter in pacing, which results in the switched-on cinematics becoming obvious, and therefore tiring."
"Murf," Variety, December 20, 1967

"Dustin Hoffman is an original, likable actor whose bag of monumental insecurities marks the truly assured comedian. ... But the screenplay, which begins as genuine comedy, soon degenerates into spurious melodrama."
Time, December 29, 1967

"Right near the top of my best movies of the year list. ... There are brilliant performances...and a superb score by Simon and Garfunkel. The Graduate is uniquely today." Judith Crist, Today Show, 1967

"Mike Nichols's name is so magical today that even if The Graduate had been the worst movie of the year, people would be buzzing reverently about it. As it is, The Graduate is only the most cleverly fashionable and confused movie of the yearand the responses, from critics and customers alike, have been ecstatic. ... And audiences eager to believe that all young people are sensitive and alienated and that all old people are sell-outs or monsters gratefully permit Hoffman's mannerisms and Paul Simon's poetry to convince them of a depth in Ben that the part, as written, simply does not contain. ... The movie as a whole is a Youth-grooving movie for old people. ... Nichols doesn't risk showing young people who are doing truly daring, irreverent things, or even young people intelligent enough to seriously challenge the way old people live. ... He has stated recently, in an interview, that Ben and Elaine are not to be envied at film's conclusion, and that Ben will end up exactly like his parentswhich suggests attempts at a more harshly sardonic point of view than the film manages to convey."
Stephen Farber and Estelle Changas, Film Quarterly, Fall 1967

"It's not surprising that this film has been such a financial success in the United States; its modish ingredients, so carefully blended, made no allowance for it to be anything other than a box-office hit." David Austen, Films and Filming, October 1968

"Its exceptionally witty script, superficially daring bedroom scenes and lush, Lelouch-style surfaces help to obscure its rigidly conservative structure."
Jan Dawson, Sight and Sound, Winter 1968

"[Charles Webb] seems to be the forgotten man in all the publicity, even though 80 percent or more of the dialogue comes right out of the book. I recently listened to some knowledgeable people parcelling out writing credit to Nichols, Henry, and Willingham as if Webb had never existed, as if the quality of the film were predetermined by the quality of its script, and as if the mystique of the director counted for naught. These knowledgeable people should read the Webb novel, which reads more like a screenplay than any novel since John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men."
Andrew Sarris, 1970

"The famous word 'plastics' encapsulates the theme of the movie, which is that the adult world is artificial, is superficial, on some level immoral and irrelevant to the concerns of young people."
Historian/critic Peter Biskind in a December 9, 2002, interview on National Public Radio

"The film throws our '60s shortsightedness in our face. How sheepish one feels, realizing the movie is no work of genius. In fact, what was once an all-important signpost to adulthood is really little more than a simple romantic comedy whose "countercultural" message, insofar as it has one, is decidedly retrograde."
Robin Dougherty, Salon.com, 1997

"Director Mike Nichols and writers Buck Henry and Calder Willingham...understood that Benjamin was not exactly a man of principle. They didn't sign him up to protest the Vietnam War or reject his parents' wealth because of the way American rapaciousness drains the Third World's precious natural resources. Benjamin seems all too glad to drive the nifty Alfa Romeo his parents gave him as a graduation gift. Benjamin's dissatisfaction is never the heart of the movie because Benjamin is little more than a cipher. We root for him only because his confusion and weakness happen to pit him against the superficiality of his wealthy background, not because there is anything intrinsically heroic or admirable about him. Benjamin, in fact, is kind of a jerk. Without all the clutter of topicality, The Graduate is free to remain a classic with eternal, undated appeal."
Barbara Shulgasser, San Francisco Chronicle, February 14, 1967

"The film itself is very broken-backed, partly because Anne Bancroft's performance as the mother carries so much more weight than Katharine Ross' as the daughter, partly because Nichols couldn't decide whether he was making a social satire or a farce."
Derek Adams, Time Out, June 24, 2006

by Rob Nixon

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