The Graduate (1967) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna and a Reader

Scoop's notes in white:

I suppose you all know what this film is, and whether you like it or not. It is, deservedly or not, my generation's official relic, our Ark of the Covenant that we are still carrying through the desert, going on forty years now, the desert in this case being succeeding eras which have been spiritually arid, never measuring up to our youth. The Graduate was filmed just before The Summer of Love, the harbinger of our official generational motif - rejection of the material successes our parents had worked so hard to achieve. People my age probably remember discussing this film with friends more clearly than we remember the film itself. It was not just a movie. It was a part of our lives and a universal cultural reference. It is still the 22nd most watched film in history, based on the number of tickets sold.

In the unlikely event that you don't already know about it, The Graduate is about the anomie of a college graduate (Benjamin - Dustin Hoffman), who has an affair with a friend of his parents (Mrs. Robinson - Anne Bancroft), then regrets the affair, then regrets it a helluva lot more, because he falls in love with Mrs Robinson's daughter. sums it up succinctly and accurately:

Few films have defined a generation as The Graduate did. The alienation, the nonconformity, the intergenerational romance, the blissful Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack--they all served to lob a cultural grenade smack into the middle of 1967 America, ultimately making the film the third most profitable up to that time."

We boomers loved this movie. I loved this movie in 1967.

I just watched the film version of The Graduate again this week, with my significant other, because we had just seen Jerry Hall in the stage play version. Elya is Russian. She had never seen the movie and wanted to compare it to the play. I have to be honest and say that my reaction was, "what the hell was I thinking of when I liked this movie so much?" I liked about 30 minutes of the film, but the rest was excruciating.

  • The first 20 minutes or so, everything from the beginning of the film until we see Hoffman in the scuba suit, are quite good. That portion of the film stands alone as a compact little black comedy.
  • In between that scene and Elaine's wedding, it is one of the slowest films I can name, except when Anne Bancroft is on screen.
  • The final ten minutes form a good little drama, and there is a brilliant final scene when Benjamin escapes with Elaine on a public bus while she is still in her wedding dress. What makes that scene so effective - so chilling, in fact - is that they board the bus giddily, then their laughter stops and they both stare forward blankly, grimly, not acknowledging one another, while Paul Simon sings of alienation. That was a mighty existential ending for a movie that started as a comedy!

Indeed, it is a short and brilliant comedy, and it is a short and brilliant drama. Unfortunately those two things are sandwiched around an hour of nothing.

The character motivation in the middle section is incomprehensible. Examples:

1. Benjamin has only one date with the daughter, after which she finds out about the affair with her mom, and goes back to school. Shortly thereafter, Benjamin gets an apartment near her campus, and stalks her, first secretly, then with outright harassment. Remember, she barely knows him.

2. Benjamin then defies all logic and tells the daughter that he wishes to marry her. After one date. She doesn't know a damned thing about him, nor he about her. Mind you, he doesn't say, "I'd really like to get to know you better. I felt like we had a connection, didn't you?" That I could have accepted, even if she called off her wedding to the other guy. But that isn't what went down. Instead, he stalks her for a while, then insists on getting blood tests and getting married.

3. Stranger still, the daughter doesn't think this marriage obsession is insane.

4. The daughter accepts all marriage proposals from everyone who offers. She is engaged to her white bread guy when Benjamin arrives in Berkeley. Then she breaks down and says she'll marry Benjamin. Then she is at the altar with White Bread. Then she leaves White Bread at the altar to run off with Benjamin.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Mr Cranky put it very well in his review:

"It begins with an interesting concept that turns into a lot of muck by the end -- kind of like the entire '60s, if you think about it."

That brings us back to my question to myself, "what the hell was I thinking of when I liked this movie?" The answer is that the 60s were a form of wonderful, idealistic, mass hypnosis, but the post-hypnotic suggestion didn't work on everyone. If you are still under that spell, you may love it because it sums up a weltanschauung that still really appeals to you. In fact, somewhere deep in my heart I still love it in the way that people always love their first love ... but that love doesn't make it a great movie, just a fairly good one that I happen to love.


