Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mike Nichols|
|Produced by||Lawrence Turman|
|Based on||The Graduate|
by Charles Webb
|Edited by||Sam O'Steen|
Mike Nichols/Lawrence Turman Productions
|Box office||$104.9 million (North America)|
$85 million (worldwide rentals)
The Graduate is a 1967 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols and written by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb, who wrote it shortly after graduating from Williams College. The film tells the story of 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate with no well-defined aim in life, who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).
The film was released on December 22, 1967, received positive reviews and grossed $104.9 million in the U.S. and Canada. With the figures adjusted for inflation, the film's gross is $805 million, making it the 23rd highest-ever grossing film in the U.S. and Canada. It won the Academy Award for Best Director and was nominated in six other categories. In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Initially, the film was placed at No.7 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list in 1998. When AFI revised the list in 2007, the film was moved to No.17.
In 1967, Benjamin Braddock, aged 20, has earned his bachelor's degree from a college on the East Coast and has returned home to a party celebrating his graduation at his parents' house in Pasadena, California. Benjamin has no idea of what to do with his life and is visibly unhappy as his parents deliver accolades and neighborhood friends ask him about his future plans. He hides from those who try to congratulate him. Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's law partner, insists that he drive her home. Benjamin is persuaded inside to have a drink and Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him. She invites him up to her daughter Elaine's room to see Elaine's portrait and then enters the room naked, making it clear that she is available to him. Benjamin rejects her but a few days later, he awkwardly organizes a meeting at the Taft Hotel, where he registers under the pseudonym Gladstone.
Benjamin spends the rest of the summer relaxing around the pool by day, refusing to select a graduate school, and seeing Mrs. Robinson at the hotel by night. He discovers that he and Mrs. Robinson have nothing to talk about. However, after Benjamin pesters her one evening, Mrs. Robinson reveals that she entered into a loveless marriage when she accidentally became pregnant with Elaine. Both Mr. Robinson and Benjamin's parents encourage him to call Elaine, but, in private, Mrs. Robinson forbids him.
Benjamin decides to take Elaine on a date in order to ruin it: he ignores her, drives dangerously, and takes her to a strip club. After she runs out of the club in tears, he changes his mind, apologizes for his behavior, and discovers that Elaine is someone he is happy to be around. In search of a late-night drink they visit the Taft Hotel, but when the staff greet Benjamin as "Mr. Gladstone", Elaine deduces that he has been having an affair with a married woman. She accepts his acknowledgement that the affair is over, but an angry Mrs. Robinson threatens to tell Elaine her version of their affair. To prevent this, Benjamin tells Elaine that the married woman was her mother. Elaine is disgusted and returns to school at Berkeley.
Benjamin follows her there and tries to charm her. She reveals that her mother's story is that he raped her while she was drunk, but reluctantly believes Benjamin when he tells her what really happened and forgives him. After continuously proposing to her, Benjamin begins to make amends with Elaine, who finally admits that she still returns his feelings. However, Mr. Robinson arrives at Berkeley after also hearing the rape story, confronts Benjamin at his rooming house, and threatens to put him behind bars if Benjamin ever sees his daughter again. Mr. Robinson then forces Elaine to drop out of college and takes her away to marry Carl, a classmate with whom she briefly had a relationship.
Returning to Pasadena in search of Elaine, Benjamin breaks into the Robinson home but encounters Mrs. Robinson. She tells him he will not be able to stop the wedding with Carl and then calls the police, claiming that her house is being burglarized. Benjamin visits Carl's fraternity brothers who tell him that the wedding is in Santa Barbara that morning. He rushes to the church and arrives just as Elaine and Carl are married. He bangs on the glass at the back of the church and screams "Elaine!" frantically. After hesitating, Elaine screams "Ben!" and looks at him pitifully. He rushes toward her, and a fight ensues as guests try to stop the two from leaving together. Mrs. Robinson angrily tells Elaine, “It’s too late!” only for Elaine to reply, “Not for me!” Benjamin manages to keep the guests at bay by picking up a large cross and wielding it, then jamming the church doors shut with it. Both he and Elaine then run into the street to flag down a passing bus and take the back seat, eloping.
