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Trivia for American Graffiti

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  • Re-released as a double feature with The Sting (1973).
  • When Wolfman Jack makes an on-air prank call to Pinky's Pizza, the voice on the other end belongs to George Lucas.
  • Filming was beset by a series of misfortunes and disasters. The day before filming was due to start a key member of the crew was arrested for growing marijuana. On the first night of shooting it took so long to get the cameras mounted onto the cars that filming didn't get started until 2 a.m., putting the crew half a night behind schedule before they'd even started. Most of the outdoor footage was to be shot in San Rafael. After the first night of shooting the city revoked the crew's filming permit due to complaints from a bar owner that their blocking off of the main street was costing him business. Filming proceeded in San Rafael for three more nights, then moved to Petaluma, 20 miles away. On the second night of shooting a fire in a nearby restaurant brought fire trucks into the area, their sirens and the resulting traffic jam preventing any filming.
  • Wolfman Jack's line, "Sticky little mothers, ain't they," when shaking Richard Dreyfuss's hand, was improvised.
  • Director Trademark: [THX 1138] License plate on John Milner's car is "THX-138". THX 1138 (1971) is a film also directed by George Lucas. This number plate is on display inside 'The Main House' of LucasFilm's Head Office at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County.
  • The soundtrack was originally to consist of some 80 classic rock songs from the 1950s and 1960s, but the budget couldn't stretch far enough to pay for the rights to play the songs. The total was eventually whittled down to 45, with the Elvis Presley songs left out. It was widely known that Elvis's manager, Col. Tom Parker, was extremely demanding when it came to Elvis material prior to 1977. There was a 40th Anniversary Special on NBC in 1976; Parker reportedly demanded $50,000 to release a clip of Elvis on The Milton Berle Show (1948). The clip was not shown at that time.
  • Dissatisfied with the name "American Graffiti", producers Francis Ford Coppola and Ned Tanen suggested that George Lucas retitle it "Another Slow Night in Modesto" or "Rock Around the Block".
  • When the rear wheels/axle of Holstein's police car get yanked out by the cable, there is a movie theater in the background. The movie listed on the marquee is Francis Ford Coppola's Dementia 13 (1963).
  • When Curt is riding with the Pharaohs, we hear Wolfman Jack talking to "Floyd" and saying "Floyd, I cannot look on thee. Love took my hand, and smiling did reply: 'Who made the eyes but I?' " This is a quote from the poem "Love Bade Me Welcome" by the Welsh metaphysical poet George Herbert (1593-1633) (the poem says "Ah my dear, I cannot look on thee"). When Curt is riding with the Pharaohs, we hear Wolfman Jack reciting, as if it was a poem, "There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood, where lived a country boy . . . ." The words are from "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry.
  • During the sequence in which John and Carol smeared shaving cream on the 1960 Cadillac and deflated the tires, Paul Le Mat actually jumped onto and over the car during each take, and George Lucas became concerned that Le Mat's boots would put dents in the hood and trunk. The owner was in The car.
  • The scene at the liquor store in which Terry asks Debbie for money was shot in one take. Candy Clark wanted to do a second take because she flubbed her "Did you get it?" line, but director George Lucas said that was it, they were printing that first take.
  • Screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz wanted an additional title card at the end detailing the fates of the women, but George Lucas refused, arguing it would prolong the ending.
  • When John (Paul Le Mat) and Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) are sitting at the red light, a car full of girls pulls up next to them. One of the girls throws a water balloon through the window and it hits Carol. It was scripted to hit the side window and drench Phillips' face, who was then supposed to act really angry. However, she was accidentally hit square in the face and unable to refrain from laughing. Still, she kept going, ad-libbed through the scene and George Lucas kept it, as he did with many presumably garbled first takes in this movie.
  • In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #62 Greatest Movie of All Time.
  • One of the main reasons why so many studios initially turned down the script was because George Lucas wanted at least 40 songs on the soundtrack, which would obviously lead to a large bill over the rights to these songs. Universal finally agreed to fund the picture when Lucas' friend Francis Ford Coppola (fresh from the success of The Godfather (1972) the year before) came on board as producer.
  • Cindy Williams originally wanted to play Carol, and was even willing to have braces put on her teeth for better effect.
  • The Ford Coupe driven by Paul Le Mat's character had a 1966 Chevrolet 327 cu.in. engine. The black 1955 Chevy driven by Harrison Ford had a Chevrolet 454 cu.in. engine capable of doing 11-second quarter-mile times.
  • Wolfman Jack, who played himself in the movie, was specifically chosen by George Lucas to play a role in the movie because Lucas remembered listening to him on the radio when Lucas was in high school.
  • There is a rumor that while George Lucas and a co-worker were editing the film, the co-worker asked Lucas for "reel two, dialogue two", which abbreviated to R2-D2, a name which surfaced in Lucas' later film, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
  • Two cameras were used simultaneously in scenes involving conversations between actors in different cars. This resulted in significant production time savings.
  • The film's budget was approximately $775,000 and it was delivered on time - and on budget. Lucas's previous film THX 1138 was budgeted at $777,777.77.
  • The film was previewed before an audience of young people in Northpoint Theater, San Francisco, on a Sunday morning, with Universal Pictures head Ned Tanen in attendance. In a story that is now legendary in Hollywood, Tanan was not impressed with the film, despite a good audience reaction, and called it "unreleasable". Francis Ford Coppola, enraged at the comment, offered to buy the film from Universal (some stories claim he offered to write the check then and there) while the exhausted, burned-out and ill George Lucas watched in shock. A compromise was finally reached in which Universal could "suggest" modifications to the movie, a resolution Lucas was not happy with, as it took control of the film away from him.
