American Graffiti


1h 49m 1973

Brief Synopsis

Four high-school seniors face an uncertain future as they try to live through their last big school dance.

Film Details

Also Known As
Sista natten med gänget
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Period
Teens
Release Date
Aug 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Coppola Co.; Lucasfilm Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Location
San Rafael, California, USA; San Francisco, California, USA; Berkeley, California, USA; Petaluma, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
Dolby (re-release) (1975), Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

A summer night in 1962 becomes the focal point in the lives of four small town California teenagers as they face decisions, both immediate and long term, about the directions of their lives. Steve, wants to break up with Laurie, his devoted high school sweetheart and pursue new experiences away from home. Curt is hesitant about going away to school and leaving the comfortable, familiar surroundings of family and friends. John tries to maintain his "too cool for school" image as a hip guy, but can't seem to shake a nagging awareness that life is somehow passing him by. Finally, there's Terry, the nerdy wannabe trying to fit in but who still manages to screw up. During the course of the evening, their individual stories intertwine and separate. By the next morning, their lives will be changed, some only temporarily and some for a lifetime.

Film Details

Also Known As
Sista natten med gänget
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Period
Teens
Release Date
Aug 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Coppola Co.; Lucasfilm Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Location
San Rafael, California, USA; San Francisco, California, USA; Berkeley, California, USA; Petaluma, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
Dolby (re-release) (1975), Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Director

1973
George Lucas

Best Editing

1973
Verna Fields

Best Editing

1973
Marcia Lucas

Best Picture

1973

Best Supporting Actress

1973
Candy Clark

Best Writing, Screenplay

1974
George Lucas

Articles

American Graffiti


"Where were you in '62?" That was the tag line from the marketing campaign for American Graffiti (1973) and it seemed to bring back a flood of memories for moviegoers who first caught the film on its initial release. George Lucas's nostalgic portrait of what it was like to be a teenager in a small California town in 1962 became the sleeper hit of 1973 and spawned numerous imitations such as the TV series, Happy Days, and flicks like The Lords of Flatbush (1974). Produced for only $750,000 dollars with a 28-day shooting schedule, American Graffiti went on to gross more than $55 million; all this for a movie that every studio in Hollywood had turned down before Universal reluctantly agreed to release it. And let us not forget that American Graffiti also helped launch the movie careers of such relatively unknown actors as Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss and enabled Lucas to produce his dream project - Star Wars (1977).

According to The Hollywood Reporter Book of Boxoffice Hits by Susan Sackett (published by Billboard Publications), American Graffiti was "shot entirely on location in San Rafael and Petaluma, small Northern California towns. Between the hours of 9:00 p.m., when it was just dark enough, and 5:00 a.m., before the sun would come up, the main streets of these towns were cordoned off for the night shoot. Locals for miles around were encouraged to rent their vintage hot rods for the film at $25 a night, and they really got into the spirit of things, drag racing between takes, having themselves one last fling at the '60s. Over 400 cars were eventually used, among them the yellow dragster driven by Paul Le Mat's character, "John." Look closely at its unusual license plate - THX 138 - an obvious inside joke and reference to the Lucas film (but with only three numerals, as permitted by California law.)"

In an interview with Judy Klemesrud of The New York Times, Lucas revealed the inspiration for the film: "It all happened to me, but I sort of glamorized it. I spent four years of my life cruising the main street of my hometown, Modesto, California. I went through all that stuff, drove the cars, bought liquor, chased girls...a very American experience. I started out as Terry the Toad, but then I went on to be John Milner, the local drag race champion, and then I became Curt Henderson, the intellectual who goes to college. They were all composite characters, based on my life, and on the lives of friends of mine. Some were killed in Vietnam, and quite a number were killed in auto accidents." Lucas also admitted that the filming of American Graffiti was "a terrible, terrible experience. I felt very rushed, and there were endless other problems, too, like it was extremely cold. On the second night of shooting, we were half a day behind, and to be half a day behind on a 28-day schedule is like the end of the world. Then we had focus problems on the camera, and the assistant cameraman was run over by a car and had to be taken to a hospital. Then we had a five-alarm fire. That was a typical night."

Seen today, the cast of American Graffiti is a time capsule snapshot of the most promising up-and-coming talent in Hollywood during the early seventies. In addition to Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford, the film boosted the careers of Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat, Kathleen Quinlan, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Bo Hopkins, Charles Martin Smith and Suzanne Somers. It also re-introduced younger audiences to legendary DJ Wolfman Jack as well as a sterling 'oldies' soundtrack featuring everything from "Little Darlin'" by The Diamonds to "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

A few last bits of trivia: Originally, Universal executive Ned Tanen wanted to change the title American Graffiti to Another Slow Night in Modesto, thinking audiences would think the former was an Italian film or a movie about feet. Producer Francis Ford Coppola liked the title Rock Around the Block, but luckily, Lucas stuck to his guns and refused to change it. There were other fights he didn't win. One scene was lost because Universal could not buy the rights to a song. The studio also insisted on the exact running time of 110 minutes, as outlined in the original contract, and cut one of Lucas's favorite moments as a result - a sequence involving Steve (Ron Howard) in a confrontation with his math teacher. "That scene was one of the best in the film, " Lucas revealed in an article by Stephen Farber in Film Quarterly. "It really strengthened that character. In the film they put out, Steve is a nothing. The odd thing is, it was the second most popular scene in the movie at the premiere, according to the cards we got back."