Here are some things you might not know about The Graduate:

  • Charles Grodin "won" the auditions for the part of Benjamin, beating out such stalwarts as Robert Redford! Grodin could not come to terms on a contract, so Dustin Hoffman got the part that would make him a nationally recognized figure, and would change his life forever.
  • According to Hoffman, Gene Hackman was originally cast as Mr Robinson, but was fired.
  • Anne Bancroft is only five years and eleven months older than Dustin Hoffman. She was 35 when the Graduate was filmed, Hoffman was 29. (36 and 30 by the time it became a hit.)
  • Richard Dreyfuss, age 19 and unknown at the time, has a one-line cameo in The Graduate. Same for future TV star Ben Murphy. IMDb says MASH star Mike Farrell was an uncredited bellhop in the Taft Hotel somewhere, but I couldn't seem to spot him.
  • In the famous Graduate poster with Benjamin and Mrs Robinson's leg, the leg actually belonged to future Dallas star Linda Gray, who would play Mrs Robinson on stage 35 years later.
  • Anne Bancroft's other body double, the one from the movie, has never stepped forward to be identified, or been identified by anyone else, to my knowledge. (Many people, including Bancroft herself, have confirmed that Bancroft refused to do the nudity, but you'd think someone would say, "hey, that was me in the most famous film of the era!")
  • The Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack became a #1 album.
  • The soundtrack is unusual by today's standards. There are only five songs, two of them played again and again and again. One of the five songs is "April Come She Will", a beautiful folk melody sung solo by Garfunkel. It is only a minute long. Another is, "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine", which may be Simon's worst song. A third is "Mrs Robinson", which was only half of a song at the time. The rest of the movie consists of the songs "Sounds of Silence" and "Scarborough Fair", heard three times each in the repetitive soundtrack. Those same songs are heard again and again and again. Sounds of Silence is actually played all the way through twice, which may be unique in the history of major budget cinema! Equally odd is one point in the film where two Simon and Garfunkel songs are played back-to-back, in their entirety, under a visual montage with no dialogue! How often do you see that in a studio release? (Although that point is softened by the fact that "April Come She Will" is such a short song.)


Tuna's comments in yellow:

A classic.

This film launched the film career of Dustin Hoffman, and made Ross one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood. The special features contain a 1972 interview with Ross who explains that she was so deluged with offers, scripts, etc. that he ran and hid. This explains why she didn't do much after her early fame in The Graduate and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Another interesting tidbit from the Special Features concerns the Song "Mrs. Robinson." Paul Simon wrote only a segment of the song for the film, and was reluctant to finish it for use in promoting the film. After the film's phenomenal success, he immediately finished the song and released an album which quickly went Gold.


Anne Bancroft's body double shows breasts and the top of her bum. Lainie Miller, as a stripper, shows her breasts, which are covered only by pasties/tassels.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the scene where one of the guests at Hoffman's graduation party takes him aside and says "I have one word for you -- plastics" proves the film's stature. Two other scenes show up on many of the "great films of the past" promos.

  • The first occurs is when Hoffman says to Bancroft, "Are you trying to seduce me Mrs. Robinson?"
  • The second is when Hoffman is banging on the glass in the church trying to stop Ross's wedding. In this scene, Benjamin is banging on a plate glass window and screaming for Elaine (Ross) with his arms stretched wide. Many analyses of the film say this is an allegory to the crucifixion of Christ. According to Hoffman, the pastor of the church that was rented for the film had become increasingly agitated over the abuse his church was taking by cast and crew. During rehearsals, Hoffman was banging on the glass with his fists, causing the glass to rattle. The minister said that the glass was a gift, and that he would not permit the banging for fear of breaking the glass. A special effects expert advised Hoffman to stretch his arms wide and distribute the stress on the glass. So much for the allegory theory.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Exclusive Interview With Dustin Hoffman

  • Behind-the-Scenes Making-Of Documentary

  • Widescreen letterbox format

On the off chance that there is someone who has not seen this film, Benjamin (Hoffman) has just graduated from college, and is struggling with angst over his future. He is seduced by Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson) who is the wife of his father's business partner. The affair turns nasty when Benjamin dates Mrs. Robinson's daughter (Ross) and falls in love with her.

