Released in 1967, Mike Nichols film ‘The Graduate‘ was the highest grossing movie of the year, and received eight Oscar nominations. In the 55 years since its release, it has become a classic, and countless articles have been written about the film and its characters, but not nearly enough about the cars!

The driving scenes are a time warp for car enthusiasts. The street scenes look like guerilla filmmaking, shot at real locations with cars of that ‘golden era’ of motoring. The hero speeds past Karmann Ghia in the famous Bay Bridge scene, but there’s 1966 Chevy Impala, a VW Beetle and 1963 MG-B parked on the street, Ford Mustangs and Galaxies, plus a Hilman Minx at the Hamburger Hamlet drive-in restaurant.

The hidden message of this film is the importance of having a cool car. Preferably a red, Italian convertible “wop-job” as the Alfa Romeo is called in the film. To be the hero of a story, a sick ride is an absolute necessity. Duston Hoffman plays a soft-shouldered 21-year-old boy named Ben. But when he gets behind the wheel of his 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spyder, Benjamin becomes a man.

Early in the movie, Benjamin tosses his keys to Mrs. Robinson, telling her she should driver herself home. He then asks, “Can you drive a foreign shift?” Of course she can’t, Ben. That’s like asking her to pull a sword from the stone. This is Ben’s Alfa.

The film can be viewed as anti-adult. The parents of both young Ben and his love interest Elaine are controlling, forcing the youngsters into decisions about school, marriage, about what they want to do with their lives. Interestingly, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson drive a 1966 Lincoln Continental in sinister black. This is the same car as the one JFK was shot in (just a 4-door in this movie). Just check out the pink suit Mrs. Robinson wears climbing into the Lincoln; looks like Jackie Kennedy on the day of the President’s assassination. Co-incidence? No way!

This movie is all about a boy and his car. Such as amazing co-incidence that this car was selected for the movie, since as chance would have it, Dustin Hoffman’s uncle Max Hoffman was an Alfa Romeo importer in the 1960’s. Funny how that randomly worked out? But forget about that.

This is a movie about Benjamin and his Alfa Romeo Spyder. For what is Michael Knight without KITT, the Duke boys without the General Lee, or Marty McFly without his DeLorean?

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2 thoughts on “Fast Film Friday: The Graduate

  1. I absolutely love this movie. Dustin was way older than his character when he was chosen for the part but I am so happy he accepted it.
    Correct me if I am wrong but in some driving scenes, they dubbed the sound of the engine. The red Alfa sounds like it was V8 powered.
    Since you guys are going in this direction, please try the 1966 “A man and a Woman”.

    1. Yes, I think Destin Hoffman was 31 playing a 21 year old character. And Mrs. Robinson was only 35!

      The audio of the car scenes is hilarious. A 1800cc four cylinder that sounds like a throaty American V8. And there seems to be way more than 5 gears in that transmission, because you can hear Hoffman keeps shifting and shifting, even at highway cruising speed.

      Plus, on those highway scenes, Hoffman keeps on shifting even though he’s driving with his right hand (while his left arm rests on the door).

      You can see where Fast & Furious got their ideas from! No reason for a movie to be stuck in physical realities.

      Some of the shots in The Graduate show inspiration from French New Wave cinema, so maybe we’ll check out ‘A Man and a Woman’ but there’s also a racing movie in pseudo-New Wave style called “The Wild Racers” by Roger Corman that’ll be the subject of the next Fast Film Friday. Really cool movie.

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