In 1979, B.W.L. Norton directed a sequel, More American Graffiti, which reunited most of the original actors in an episodic film covering the years 1964-67. Instead of focusing on one night like the original film, More American Graffiti used the backdrop of the protest movement, the conflict in Asia, and other turbulent events to recapture the spirit of the sixties. But box office lighting didn't strike twice; the film was a commercial failure.

Producer: Francis Ford Coppola
Director: George Lucas
Screenplay: George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck
Art Direction: Dennis Clark
Cinematography: Jan D'Alquen, Ron Eveslage
Costume Design: Aggie Guerard Rodgers
Film Editing: Verna Fields, George Lucas, Marcia Lucas
Original Music: Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Curt Henderson), Ron Howard (Steve Bolander), Paul Le Mat (John Milner), Charles Martin Smith (Terry Fields), Cindy Williams (Laurie), William M. Niven (Clerk), Debbie Celiz (Wendy).
C-113m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
American Graffiti

American Graffiti

"Where were you in '62?" That was the tag line from the marketing campaign for American Graffiti (1973) and it seemed to bring back a flood of memories for moviegoers who first caught the film on its initial release. George Lucas's nostalgic portrait of what it was like to be a teenager in a small California town in 1962 became the sleeper hit of 1973 and spawned numerous imitations such as the TV series, Happy Days, and flicks like The Lords of Flatbush (1974). Produced for only $750,000 dollars with a 28-day shooting schedule, American Graffiti went on to gross more than $55 million; all this for a movie that every studio in Hollywood had turned down before Universal reluctantly agreed to release it. And let us not forget that American Graffiti also helped launch the movie careers of such relatively unknown actors as Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss and enabled Lucas to produce his dream project - Star Wars (1977). According to The Hollywood Reporter Book of Boxoffice Hits by Susan Sackett (published by Billboard Publications), American Graffiti was "shot entirely on location in San Rafael and Petaluma, small Northern California towns. Between the hours of 9:00 p.m., when it was just dark enough, and 5:00 a.m., before the sun would come up, the main streets of these towns were cordoned off for the night shoot. Locals for miles around were encouraged to rent their vintage hot rods for the film at $25 a night, and they really got into the spirit of things, drag racing between takes, having themselves one last fling at the '60s. Over 400 cars were eventually used, among them the yellow dragster driven by Paul Le Mat's character, "John." Look closely at its unusual license plate - THX 138 - an obvious inside joke and reference to the Lucas film (but with only three numerals, as permitted by California law.)" In an interview with Judy Klemesrud of The New York Times, Lucas revealed the inspiration for the film: "It all happened to me, but I sort of glamorized it. I spent four years of my life cruising the main street of my hometown, Modesto, California. I went through all that stuff, drove the cars, bought liquor, chased girls...a very American experience. I started out as Terry the Toad, but then I went on to be John Milner, the local drag race champion, and then I became Curt Henderson, the intellectual who goes to college. They were all composite characters, based on my life, and on the lives of friends of mine. Some were killed in Vietnam, and quite a number were killed in auto accidents." Lucas also admitted that the filming of American Graffiti was "a terrible, terrible experience. I felt very rushed, and there were endless other problems, too, like it was extremely cold. On the second night of shooting, we were half a day behind, and to be half a day behind on a 28-day schedule is like the end of the world. Then we had focus problems on the camera, and the assistant cameraman was run over by a car and had to be taken to a hospital. Then we had a five-alarm fire. That was a typical night." Seen today, the cast of American Graffiti is a time capsule snapshot of the most promising up-and-coming talent in Hollywood during the early seventies. In addition to Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford, the film boosted the careers of Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat, Kathleen Quinlan, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Bo Hopkins, Charles Martin Smith and Suzanne Somers. It also re-introduced younger audiences to legendary DJ Wolfman Jack as well as a sterling 'oldies' soundtrack featuring everything from "Little Darlin'" by The Diamonds to "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. A few last bits of trivia: Originally, Universal executive Ned Tanen wanted to change the title American Graffiti to Another Slow Night in Modesto, thinking audiences would think the former was an Italian film or a movie about feet. Producer Francis Ford Coppola liked the title Rock Around the Block, but luckily, Lucas stuck to his guns and refused to change it. There were other fights he didn't win. One scene was lost because Universal could not buy the rights to a song. The studio also insisted on the exact running time of 110 minutes, as outlined in the original contract, and cut one of Lucas's favorite moments as a result - a sequence involving Steve (Ron Howard) in a confrontation with his math teacher. "That scene was one of the best in the film, " Lucas revealed in an article by Stephen Farber in Film Quarterly. "It really strengthened that character. In the film they put out, Steve is a nothing. The odd thing is, it was the second most popular scene in the movie at the premiere, according to the cards we got back." In 1979, B.W.L. Norton directed a sequel, More American Graffiti, which reunited most of the original actors in an episodic film covering the years 1964-67. Instead of focusing on one night like the original film, More American Graffiti used the backdrop of the protest movement, the conflict in Asia, and other turbulent events to recapture the spirit of the sixties. But box office lighting didn't strike twice; the film was a commercial failure. Producer: Francis Ford Coppola Director: George Lucas Screenplay: George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck Art Direction: Dennis Clark Cinematography: Jan D'Alquen, Ron Eveslage Costume Design: Aggie Guerard Rodgers Film Editing: Verna Fields, George Lucas, Marcia Lucas Original Music: Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly Cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Curt Henderson), Ron Howard (Steve Bolander), Paul Le Mat (John Milner), Charles Martin Smith (Terry Fields), Cindy Williams (Laurie), William M. Niven (Clerk), Debbie Celiz (Wendy). C-113m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Hey man, I'm sorry if I scared ya!
- Falfa
You're gonna hafta do one hell of a lot more than that to scare me!
- Milner
Hey I've been lookin' all over for ya man. Didn't nobody tell ya I was lookin' for ya?
- Falfa
Man, I can't keep track of all you punks runnin' 'round here backwards.
- Milner
Hey you're s'posed to be the fastest thing in the Valley man, but that can't be your car. It must be your mama's car! I'm sorta' embarrassed to be this close to ya!
- Falfa
Your car is uglier than I am. Oops, that didn't come out right.
- Carol
Peel out, I just love it when guys peel out.
- Debbie Dunham
It only took me one night to realize if brains were dynamite you couldn't blow your nose.
- Debbie Dunham
All right, Bolander, break that up. You know the rules. You and your girlfriend want to do that, go someplace else, huh?
- Mr. Kroot
Hey, Kroot! Why don't you go kiss a duck?
- Steve Bolander
What did you say?
- Mr. Kroot
I said, go kiss a duck, marblehead.
- Steve Bolander
OK, Bolander, you are suspended. Don't -- don't even come in on Monday. You're out, you're out!
- Mr. Kroot
Hey, hey, Kroot. I graduated last semester. Remember?
- Steve Bolander

