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In 1978, the Force was with Mark Hamill. The boyish face, irrevocably linked with Luke Skywalker, was everywhere after the explosive success of Star Wars (1977). For his follow up film, in between installments of the George Lucas empire, Hamill chose Corvette Summer. The tale of a high school kid who takes off for Vegas in search of his beloved stolen Corvette and meets an aspiring hooker...well, Shakespeare this is not. But with the affable Hamill, Annie Potts in her first starring film role, and highlights from quirky supporting characters, Corvette Summer is a lively romp.
Commenting on the film, Hamill justified his decision to take the part as an intentional departure from Skywalker and gushed about his co-star: "I insisted on looking different. And I'm only interested in the car, not even any girl, until Annie Potts came along. . . It's not a car movie. It's really a love story. And I'm so thrilled to be working with Annie Potts. She reminds me of Judy Holliday. She's a unique creature." Capitalizing on the chemistry, the movie posters crowed, "Mark Hamill who you loved in 'Star Wars'.... Annie Potts who you'll never forget..."
Director/writer Matthew Robbins and producer/writer Hal Barwood were initially apprehensive about approaching the white-hot star about the project. Hamill recalls, "When I talked to the producers, they said, 'We can't offer you such and such.' That's not what I was looking for - I was looking for a good part. Even though they know George Lucas, who'd tell them a little about me, they still didn't want to even approach somebody who they thought was going to charge more than they had to spend." Good thing...because the car wasn't cheap. The corvette in question was actually a 1973 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The original was reportedly found by Robbins and Barwood in a junkyard, minutes away from being crushed. It had been hit from behind and totaled by the insurance company: voila! The dream car had been found. After an extensive overhaul and laborious additions...such as right hand-drive (for girl-cruising opportunities), a clam-shell hood, sidepipes, and flames painted on the candy apple red body - the Corvette was ready. It's rumored that up to seven versions of the car were built for various shots and filming purposes. Mid-America Designs in Effingham, Illinois, claims the original corvette, and another is displayed in the Corvette Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY (the museum also screens Corvette Summer around the clock).
Strangely, both stars of the film had car troubles of their own before and during filming: both were involved in separate car wrecks that left Hamill with a broken nose and Potts with pins in her legs. Reports of Hamill's wreck quickly spiraled out of control, with reports of extensive plastic surgeries required to rebuild the actor's visage and scenes in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) having to be refilmed to account for his facial scarring and convalescence. In fact, Hamill broke his nose six months prior to shooting Corvette Summer and needed one corrective surgery the injury actually benefited the actor in getting out of a television contract with ABC for Eight Is Enough, freeing him up to work on films. Another television actor, Danny Bonaduce, had a featured role in the film, a far cry from his days as the red-headed moppet on The Partridge Family (1970-74). He recalled of the stars' vehicular troubles, "Both had been in really bad car wrecks. Mark was all scarred and Annie had some kind of a limp." Potts' injuries had not only suspended production for a time but also left her with a stilted walk. Near the film's end, a reference about her "funny walk" is made by Hamill's character, a timely addition made by the scriptwriters.
Although the film garnered positive reviews from the critics, audiences didn't flock to see Corvette Summer. Over the years, however, the film has recruited a considerable cult fan base, who have petitioned to have the charming-but-cheesy film released on DVD. Reportedly, a deleted scene exists with Fran Drescher, from This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and The Nanny (1993-99), as an amorous vixen. Hamill went on to complete the Star Wars franchise, ending with The Return of the Jedi in 1983. More recently, he has found success in theatre and in voice over work for animated series. Potts went on to star in both Ghostbusters films (1984 and 89), as well as the long-running Designing Women (1986-93). Corvette Summer had some strong supporting performances from Eugene Roche and Kim Milford. Roche, perhaps best known as the AJAX Man from the television commercials, had memorable roles in Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) and The Late Show (1977). Milford was the original Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Broadway; a Hamill look-a-like, he coincidentally starred in the Star Wars-influenced B-flick Laserblast (1978). Years later, Hamill wryly mused about the film, "Corvette Summer is a great little picture and it's got sort of a title that's a misnomer because you sort of put it in one category when you first see it and you go, 'Oh gee, it's quite a nicely written, uh romantic movie.' And I enjoyed it immensely."
Producer: Hal Barwood
Director: Matthew Robbins
Screenplay: Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins
Cinematography: Frank Stanley
Film Editing: Amy Holden Jones
Art Direction: James L. Schoppe
Music: Craig Safan
Cast: Mark Hamill (Kenneth W. Dantley), Annie Potts (Vanessa), Eugene Roche (Ed McGrath), William Bryant (Police Lecturer), Richard McKenzie (Principal Bacon), Kim Milford (Wayne Lowry).
by Eleanor Quin