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Looking Back: American Graffiti

July 3, 2022John Bishop

50 years ago, George Lucas began filming in Northern California

Some things just fly over folks’ heads. Or, maybe, they drive right by?

For example:

Those Vespa-like speeders in The Book of Boba Fett are not Star Wars at all!

Screenshot from The Book of Boba Fett. Image: Lucasfilm.

What the heck was that drag race in an Indiana Jones movie for?

Screenshot from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Image: Lucasfilm.

Well, I’ll tell you. Lucasfilm retains a soft spot for hot rods.

Happy Anniversary American Graffiti

This past week, George Lucas’ American Graffiti celebrated the 50th anniversary of the film’s start of production.

And, just in case you’ve never seen Lucas’ instant classic earth-bound coming-of-age film, it employs a whole lot of classic American automobiles.

Lucasfilm.com posted:

Image: Lucasfilm

The first evening of the shoot arrived on Monday, June 26 along a crowded 4th Street in San Rafael, California. They covered some ten setups with actors Paul Le Mat as the aging hot rodder John Milner and Mackenzie Phillips as the gregarious 13-year-old Carol who is surprisingly wise beyond her years. Together, the unlikely pair cruise the streets in an eye-catching yellow 1932 Ford known as a Deuce Coupe.

As the blog outlined, success for American Graffiti was no sure thing.

Production issues abounded, noteworthy among them a young actor/carpenter named Harrison Ford not wanting to cut his hair (and climbing up a hotel sign), the city of San Rafael kicking out the crew, dimly lit streets in little Petaluma, Calif., Richard Dreyfus’ critique of costume, and cold nighttime shoots outside San Francisco.

Moreover, THX 1138, Lucas’ first major picture, was a box office flop, which kept the budget for American Graffiti tight.

But Lucas persisted, as did his side space opera project, which — had it not been for the financial success of American Graffiti — might never have traveled to a galaxy far, far away.

“Lucas himself received many heartfelt responses to the story of youthful aspiration,” added Lucasfilm.com. “He took them to heart as he pondered his next project, a similar tale of young people breaking out of their surroundings, only this one took Lucas’ imagination to a whole new galaxy.”

Thank. The. Maker.

Read the full article here. And be sure to watch American Graffiti, soon.

Image: Lucasfilm

John Bishop

A graduate of Boston U. and Northeastern University, John Bishop, became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com before the Boston Bruins 2006-07 NHL hockey season. While with the Black & Gold, “^BISH” traveled North America and Europe to cover the team's every move via laptop, blog, and smartphone. The co-author of two books, "Bygone Boston" and "Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins," John also covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the Bs 2011 Stanley Cup championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea, and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke, in central Massachusetts.

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    Looking Back: American Graffiti

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