Trivia

License plate on John Milner's car is "THX-138". THX 1138 (1971) is a film also directed by George Lucas.

'Ford, Harrison' was asked to cut his hair for the film. He refused, stating that his role was too short, and offered to wear a hat instead.

The '55 Chevy Bob Falfa drove is the same 55 Chevy used in the movie "Two Lane Blacktop."

They actually used 3 1955 Chevrolets in the film: the "hot rod" version that is seen the most, a car for interior camera shots, and one for the rollover after the drag race. Both the "hot rod" '55 and the 1932 Ford coupe were bought from the studio by an individual in Overland Park, Kansas in the mid-1980's who restored them back to their movie appearance.

When Charles Martin Smith pulls up on the motor bike in the beginning, his crash into the building wasn't scripted. He genuinely lost control of the bike, and Lucas kept the cameras rolling.

Miscellaneous Notes

Ranked 62nd on AFI's 100 Years 100 Movies-10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films in 2007; moved up from the 77th position on AFI's 1997 list.

Lucas, Katz and Huyck received awards from the National Society of Film Critics.

Lucas, Katz and Huyck received awards from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Received Golden Globes for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical/Comedy (Dreyfuss) and Most Promising Male Newcomer (Le Mat).

Williams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Won first prize at the Cartagena Film Festival in Columbia.

Won the Bronze Leopard award at the Locarno Film Festival in Swizterland.

Writers Guild of America nominations for Lucas, Katz and Huyck for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

Released in United States June 1973

Released in United States Summer August 1, 1973

Released in United States on Video March 10, 1988

Re-released in United States on Video September 15, 1998

Released in United States 1983

Released in United States August 1997

Shown at Radio City Film Festival sponsored by Universal Pictures August 20-24, 1997.

Selected in 1995 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

The "25th Anniversary Edition contains a 10-minute featurette from "The Making of American Graffiti."

Re-released in Paris July 10, 1991.

Techniscope

Released in United States June 1973

Released in United States Summer August 1, 1973

Released in United States on Video March 10, 1988

Re-released in United States on Video September 15, 1998 ("25th Anniversary Edition")

Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Verna Fields (editor): A Dedication Tribute) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)

Released in United States August 1997 (Shown at Radio City Film Festival sponsored by Universal Pictures August 20-24, 1997.)