Wednesday, 18 February 2015 22:33

Where Were You in '62? Relive it When AMERICAN GRAFFITI Screens Friday Night at Webster University

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"Peel out! I just love it when guys peel out!"

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AMERICAN GRAFFITI will screen in 35mm at Webster University’s Moore Auditorium Friday February 20th at 7:30pm. The screening will be introduced by Webster University Professor Joe Schuster.

You can have all the STAR WARS movies, Episodes One through whatever – I’ll trade them all straight up for AMERICAN GRAFFITI and consider myself as having got the best end of the deal.

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AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) was only George Lucas’ second major film as a director (though he was already plenty experienced at filmmaking) and it is an extraordinary movie that has aged wonderfully. AMERICAN GRAFFITI chronicles one long night in the lives of some recent high school graduates in a north California in 1962. But it’s not just a look at the teenage ritual of cruising. By the time the next day is dawning, the main characters have all learned lessons about life and themselves and glimpsed the directions their futures will go in.

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A group of talented young actors form the core of the large cast in this film. Ronny Howard, as he’s billed here, pulls off the formidable task of turning in a performance that makes one forget about his past as a well-known child actor from a popular TV show. He plays Steve, an All-American boy eager to enter the new world of college, which means leaving home. He talks with his girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams) about how their relationship might change now that they’re both soon to be worldly adults. Perhaps they should consider seeing other people. Fighting ensues between the two, causing Laurie to at least temporarily abandon him for another cruiser, one in whom she has no interest whatsoever.

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Steve’s good friend Curt likes to have a good time too, but he’s also a sensitive budding writer. His great ambition is to shake JFK’s hand. But he’s having his doubts this evening about going away to college, something Steve can hardly believe he’s hearing. He spends the night getting mixed up with a local gang and chasing a fantasy woman he sees at a stoplight. Another friend, Terry (or “Toad”), played by Charlie Martin Smith, is in heaven this evening. This Vespa-driving, awkward bumbler is to be entrusted with Steve’s fine automobile while he’s away. In it he picks up a fast girl with a bit of a reputation who under normal circumstances he’d never have a chance with. The group is rounded out by Big John Milner (Paul Le Mat), king of the cruisers who can outrun all challengers in his rod. But this local legend is once again going to be left behind by another group of high-school grads while he cruises the same strip.

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There are also several other fine supporting performances, led by a young Mackenzie Phillips as a 13-year old who gets pawned off on Big John. Bo Hopkins also shines as the leader of the small-time local gang, the Pharaohs. Also seen here are Harrison Ford and Kathy (Kathleen) Quinlan in their pre-star days. In addition, Suzanne Somers, “the girl in the white T-Bird,” has one of the most effective cameo roles in Hollywood history.

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All the actors mentioned are good ones, but they all benefit from Lucas’ guidance. The film is enlivened by a knowledgeable choice of period rock & roll which serves as a pervasive but unobtrusive backdrop for the action. The conclusion wraps things up beautifully as we get a taste of what will happen to these characters we’ve come to care so much about in this short time. George Lucas may have made films with more flash and more popular appeal, but none has more heart and soul than AMERICAN GRAFFITI, a true classic of American cinema. Movie lovers will get a chance to experience AMERICAN GRAFFITI CAUSE in all of its 35mm glory when it plays on the big screen this Friday, February 20th at 7:30 at Webster University’s Moore Auditorium (470 E. Lockwood in Webster Groves), one of the last venues in St. Louis that can screen 35mm film prints. It’s part of Webster University’s Centennial Film Series – a look at the Movies that Defined the Past 100 Years.

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The Webster University Film Series, housed in the School of Communications, is the Midwest’s premier hosting venue for American and foreign films. The Series is host to speakers and visiting artists who address the pertinent issues in films presented. In an effort to further integrate film with education, the Film Series provides workshops with artists and experts.

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Unless otherwise noted, admission is:

$6 for the general public
$5 for seniors, Webster alumni and students from other schools
$4 for Webster University staff and faculty

Free for Webster students with proper I.D.

Advance tickets are available from the cashier before each screening or contact the Film Series office (314-246-7525) for more options. The Film Series can only accept cash or check.

Winifred Moore Auditorium (470 E. Lockwood, Webster Groves, MO 63119) :

Directions: Taking Highway 44 East, exit left on Elm Ave. Make a right on East Lockwood Ave. Immediately after passing Plymouth Ave., there will be a parking lot entrance to your right (lot B). Winifred Moore Auditorium is behind Webster Hall

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