By ehls1 at Photobucket
Focusing on a single night in the early Sixties, the hopes and dreams of four friends are followed via the events which will determine the rest of their lives. Steve (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) will be leaving for college the very next day, the culmination of years of hard work. Finally they'll be able to leave this dead-end town and spread their wings, experiencing life in its myriad of forms. Curt is unattached but Steve will be leaving behind his longtime girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams), who happens to be Curt's sister. Also remaining at home are Terry (Charles Martin Smith), a fumbling nerd, and John (Paul Le Mat), an older kid with "the fastest car in the valley". If there are two dominant elements that run through the entire youth culture of 1962, they are cars and music. Everyone who's anyone cruises the strip in their shiny automobiles and while they're doing that they're listening to Wolfman Jack on the radio (constantly). Music is an integral part of this group, defining its moods, fears, desires and feeding from the same emotions.
Curt, the brightest boy of the year and scholarship winner, is plagued with doubts regarding his future. Everything that he's ever done has been aimed at college, yet now the moment is upon him. Curt wonders if instead he should take time off to reassess his feelings. Symbolic of this uncertainty is a blonde in a white T-bird; elusive and enchanting she always slips away from Curt when he nears. In contrast, Steve is (if anything) over confident. He can list a multitude of reasons for departure, yet seems surprised when Laurie reacts badly to his suggestion that they can both sleep around while he's away - for experience, of course. This emotional turbulence takes a heavy toll on Laurie; she made all of the moves in their relationship and loves Steve dearly but is caught in the trap of what she wants (to stay with Steve) and what she should do (let him go). Steve's so confident of flying away that he entrusts his car to Terry, giving this acknowledged dork the opportunity to cruise with the best of them. It's a pity that he still looks out of place, even in such a marvellous chariot.
John's mean machine is a true hot-rod, fast, sleek and good at attracting the attention of the cops. Feeling somewhat lonely he's on the look out for any female company, yet didn't expect to get lumbered with 13-year-old Carol (Mackenzie Phillips). Embarrassing him just by being in the car, where everyone can see them, and chattering at high speed, John isn't reticent about showing his displeasure. He has more pressing matters to consider though, being aware of an opponent, Falfa (Harrison Ford), searching for him but reluctant to continually defend his position as the best. He's seen the wrecks of those who've failed and doesn't wish to end up that way. Meanwhile, Terry gets lucky with an older girl, Debbie (Candy Clark), Steve and Laurie oscillate between breaking up and staying together and Curt finds himself involved in a little trouble (lots actually!).
(A review by Damian Cannon. Copyright © Movie Reviews UK 1997)
Here's how critic Roger Ebert described the unique and lasting value of George Lucas's 1973 box-office hit, AMERICAN GRAFFITI: "(It's) not only a great movie but a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie's success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant." The time to which Ebert and the film refers is the summer of 1962, and AMERICAN GRAFFITI captures the look, feel, and sound of that era by chronicling one memorable night in the lives of several young Californians on the cusp of adulthood. (In essence, Lucas was making a semiautobiographical tribute to his own days as a hot-rod cruiser, and the film's phenomenal success paved the way for Star Wars.) The action is propelled by the music of Wolfman Jack's rock & roll radio show--a soundtrack of pop hits that would become as popular as the film itself. As Lucas develops several character subplots, AMERICAN GRAFFITI becomes a flawless time capsule of meticulously re-created memory, as authentic as a documentary and vividly realized through innovative use of cinematography and sound. The once-in-a-lifetime ensemble cast members inhabit their roles so fully that they don't seem like actors at all, comprising a who's who of performers--some of whom went on to stellar careers--including Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, and Paul Le Mat. A true American classic, the film ranks No. 77 on the American Film Institute's list of all-time greatest American movies.
(Jeff Shannon at Awesome80s.com)
Although AMERICAN GRAFFITI largely has transformed from smash film to historical footnote, it clearly was a very important film that cast shadows. As Lucas notes in his typically self-congratulatory manner, the film's story construction was very unusual for its time in that four separate, fairly unrelated narratives took place at the same time and were edited together. This is no big deal for modern viewers; we saw the same thing week after week on Seinfeld. However, somebody had to do it first, and while we don't know if American Graffiti was truly the initial time this format was used, it most likely was the film that introduced it to much of the public.
