The Set of 400: #311 – My Favorite Hotel Check-In

Today! Because I just want to say one word to you. Just one word –

The Graduate (1967)

Directed by Mike Nichols

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft (x2), Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Elizabeth Wilson, Murray Hamilton (x2), Buck Henry, Norman Fell, Alice Ghostley, Brian Avery, Walter Brooke, Richard Dreyfuss, Mike Farrell

One of the undeniable classics of the New Hollywood 1960s, and easily the most popular cougar seduction comedy of all-time, The Graduate didn’t come on my radar for some time. It was probably college before I really watched it – that being the obvious right time to see this film – but it is such a universally known and referenced film that I’m pretty sure all the major elements were already familiar to me. Mrs. Robinson. Ben sitting on the bottom of the pool. Plastics. Banging on the window in the church. It’s an across-the-board iconic movie.

But my first real exposure to it was almost certainly through its writer, frequent Saturday Night Live host of the 1970s Buck Henry. Even though he had a pretty decent writing/acting career, Henry’s big claim to fame in the late ’70s was still his Oscar nominated screenplay (and bit role as the hotel clerk) for The Graduate. Also, can you believe this didn’t win for Screenplay? This is the exact kind of movie that wins Screenplay and gets snubbed for everything else – funny, but with depth, that ten years later is hailed as a classic. And while In the Heat of the Night is a perfectly fine movie, did it win because Stirling Silliphant is the greatest name in the history of names? All he did after this was write action and disaster movies, including The Towering Inferno and Shaft in Africa. That’s right, the screenwriter of the third best Shaft movie once won an Oscar!

Silliphant, left, with In the Heat of the Night award winners Ashby, Steiger, and Mirisch

Anyway, being a huge SNL fan then and now (shut up, it’s still a great show), I knew Buck Henry primarily as the Belushi Samurai foil. I mean, can you imagine a screenwriter, known primarily for screenwriting, hosting SNL ten times in five years? He was legitimately great on the sketch show, though. It’s no wonder he would transition into more and more acting parts in the ’80s and ’90s. But I would imagine hearing about The Graduate so much in these years (thanks, Nick at Nite!) that it managed to grow in my imagination, even without seeing it. And it totally holds up, upon finally viewing it, I found. Sure, it has an indelible ’60-ness to it that can’t be escaped, but Ben’s basic post-undergrad struggles are timeless, and resonate down through the decades.

Despite the still-baffling Best Screenplay snub, The Graduate did win Mike Nichols a Best Director statue, the only of its seven nominations, including Picture, Actor, Actress, and Supporting Actress for Hoffman, Bancroft, and Ross, and Cinematography. It won Best Comedy/Musical at the Globes, along with Director and Comedy/Musical Actress for Bancroft, plus the pair of Most Promising Newcomers, as that was something they used to do. In all, it is a well lauded, loudly acclaimed motion picture, that needs no extra accolades from the likes of me. Oh, it was also 7th on the AFI Top 100 list in 1998. People appreciate The Graduate, that’s all I’m saying.

But Bancroft does snag a spot in the Two-Timers club today, following her role in her husband’s production of #323’s The Elephant Man, as does the legendarily terrible mayor of Amity Island in #353’s Jaws 2, Murray Hamilton! Mr. and Mrs. Robinson both! Spotlight!

Coming tomorrow! Don’t run! We are your friends!

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