However, as they settle into their seats, their faces change from happiness to uncertainty as "The Sound of Silence" plays and the bus drives away.
- Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson
- Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock
- Katharine Ross as Elaine Robinson
- William Daniels as Mr. Braddock
- Murray Hamilton as Mr. Robinson
- Elizabeth Wilson as Mrs. Braddock
- Buck Henry as Room clerk
- Brian Avery as Carl Smith
- Walter Brooke as Mr. McGuire
- Norman Fell as Mr. McCleery
- Alice Ghostley as Mrs. Singleman
- Marion Lorne as Miss DeWitte
Getting the film made was difficult for Nichols, who, while noted for being a successful Broadway director, was still an unknown in Hollywood. Producer Lawrence Turman, who wanted only Nichols to direct it, was continually turned down for financing. He then contacted producer Joseph E. Levine, who said he would finance the film because he had associated with Nichols on the play The Knack, and because he heard that Elizabeth Taylor specifically wanted Nichols to direct her and Richard Burton in Virginia Woolf.
With financing assured, Nichols suggested Buck Henry for screenwriter, although Henry's experience had also been mostly in improvised comedy, and had no writing background. Nichols said to Henry, "I think you could do it; I think you should do it." Nichols was paid $150,000 but was to receive 16⅔% of the profits.
Nichols' first choice for Mrs. Robinson was French actress Jeanne Moreau. The motivation for this was the cliche that in French culture, "older" women tended to "train" the younger men in sexual matters. Numerous actors were considered for or sought roles in the film. Doris Day turned down an offer because the nudity required by the role offended her. Joan Crawford inquired as to play the part, while Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn both wanted the role. Patricia Neal turned down the film as she had recently recovered from a stroke and did not feel ready to accept such a major role. Geraldine Page also turned it down. Other actors considered for the part included Claire Bloom, Angie Dickinson, Sophia Loren, Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Susan Hayward, Anouk Aimée, Jennifer Jones, Deborah Kerr, Eva Marie Saint, Rosalind Russell, Simone Signoret, Jean Simmons, Lana Turner, Eleanor Parker, Anne Baxter and Shelley Winters. Angela Lansbury also asked about playing the part. Ava Gardner sought the role of Mrs. Robinson, and reportedly called Nichols saying,"I want to see you! I want to talk about this Graduate thing!" Nichols did not seriously consider her for the role (he wanted a younger woman as Bancroft was 35 and Gardner was 45), but did end up visiting her hotel. He later recounted that "she sat at a little French desk with a telephone, she went through every movie star cliché. She said, 'All right, let's talk about your movie. First of all, I strip for nobody.'" Meanwhile, Natalie Wood turned down not only the role of Mrs. Robinson, but also that of Elaine.
For the character of Elaine, casting was also an issue. Patty Duke turned down the part as she did not want to work at the time. Faye Dunaway was also considered for Elaine, but had to turn it down, in favor of Bonnie and Clyde. Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine refused the role as well. Raquel Welch and Joan Collins both wanted the role, but did not succeed in getting it. Carroll Baker tested, but was said to have been too old to portray Anne Bancroft's daughter. Candice Bergen screen-tested as well, as did Goldie Hawn and Jane Fonda. Additionally, Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Ashley, Carol Lynley, Sue Lyon, Yvette Mimieux, Suzanne Pleshette, Lee Remick, Pamela Tiffin, Julie Christie, and Tuesday Weld were all on the director's shortlist before Katharine Ross was cast.
