The Graduation of the Graduate

For my research paper I would like to explore the motifs and key themes in the classic American film, The Graduate (1967). By investigating the adaptation of the novel by Charles Webb into a screenplay, the use of symbolism, soundtrack, metaphors and setting, I will determine the film’s role in American cinema history, and how its effects are still seen in film today. In 1963, Charles Webb published the novel that Hollywood producer Lawrence Turman had read about in The New York Times. Turman found a copy of The Graduate, and thought enough of the story to adapt it into a movie, which he considered to be 90% accurate to the book.

The biggest motion picture of 1968, The Graduate was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and the American Film Institute ranked it at number seven in its list of the greatest films of the century. It features one of the most recognizable soundtracks in movie history, by one of pop music’s best-loved duos, Simon and Garfunkel. Additionally the film has been credited with the assassination of the romantic comedy. As part of the Present at the Creation series, Don Lee tells the story of how some improbable ingredients were mixed together to make a movie that forever changed American cinema.

The Graduate begins with Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman in his first film role, telling his father that he’s worried about his future, that he wants it to be “different. ” But as the wish comes true, Benjamin discovers his life becomes much more complicated. After driving a female friend of the family, Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft home from his graduation party, Benjamin is seduced by her. Paired with songs by Simon and Garfunkel, Benjamin drifts through a summer romance with the older woman until he suddenly falls in love with, and decides to pursue, her daughter Elaine.

Such a plot twist helped transform the conventional Hollywood romance. But Turman and director Mike Nichols made one key adaptation from the book, by changing the Braddock family from waspy blonde characters into a dark-haired, more ethnic-looking family. The role of Mrs. Robinson was initially offered to Doris Day. The filmmakers also considered Robert Redford and Candice Bergen to play Benjamin and Elaine. Nichols had worked with Redford on Broadway and was enthusiastic about him at first, but Turman disagreed. “I was resistant because his qualities weren’t quite right for The Graduate,” he says.

“The Graduate only works if it’s a 21 year old going on 16, who’s sexually insecure. Well, Redford is this… classic sexual matinee idol. So we did a test with Redford and I don’t think the test was one-third of the way in when Mike, who had wanted him, turned to me and said ‘Turman, you S. O. B. , you’re right! ‘” Hoffman’s hair color wasn’t the only difference. He played Benjamin as sweet and befuddled, where Webb’s creation had been a little surly. The most important change to the plot though, doesn’t come until the end of the film.

In the book, Benjamin crashes Elaine Robinson’s wedding at the last minute, stealing her away. The film ends with the same event, but instead, Benjamin arrives too late to interrupt the vows and is just in time to see Elaine and her new husband kiss. Regardless, Braddock storms in and they run off together, infringing on the traditional marital ties. The movie ends with a shot of the two sitting in the rear window of a bus, excited and nervous as they head into the future together. The twist comes courtesy of Nichols, who along with screenwriter Buck Henry, delivered a movie seasoned with quotable lines and creative shots.

For instance, the scene at Benjamin’s birthday as his parents force him to model a new scuba outfit, or his seduction by Mrs. Robinson. Nichols says the seduction scene “was all about him being stalked. We talked about it being a jungle, and it was a jungle. There were all these plants and the Beverly Hills garden behind the glass that surrounded the sun porch. And we talked about her being the tiger in the jungle and she had a tiger striped dress on and it was all built to be a trap, a tender trap. We wanted to find a way to express the fact that she was being provocative…

And there was her leg and it was up and it seemed logical. ” Another key theme seemed to be the widening gap between the adults of America and their kids, who were trying to break away from the influence of an older generation. “You had the generation gap, [with] Abbie Hoffman saying, ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30. ’ The famous word ‘plastics’ encapsulates the theme of the movie, which is that the adult world is artificial, is superficial, on some level immoral and irrelevant to the concerns of young people. ” Audiences responded enthusiastically.

“Built into this story… there are two enormous fantasies going for a young audience. Your mother and father’s most good-looking friend, and then this gorgeous young girl. The first adventure you have as a kid or a young person is, of course, an adventure that shapes your life forever. And Benjamin has a real life-shaper there. ” Works Cited 2 Nov. 2007 . Dirks, Tim. www. filmsite. org. 2 Nov. 2007 . IMDb. 2 Nov. 2007 . Phillips, William H. Film: an Introduction. 3rd ed. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005. Webb, Charles. The Graduate. 1963.