Before he made Star Wars, George Lucas made another iconic film that has preserved the culture of the 1960’s.
American Graffiti, released nearly 60 years ago, romantically portrays the American teenager of one of the most envied moments in time. It all happened before the “revolution of sex and drugs”. Rock and roll had already become fully entrenched into the lives of American teenagers.
A massive hit, the Lucas film earned $55 million in 1973. When re-released in 1978 it made another $63 million,
In today’s dollars, it is more than $500 million.
It’s been reported that George Lucas made the movie, in part at least, out of spite.
His previous sci-fi film bombed. It was so bad that no one remembers what it was. No, it was not Star Wars.
If you think you want to see it, you may find it in an obscure film library. Look for THX-1138.
As the story goes, Francis Ford Coppola, a close friend of Lucas’ talked Lucas into doing something ‘relatable’
Lucas said he recalled Coppola telling him, “Don’t be so weird. Try to do something that’s human … Everyone thinks you’re a cold fish, but you can be a warm and funny guy, make a warm and funny movie.”
Lucas had a budget of $600,000. That would be something north of $3.5 million today. That means Universal Pictures was not excited about the films prospects.
Then Coppola joined Lucas as a producer. It happened just after the release of The Godfather. With Coppola’s credentials, Universal gave Lucas another $175,000.
Even after a seemingly successful screening, Universal tried to change the game. They wanted to edit the film for television.
Lucas baulked, but only The academy award winning Coppola was able to save the film for the big screen. Universal did make some small edits. All were later restored for home video.
For the record, Happy Days, the television hit starring Ron Howard, was not a spin off of American Graffiti. While having similar characters, it was set in the ’50s. Happy Days used “Rock Around the Clock” as its theme song, and even borrowed the American Graffiti font for the credits.
The cast American Graffiti gave us a small look into future film successes. Lucas would turn Harrison Ford into Hans Solo of Star Wars, and Indiana Jones in that block busting series.
Richard Dreyfuss, went onto bigger success with Steven Spielberg in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Ron Howard, based on the success of American Graffiti was able to nail down a role in Happy Days that ran for ten years.
If you liked this, please share by using the share button below