When Dustin Hoffman auditioned for the role of Benjamin, he was just short of his 30th birthday at the time of filming. He was asked to perform a love scene with Ross, having previously never done one during his acting classes and believed that, as he said later, "a girl like [Ross] would never go for a guy like me in a million years." Ross agreed, believing that Hoffman "look[ed] about 3 feet tall ... so unkempt. This is going to be a disaster." Producer Joseph E. Levine later admitted that he at first believed that Hoffman "was one of the messenger boys." Despite—or perhaps because of—Hoffman's awkwardness, Nichols chose him for the film. "As far as I'm concerned, Mike Nichols did a very courageous thing casting me in a part that I was not right for, meaning I was Jewish," said Hoffman. "In fact, many of the reviews were very negative. It was kind of veiled anti-Semitism.... I was called 'big-nosed' in the reviews, 'a nasal voice'." Before Hoffman was cast, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty were among the top choices. Beatty turned the film down as he was occupied with Bonnie and Clyde. Redford tested for the part of Benjamin (with Candice Bergen as Elaine), but Nichols thought Redford did not possess the underdog quality Benjamin needed.
In the role of Mr. Robinson, Gene Hackman was originally cast, but just before filming began, the director decided he was too young and decided to replace him. Marlon Brando, Howard Duff, Brian Keith, George Peppard, Jack Palance, Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau and Gregory Peck were all other choices for the role that Murray Hamilton eventually played. Susan Hayward was the first choice for Benjamin's mother, Mrs. Braddock, but the role was given to Elizabeth Wilson. For the role of Mr. Braddock, Yul Brynner, Kirk Douglas, Jack Lemmon, Robert Mitchum, Karl Malden, Christopher Plummer and Ronald Reagan (who had been Governor of California for nearly a year when the film was released) were all considered before William Daniels secured the part.
The quality of the cinematography was influenced by Nichols, who chose Oscar winner Robert Surtees to do the photography. Surtees, who had photographed major films since the 1920s, including Ben-Hur, said later, "It took everything I had learned over 30 years to be able to do the job. I knew that Mike Nichols was a young director who went in for a lot of camera. We did more things in this picture than I ever did in one film."
The church used for the wedding scene is actually the United Methodist Church in La Verne. In a commentary audio released with the 40th anniversary DVD, Hoffman revealed that he was uneasy about the scene in which he pounds on the church window, as the minister of the church had been watching the filming disapprovingly. The wedding scene was highly influenced by the ending of the 1924 comedy film Girl Shy starring Harold Lloyd, who also served as an advisor for the scene in The Graduate.
The film boosted the profile of folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel. Originally, Nichols and O'Steen used their existing songs like "The Sound of Silence" merely as a pacing device for the editing until Nichols decided that substituting original music would not be effective and decided to include them on the soundtrack, an unusual move at that time.
According to a Variety article by Peter Bart in the May 15, 2005, issue, Lawrence Turman, his producer, then made a deal for Simon to write three new songs for the movie. By the time they had nearly finished editing the film, Simon had only written one new song. Nichols begged him for more, but Simon, who was touring constantly, told him he did not have the time. He did play him a few notes of a new song he had been working on; "It's not for the movie... it's a song about times past—about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff." Nichols advised Simon, "It's now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt."
The Graduate was met with generally positive reviews from critics upon its release. A.D. Murphy of Variety and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film, with Murphy describing it as a "delightful satirical comedy-drama"  and Ebert claiming it was the "funniest American comedy of the year". However, Life critic Richard Schickel felt the film "starts out to satirize the alienated spirit of modern youth, does so with uncommon brilliance for its first half, but ends up selling out to the very spirit its creators intended to make fun of... It's a shame-- they were halfway to something wonderful when they skidded on a patch of greasy kid stuff." Pauline Kael wondered, "How could you convince them [younger viewers] that a movie that sells innocence is a very commercial piece of work when they're so clearly in the market to buy innocence?"
Modern[when?] critics continue to praise the film, if not always with the same ardor. For the film's thirtieth anniversary reissue, Ebert retracted some of his previous praise for the film, noting that he felt its time had passed and that he now had more sympathy for Mrs. Robinson than Benjamin (whom he considered "an insufferable creep"), viewing one's sympathy for Mrs. Robinson and disdainful attitude toward Ben as a function of aging and wisdom. He, along with Gene Siskel, gave the film a positive if unenthusiastic review on the television program Siskel & Ebert. Furthermore, the film's rating in the AFI list of the greatest American films fell from seventh in 1997 to seventeenth in the 2007 update. Lang Thompson, however, argued that "it really hasn't dated much".
