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Herbie, the lovable VW Beetle with a mind of its own, is back in Herbie Rides Again (1974), the first sequel to Disney's 1968 smash hit film The Love Bug. Retired from his racing days in The Love Bug, Herbie now leads a low key life in the care of elderly Mrs. Steinmetz (Helen Hayes), a feisty widow who lives in her late husband's quaint old San Francisco firehouse. Greedy developer Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) is buying up all the land surrounding the firehouse with the intention of building Hawk Plaza, the latest in his series of eyesore skyscrapers taking over the city by the bay. When Mrs. Steinmetz refuses to sell her property, Hawk pulls out all the stops to drive her out. In an effort to intimidate her, Hawk sends his fresh-out-of-law-school nephew, Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry), to persuade her to vacate. When Willoughby falls for Mrs. Steinmetz's beautiful granddaughter Nicole (Stefanie Powers), he decides to switch sides. Together he, Nicole and Mrs. Steinmetz fight back - all with Herbie's help, of course.
Veteran Disney director Robert Stevenson (Old Yeller , Mary Poppins ), who guided The Love Bug to box office success, makes Herbie Rides Again a fun fast-paced charmer. Thanks to her Academy Award- winning performance in Airport (1970), theater Grand Dame Helen Hayes was enjoying a revitalized career as a film star at the age of 74 when she got the role of Mrs. Steinmetz. Following a positive experience on Herbie Rides Again, she went on to make two more films for Disney: One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975) and Candleshoe (1977).
Herbie Rides Again marks the third time the character of ruthless businessman Alonzo Hawk has appeared in a Disney film, each time played by the wonderful Keenan Wynn. Hawk made his first appearance opposite Fred MacMurray in The Absent-Minded Professor (1961). Two years later Wynn reprised the role in the sequel to The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber (1963).
In the original The Love Bug, no VW logos appear on Herbie since Disney and Volkswagen had never come to a business agreement. However, when The Love Bug became a huge success and sales of the VW Beetle increased, Volkswagen became Herbie's biggest fan. The VW logos reappeared on Herbie in Herbie Rides Again, and Volkswagen dealers all over the world had prop Herbie cars on display and Herbie posters to give away to customers.
Herbie Rides Again was followed by three more popular sequels: Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) and Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) in which Herbie found a new generation of young fans.
Producer: Bill Walsh
Director: Robert Stevenson
Screenplay: Bill Walsh; Gordon Buford (story)
Cinematography: Frank Phillips
Art Direction: John B. Mansbridge, Walter Tyler
Music: George Bruns
Film Editing: Cotton Warburton
Cast: Helen Hayes (Mrs. Steinmetz), Ken Berry (Willoughby Whitfield), Stefanie Powers (Nicole Harris), John McIntire (Mr. Judson), Keenan Wynn (Alonzo Hawk), Huntz Hall (judge), Richard X. Slattery (traffic commissioner), Raymond Bailey (lawyer), Dan Tobin (lawyer), Elaine Devry (secretary), Liam Dunn (doctor), Vito Scotti (taxi driver).
by Andrea Passafiume