AMERICAN GRAFFITI also has been acclaimed because of all the notable careers it launched. Really, only Ron Howard had achieved any significant success prior to American Graffiti through his role as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. However, even he needed the boost this film gave him since he was having trouble making the transition from child star to adult actor. As far as the rest of the cast goes, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Suzanne Somers, and Harrison Ford all got their "big breaks" from the success of AMERICAN GRAFFITI.
Clearly Harrison Ford became by far the biggest star of the group. Indeed, he qualifies as one of the most popular actors of all-time. Although he's hit more than a few trouble spots, Richard Dreyfuss has made a solid career for himself, as has Ron Howard, although he only did so by making a Lucas-esque change. Howard experienced much success as a star of Happy Days for many years, but his acting days seem long gone as he has made a transformation into big-time director.
As for the rest of the group, their careers all had a high or two after American Graffiti but nothing to rival the long-term success of those three. Williams, Phillips, and Somers all scored with long-running sitcoms, while Smith, Le Mat, and Clark have each made one or two semi-memorable films. Other than that, however, none has accomplished that much. Really, all of these actors clearly peaked back in the 1970s, and none has done much since then.
(Colin Jacobson at DVD MOVIE GUIDE)
Images from tobatheinfilmicwaters.com
AMERICAN GRAFFITI was released in 1973 without much fanfare, but it quickly touched a nerve with movie audiences everywhere. There was something about this look back to a summer night in a small California town in 1962 that made moviegoers nostalgic for a time of innocence, of romance, and of uncharted possibilities.
There was something for everyone in that film - whether it was a character you identified with, or the cars and the music - that wonderful music! - brought back so many memories.
The story by Lucas is based upon his own experiences growing up and cruisin' the streets while listening to Wolfman Jack spin his vinyl discs on the radio.
This autobiographical touch, and the documentary style gives the film an emotional focus and depth that never goes out of style - and that is why the film still touches audiences today.
Many people have commented on the ingenious use of top rock-n-roll hits that Lucas incorporated into the fabric of the film. But did you know that the reason this was done was because the budget on the film was so small that the filmmakers literally could not afford an original score.
AMERICAN GRAFFITI was more than just a box office hit - it was a critical hit as well. The film went on to earn five Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Story & Screenplay (based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published) and Best Editing. Candy Clark, by the way, did win the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Debbie.
The American Film Institute selected AMERICAN GRAFFITI as one of the best 100 films ever made. Other notable awards include a Golden Globe Award for Best Picture and Most Promising Newcomer (male) for Paul Le Mat; a Bronze Leopard awarded by the Locarno International Film Festival to George Lucas; the National Society of Film Critics gave Williard Huyck, Gloria Katz and George Lucas their award for best screenplay; and the National Film Preservation Board added AMERICAN GRAFFITI to the National Film Registry in 1995.
Director George Lucas; Producer Francis Coppola, Gary Kurtz; Writer George Lucas, Gloria Katz, WIllard Huyck; Camera Haskell Wexler Editor Verna Fields, Marcia Lucas; Music Karin Green (sup.) Art Dennis Clark. Reviewed at Directors guild of America, L.A., June 15, '73. (MPAA Rating: PG.)
Curt - Richard Dreyfuss
Steve - Ronny Howard
John - Paul Le Mat
Terry - Charles Martin Smith
Laurie - Cindy Williams
Debbie - Candy Clark
Carol - Mackenzie Phillips
Disc Jockey - Wolfman Jack
Bob Falfa - Harrison Ford
Gang Members - Bo Hopkins, Manuel Padilla Jr., Beau Gentry
Rock Band - Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids
Teacher - Terry McGovern
Policeman - Jim Bohan
Wendy - Debbie Celiz
Blonde in Car - Suzanne Somers
Vagrant - George Meyer
Thief - James Cranna
Liquor Store Clerk - William Niven
(By A.D. MURPHY at VARIETY 100)