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 86% based on 80 reviews, with an average rating of 8.85/10. The site's consensus reads, "The music, the performances, the precision in capturing the post-college malaise—The Graduate's coming-of-age story is indeed one for the ages." On the similar website Metacritic, the film holds a score of 83 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Awards and honors
In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and placed #23 on the list of highest-grossing films in the United States and Canada, adjusted for inflation.
Years later in interviews, Bancroft stated that Mrs. Robinson was the role with which she was most identified, and added, "Men still come up to me and tell me 'You were my first sexual fantasy.'"
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #7
- 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #9
- 2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #52
- 2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- 2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #17
The Graduate was released in theatres on December 22, 1967. The film was released on Blu-ray by Embassy Home Entertainment on January 25, 2011. The Graduate was released on DVD by Embassy Home Entertainment on January 21, 2014.
Terry Johnson's adaptation of the original novel and the film ran both on London's West End and on Broadway, and has toured the United States. There is a Brazilian version adapted by Miguel Falabella. Several actresses have starred as Mrs. Robinson, including Kathleen Turner, Lorraine Bracco, Jerry Hall, Amanda Donohoe, Morgan Fairchild, Anne Archer, Vera Fischer, Patricia Richardson and Linda Gray.
The stage production adds several scenes that are not in the novel or the film, as well as using material from both film and novel. It also uses songs by Simon & Garfunkel not used in the film, such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as well as music from other popular musicians from the era such as The Byrds and The Beach Boys. The West End production opened at the Gielgud Theatre on April 5, 2000, after previews from March 24, with Kathleen Turner starring as Mrs. Robinson. The production closed in January 2002. Jerry Hall replaced Turner on July 31, 2000, followed by Amanda Donohoe from February 2001, Anne Archer from June 2001, and Linda Gray from October 2001. The 2003 UK touring production starred Glynis Barber as Mrs. Robinson.
The Broadway production opened at the Plymouth Theatre on April 4, 2002, and closed on March 2, 2003, after 380 performances. Directed by Terry Johnson, the play featured the cast of Jason Biggs as Benjamin Braddock, Alicia Silverstone as Elaine Robinson, and Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson. The play received no award nominations. Linda Gray briefly filled in for Turner in September 2002. Lorraine Bracco replaced Turner from November 19, 2002.
Charles Webb has written a sequel to his original novel titled Home School, but initially refused to publish it in its entirety because of a contract he signed in the 1960s. When he sold film rights to The Graduate, he surrendered the rights to any sequels. If he were to publish Home School, Canal+, the French media company that owns the rights to The Graduate, would be able to adapt it for the screen without his permission. Extracts of Home School were printed in The Times on May 2, 2006. Webb also told the newspaper that there was a possibility he would find a publisher for the full text, provided he could retrieve the film rights using French copyright law. On May 30, 2006, The Times reported that Webb had signed a publishing deal for Home School with Random House which he hoped would enable him to instruct French lawyers to attempt to retrieve his rights. The novel was published in Britain in 2007.
In Robert Altman's black comedy about Hollywood titled The Player, Buck Henry pitches a sequel to The Graduate to producer Griffin Mill (played by Tim Robbins) during the opening sequence of the film.
In popular culture
In the television series Roseanne season 6 episode 16, there is a fantasy scene where Jackie assumes the Bancroft role and attempts to seduce David. The famous shot of The Graduate seen between the leg of the Bancroft character is replicated for the scene.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Graduate|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Graduate.|
- The Graduate essay by Jami Bernard on the National Film Registry website 
- Official website
- The Graduate at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Graduate on IMDb
- The Graduate at the TCM Movie Database
- The Graduate at AllMovie
- The Graduate at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Graduate at Box Office Mojo
- The Graduate: Intimations of a Revolution an essay by Frank Rich at The Criterion Collection