Beyond a memorable script, a terrific cast, a visionary director, and perfect music, some movies just happen to fully embody the Zeitgeist of its era. So it was with The Graduate, a masterful movie that perfectly captured the freedom and angst of the late 60s.
The script came courtesy of Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Dustin Hoffman made his major movie debut, and was perfect as Benjamin Braddock, while Anne Bancroft portrayed Mrs. Robinson with the perfect blend of sultriness and ennui. It was director Mike Nichols’ second film, following the startling Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. That’s a pretty auspicious beginning. And the music of Simon and Garfunkel was expertly woven through the film, a soundtrack not just for the movie, but for the times.
I love behind-the-scenes movie trivia, so here are a couple of things about The Graduate I found interesting. Dustin Hoffman was 30 and Anne Bancroft was 36 when the movie was made, but Hoffman looked so young and Bancroft so mature that they carried off cross-generational lovers. And the legs in the famous movie poster, beyond which we see Hoffman, didn’t belong to Bancroft, but to a young model – Linda Gray, who went on to play Sue Ellen Ewing in Dallas.
The Graduate was selected as the number seven movie in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies” program. Two lines from the movie also are among the most famous in film history: “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?” was selected as number 63 by the AFI and number 17 by Premiere magazine. And “Plastics” was the AFI’s number 42 quote.