ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Summer Nostalgia with "American Graffiti"

Updated on February 28, 2015

Summer is upon us and regular film-goers know this is the season for big-budget entertainment at the cinema. Yet, there are films out there that exemplify that nostalgic summer feeling that don’t fall under the “blockbuster” label. One of the best nostalgic-based films that pinpoints a specific time period is 1973’s “American Graffiti.” Directed by George Lucas, the film represented an innocent, pre-Vietnam period where America’s youth was innocent enough to experience the growing pains of young adulthood, first loves, and vintage American Rock n’ Roll.

Over the course of a late August night in 1962, a group of high school graduates celebrate one last hurrah cruising the city streets in northern California. This single night was a point in time when these characters are still naïve about life but are also contemplating their futures as they mature into adults. Steve (Ron Howard) and Laurie (Cindy Williams) were the class sweethearts wondering if they should see other people while away at college. John Milner (Paul Le Mat) was the drag racer, Toad (Charles Martin Smith) was the awkward geek, and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) was the lovelorn mature friend having second thoughts on his future.

For my generation, it was the known as "the movie George Lucas made before Star Wars." It was a movie that represented a time period in America our grandparents grew up in. Yet, there is something about the film that can still be appealing for younger generation. For myself, I wanted the experience of attending a California high school in the late 50s/early 60s. Lucas was able to achieve this fantasy because of how personal the film is about his adolescence. He based its story and its characters on his favorite passions growing up: racing cars, vintage rock n’ roll, and young love . Characters such as Curt Henderson (Dreyfuss) represented Lucas’s personality and John Milner (Paul Le Mat) represented Lucas’s love of cars and drag racing. Toad (Charles Martin Smith) represented the awkwardness of growing up.

One of the biggest highlights for the film is its best-selling soundtrack. Lucas hand picked the 41 classic rock n' roll, doo-wop, and pop songs of that era. Bill Haley and the Comet's iconic "Rock Around the Clock" appropriately opens the film. Del Shannon's "Runaway" plays over the scene of dozens of classic cars cruise downtown. The Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari" marks a turning point for that era. John Milner dismisses the song as it plays on the radio. According to him, "Rock n' Roll has been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died." Each song fits perfectly throughout the film. The contemporary nostalgic band Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids portrayed Herbie and the Heartbeats at the school sock hop and have a few songs on the soundtrack.

At the time, the film was made on a shoe-string budget with a group of relatively no-name actors. While Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford have become big names in Hollywood, they were just young, struggling actors looking for their first big break. Lucas submitted the film treatment to several major studies until Universal Pictures took a chance on him and gave him just $775,000 to produce the film. Upon release in August, 1973, “American Graffiti” proved to be a box-office success. Audiences at the time were made up of that generation that grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In addition, the youth audience at the time was able to identify with the young characters with uncertain futures.

Just in time for this summer is the release of American Graffiti on Blu-ray. Audiences can now appreciate the improved picture quality and sound. Lucas and producer Francis Ford Coppola know how to shoot a film, even on a budget. At the time, instead of using the more expensive CinemaScope, the film was shot documentary-style on Techniscope, a preferred camera film for low budget productions with cinematographers Jan D'Alquen and Ron Eveslage. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler is credited as a "visual consultant."

Special features on the Blu-ray include a retrospective documentary about the making of the film. Lucas discusses his childhood and the teenage years he spent racing cars and filming his own amateur films. The cast looked back at a time in their young careers when they were looking for their breakout hit yet filmed this movie with no idea how it will be received. Also included is clips from pre-production screen tests amongst the cast. A long-haired Paul Le Met improvises dialogue with pre-pubescent actress Mackenzie Phillips (Carol) inside his car. Howard, Dreyfuss, and Le Mat hang around a parked truck contemplating how to spend their last night in town. It's interesting to see these young actors develop a sense of rapport with each other in the characters they are trying to create as an extension of their own persona.

"American Graffiti" represents a pop culture genre which tries to reach two generations of audiences. These cases tend to attempt to grab the attention of teenagers and young adults (a consumer-driven market) and older generations. Movies and TV shows appeal to the young viewers using common young adult themes in any given time period. They also paint the story and character's dialogue in a time period that older generations experienced. Examples include television shows "The Wonder Years" and "That '70s Show" and films like "Stand By Me." Even the recent film "Super 8" puts young, likable kids in 1979 small-town Ohio that represents writer/director J.J. Abrams' upbringing of shooting amateur movies and watching classic Stephen Spielberg films (the influence is only furthered with Spielberg's producer credit).

When release in 1973, young audiences connected with the characters while their parents connected with the experience. Almost forty years later, the film still stands on its own. The appeal of its young characters, the pacing of the story, its integration of music into cinematic scenes all hold up. And as someone who grew up on 90s alternative rock and punk, the film's soundtrack has been a stable of my summer playlist for the past several years. I've grown to love that vintage sound and I associate the roots of angst, young love, and nostalgia.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • BradTilles profile imageAUTHOR

      BradTilles 

      7 years ago from Bristol, CT

      I want to thank you all who voted for me. I am very humbled.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 

      7 years ago

      Congratulations on winning the hubnuggets this week.

    • profile image

      fashion 

      7 years ago

      Interesting hub.

      This is all new for me so i enjoyed it.

      Keep it up.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Very interesting and nice presentation. Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      This is all new for me :)

      Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination. Do check it out and join the Hubnuggets fun! https://redelf.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Dr-Seu...

    • Pintoman profile image

      Pintoman 

      7 years ago

      That was some interesting stuff I didn't know about that movie. I was just thinking about looking it up on Netflix before I read this.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 

      7 years ago

      I love American Grafitti. The soundtrack is full of music I love. The sequel had great music too, although the movie itself wasn't as good as the first one.

      Congratulations on your nomination.

    • profile image

      Skin Deep 

      7 years ago

      Yep.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)