I have been watching the George Lucas film classic, American Graffiti, this evening and thoroughly enjoying the experience. The 1973 movie follows a large group of young people cruising the streets of Los Angeles on a weekend night. The soundtrack is vintage 1950's and 1960's with many of the tunes strung together by Wolfman Jack's rambling radio commentary
The music is great, but it is the superlative cast of young stars that made this movie so memorable. The "kids" of American Graffiti (though most weren't as young as the characters they played) formed a unique group of young actors that fit squarely in cinematic history between the Rat Pack of the 1950's and 1960's, and the Brat Pack of the 1980's.
It's an ensemble cast with all of the actors playing characters of roughly equal importance. Richard Dreyfus, who could easily pass for a high school freshman in the film, was actually twenty-six when this movie was made. Ron Howard probably came the nearest of any cast member to being the age of the character he portrayed. Howard played a recent high school graduate getting ready to head off to college. He was nineteen at the time the movie was filmed.
Howard's girlfriend in American Graffiti was Cindy Williams who later became famous as Shirley of the television sitcom Laverne and Shirley. Ms. Williams, like Dreyfus, was a young adult twenty-six when she played Ron Howard's romantic interest. Suzanne Somers, the mysterious blond in the Thunderbird, was twenty-seven, and Harrison Ford, the juvenile delinquent drag-racer, was the old man of the group at thirty-one - though he looked to be about nineteen.
The baby of the cast was fourteen-year-old McKenzie Phillips. She spent most of the evening cruising with twenty-eight-year-old Paul Le Mot. Ms. Philips gave quite a credible performance as the pesky little sister who gets palmed off on Le Mot early in the movie.
The actors, the music, and the wonderful old cars are all essential elements of this American film classic. Even if Star Wars had never happened, George Lucas earned his spot on the Walk of Fame with American Graffiti.
This movie captures an era of innocence that those of us of a certain age remember fondly. It was created to be a great piece of Americana, and it has surpassed expectations!