American Graffiti

1973, Movie, PG, 110 mins


A hallmark film of the 1970s. In a series of touching and telling vignettes, AMERICAN GRAFFITI follows a memorable crew of small-town teenagers through one momentous night in 1962. Director Lucas' modest, near-verite approach contrasts strikingly with his glitzy following film, STAR WARS.

Steve (Ron Howard), a clean-cut youth, is to leave for college the next day; Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), the class intellectual, is also slated for college but has doubts about his future; Laurie (Cindy Williams), Curt's sister and Steve's girlfriend, is upset by the latter's impending departure; Terry (Charles Martin Smith) is a hopeless nerd who desperately yearns to be "cool"; John (Paul LeMat), who's very cool indeed, drives "the fastest car in the valley" and is constantly being forced to prove that boast. After the school dance, everyone goes cruising. John picks up loquacious 13-year-old Carol (Mackenzie Phillips), thinking she's much older until she climbs aboard his 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe. Steve and Laurie, driving about in his 1958 Impala, clash over their ambitions; he's full of hope for the future, while she's afraid her life is over at 17. Curt goes off in search of the elusive Girl in the White T-Bird, while Terry has an adventure with a reputedly "experienced" older girl (Candy Clark).

Based on George Lucas' own teenage hot-rodding days in Modesto, California, the appeal of AMERICAN GRAFFITI is in its fragmentary scenes; the nervous camera jumps from character to character to present a powerful collage of American youth on the brink of maturity and the complex experiences of the coming decade. The enormous financial and critical success of GRAFFITI--it grossed over $100 million domestically--allowed Lucas the freedom to finance one of the most beloved and highest-grossing films of all time--STAR WARS--and spawned numerous imitations, even inspiring the long-running TV sitcom "Happy Days." The film boosted the careers of a host of young performers including Dreyfuss, Howard, Williams, LeMat, Smith, Clark, Phillips, Harrison Ford, Kathleen Quinlan, and Suzanne Somers. leave a comment

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