Reader's commentary in aqua:


You were much too generous in your evaluation of The Graduate. I belong to a film group in Wisconsin, and every Saturday afternoon in winter about ten of us get together to watch one or more of the IMDb Top 250. It's our way of learning more about movies that came before our time. Over the years, we've been disappointed by some films, like Citizen Kane and 2001 and The Searchers, which just don't live up to their reputation, but The Graduate is the only one we've ever shut off without watching the ending, although only about three people made it all the way through 2001. Early on, a bunch of people just wandered out and did other things. About half way through, one of the girls grabbed the remote and pressed pause. She asked, "does anyone really want to keep watching this?"

Nobody rose to defend it. There were only about five of us still watching.

We came to a conclusion in our post-film discussion. There are many films which are rated high and do not live up to expectations, but The Graduate is the only one of the "great" films that just completely sucks. It is just a poor movie in so many ways. All of the actors in minor roles completely stink. Benjamin looks older than Mrs Robinson, except without the spray-on gray hair which Mrs Robinson stole from a high school drama club presentation of Long Day's Journey Into Night. The musical score consists of "Songs to Sleep By", and it's the same damned songs over and over. The sound editing is so bad that half of the dialogue is lost. We can't figure out why Mrs Robinson wanted Benjamin. Can you explain that to us? We also can't explain why Benjamin and Elaine wanted to marry one another. Since Benjamin is supposed to be a genius student, how do you explain his apparent extreme density? Is he stoned all the time? Maybe he's autistic. Maybe Rainman should actually be called The Graduate II. Mrs Robinson's daughter is a complete ditz, and what is the deal on her eyelashes?  And why exactly is this considered a comedy? None of us laughed during the movie, not even once. It's about as funny as Schindler's List.

Between this film and 2001, you guys must have been smoking a lot of loco weed back then.

Scoop's note:

I can't really explain why I liked this movie so much back then, but I do remember that I loved it, and it seemed that everyone loved it. Some things get lost in the passage of time, and this seems to be one of them. I had one other similar experience since starting this site. I once wrote that I can no longer remember why I thought Dudley Moore was funny, but I'm pretty sure you will experience the same thing someday when your grandchildren ask you about David Spade.

Yet people did laugh at Dudley Moore's hijinks (and Spade's), and people did love The Graduate. Some still do. I guess those facts give us an understanding of how we differ from one another, and even from younger versions of ourselves.

The Critics Vote

  • Panel consensus: three and a half stars. Roger Ebert 3/4, BBC 5/5.

  • Won Oscar for Best Director. Nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Picture, Best Cinematography and Best Writing.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 8.1/10, just a hair outside of the Top 100 of all time.
  • The Graduate is #22 of all-time in box office adjusted for iinflation, as measured by the number of tickets sold.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a C+. It is a beloved classic and a first degree relic. It is #22 of all time in inflation-adjusted box office, and #102 of all time at IMDb. If you saw the film when you were young, you'll probably have a nice trip back, although I didn't. If you ARE still young, you'll probably feel comfortably embraced by its universal rejection of the values of the previous generation, because the attitudes of youth don't change that much from generation to generation, despite our pretense to the contrary. If you are already 30ish or older, and have not seen it, skip it. When Anne Bancroft is not on screen, the pace is soporific (5 minutes without dialogue at one point), and most of the jokes don't work at all. The motivation of the characters is completely inexplicable. The DVD is disappointing. It is not anamorphic, and some scenes are green. It needs a clean-up, remastering, and special edition. Tuna rates it an A, saying: "I adore everything about this film, and was pleased with the DVD version."

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