The days shortly after high school graduation – parties, drag races, broken hearts and promises, and new love. Adventure awaits.
Hot rods cruising the streets of a suburban California town. Rock ‘n’ roll music blaring from the windows. Waitresses roller-skating to your car to get your orders.
Those are the images that the movie “American Graffiti” (1973) captured. The posters asked: “Where were you in ’62?” That question is as valid today as it was then. What do we hope for in the future? What are our next steps in life?
This was a time of innocence – one year before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The movie’s also a reminder that we don’t have to stop dreaming just because we’re now grown-ups.
The coming-of-age film focuses on four high school grads who meet at Mel’s Drive-in – Burger City – to share their last night together. In the morning, Richard Dreyfuss (as Curt Henderson) and Ron Howard (as Steve Bolander) will leave for college on the east coast.
Curt’s not sure he wants to go.
“You just can’t stay 17 forever,” Steve chastises Curt.
Steve tells his girlfriend, Cindy Williams (as Laurie Henderson, Curt’s sister), that maybe they should see others while he’s in college. She decides to take him up on that before the evening is over – almost permanently as a result of a drag race on Paradise Road.
The guys go their separate ways. While Curt’s riding around, he sees the woman of his dreams, Suzanne Somers, in a white Thunderbird. She mouths, “I love you,” before she disappears from view.
His search for her is interrupted when he runs into some hoodlums, members of The Pharohs (pronounced FAY-rows). They spot a police car in a parking lot that’s on the lookout for speeders. The Pharoh’s leader, Bo Hopkins (as Joe), convinces Curt to hook a tow cable to the rear axle of the police car.
Curt hesitates, afraid he’ll get caught.
“Look at it this way. Now, you got three choices. One, you chicken out, and, in that case, I let Ants (another Pharoh member) tie you to the car and drag you around a little bit, and you don’t want that. Right?” Joe asks Curt.
Right. Nor is Curt prepared to deal with the alternatives. Option 2? If the cops hear Curt, well …
Option 3? If he’s successful, Joe says Curt can “join the Pharohs with a car coat and a blood initiation and all that.” Uh, Curt’s not too keen on that idea, either.
After Curt hooks up the police car, the hoods race their car past the cops. Curt yells out, “Stand by for justice.” The cops start to peel out. The cable stops them, tearing the rear axle off their car.
Once Curt gets out of the gang’s clutches, he goes to a local radio station to appeal to Wolfman Jack to help him find his mystery woman. The man in the control booth claims he’s not Wolfman. Curt also confides that he’s not sure if he’ll go off to college. Wolfman advises Curt to go out and experience life.
“The Wolfman comes in here occasionally bringing tapes, you know, and to check up on me and what not, and the places he talks about that he’s been and the things he’s seen. There’s a great big beautiful world out there, and here I sit, sucking popsicles,” he tells Curt.
In the morning, all four guys meet at the airport. As The Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” plays, only one of them is aboard the plane. From the plane, a familiar car is spotted as it threads its way through the street.
This captivating film has many funny, romantic, touching and scary moments and well worth the view.
And Wolfman’s advice? It’s one we all could heed, no matter where we are in life. Venture out there. Explore life’s endless possibilities.
COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Poster: American Graffiti (hanging in our office)
Movie clip of American Graffiti (1973) – Go to “Videos – Trailer” on IMDb data base: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069704/
Photo: Wolfman Jack in 1979 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wolfman_Jack_in_1979.jpg
Photo: Ron Howard (as Steve) and Cindy Williams (as Laurie) – dancing http://www.listal.com/viewimage/791092
Music video: The Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” (with stills from the movie) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iOhxiO-ngc
Photo: Richard Dreyfuss (as Curt) and Bo Hopkins as (Joe) http://www.listal.com/viewimage/791095