  • First credited screen appearance of Kathleen Quinlan. She plays Peggy, a girl who comforts Laurie, who just broke up with her boyfriend. Laurie's boyfriend is played by Ron Howard, director of Apollo 13 (1995), in which Quinlan starred.
  • Harrison Ford was asked to cut his hair for the film. He refused, stating that his role was too short, and offered to wear a hat instead.
  • The three scenes that were added to the 1978 re-release were cut from the original release as a result of the compromise with Universal Studios. George Lucas put them back in after Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was released.
  • The number "327" appears quite often in George Lucas' movies. Here it is printed on the side of an engine. See also: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).
  • The owner of the Thunderbird was never more than a few feet away from his prized possession during filming, and was always wiping here and shining there. He also drove Suzanne Somers crazy telling her what to do and what not to do.
  • When Charles Martin Smith pulls up on the Vespa in the beginning, his crash into the building wasn't scripted. He genuinely lost control of the bike, and Lucas kept the cameras rolling.
  • The Douglas DC-7 airplane at the end of the movie was previously owned by the rock group Grand Funk Railroad.
  • This movie was shot almost exclusively at night.
  • After the success of Easy Rider (1969), Universal Pictures hit on the idea of letting young filmmakers make "semi-independent" films on low budgets, in hopes of generating similar profits. The idea was to make five movies for $1 million apiece (or, hopefully, less), not interfere in the filmmaking process and give the directors final cut. The other movies were: The Hired Hand (1971), The Last Movie (1971), Taking Off (1971), and Silent Running (1972).
  • The entire sock hop sequence was filmed in one day.
  • The film was shot in sequence, so as filming went on and the actors grew tired from the shooting schedule, the characters they played would also look more and more tired as the night went on.
  • Shot in 29 days.
  • The '55 Chevy Bob Falfa drives is the same '55 Chevy used in the movie Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).
  • About 300 pre-1962 cars were needed to create the cruising scenes, and over 1000 classic-car owners who responded to ads in local newspapers were interviewed.
  • Set designer Roger Christian claims he added the pair of dice hanging in the Millennium Falcon cockpit (briefly seen when Chewbacca bumps his head on them as he first enters) because there were dice hanging in Harrison Ford's car in American Graffiti (1973). However, Ford's character had a skull hanging from his rear-view mirror. Ron Howard had the fluffy dice.
  • The playing of "oldies" in the soundtrack became part of a 1970s trend where various recordings by the original artists were used to score a film.
  • Mel's Drive-In was demolished after the movie was completed, but the owner's son, Steve, decided to re-open other Mel's restaurants in 1981 as a small chain. There are two in Hollywood, CA, themed after the movie, and one in San Francisco where George Lucas is known to eat occasionally.
  • Ironically, Harrison Ford's character drives a Chevrolet.
  • The street gang The Pharoahs that "kidnaps" Richard Dreyfuss in the film is based on George Lucas' car club cohorts growing up in Modesto called The Faros.
  • The DC-7 that Richard Dreyfuss boards at the end of the film (Magic Carpet Airlines) had a flat tire on the left side. But it was never shown because there is a van near the stairwell that leads to the hull entrance.
  • Universal thought so little of the film (not knowing how to market it, and certain that as it had no stars it would flop), that it sat on the shelf for six months before the studio finally decided to release it. To their great surprise, it became enormously successful at the box office.
  • In the movie the street where the final drag race took place between Falfa and Milner was called Paradise Road. It is actually a road in Petaluma, CA called Frates Road. A golf course now resides on the north side but the field where Falfa's '55 Chevy crashed is still intact.
  • The cartoon movie poster was drawn by longtime Mad Magazine artist Mort Drucker, who ended up also doing the artwork for "American Confetti", a parody of the film in Mad's April 1974 issue #166.
  • Ironically, George Lucas missed his high school reunion because he was too busy shooting this film.
  • Richard Dreyfuss recalls that he was often called onto the set early during camera setups because the plaid shirt he wears for much of the film made for an effective test pattern.
  • When Steve and Laurie are introduced at the hop, the MC says "The next dance will be a Snowball, and leading it off are.." A Snowball Dance means the lead off couple (Steve and Laurie in this case) are supposed to dance with each other for only a short period, then split and dance with two others, then they split and dance with four others until everyone is dancing. But Steve and Laurie are so engrossed in their conversation and memories they are oblivious to the others. When you watch the film, notice the other kids in the background looking expectantly for them to split off.
  • Ron Howard and Cindy Williams would go on to future TV series, Howard's being Happy Days (1974) (on which Williams guest-starred) and Williams' being Laverne & Shirley (1976), its spinoff.
  • Though only credited as "visual consultant," Haskell Wexler acted as the de facto cinematographer for much of the shoot, after original co-cinematographers Jan D'Alquen and Ron Eveslage proved unable to satisfactorily light the scenes filmed at night.
  • Even though Steve was supposed to be a year older than Laurie, Ron Howard is actually seven years younger than Cindy Williams.
  • Due to the low budget, George Lucas was unable to pay all of the crew members. He offered to give many of them a screen credit in lieu of payment, and they accepted. Traditionally, only department heads received screen credit. Giving screen credit to so many crew members has now become a tradition, which is why closing credits last so long now.
  • An assistant cameraman was run over after he fell off the back of the camera truck during filming of a road scene.
  • Filming of the climactic drag race was hampered when one of the cars broke an axle, then broke the replacement axle, and then nearly ran over two cameramen lying in the road to film its approach.
  • Paul Le Mat had to be rushed to hospital after suffering a walnut allergy flare-up after eating a waldorf salad.
  • Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, and Bo Hopkins were often drunk between takes, and had conducted climbing competitions to the top of the local Holiday Inn sign.
  • Richard Dreyfuss had his forehead gashed after Paul Le Mat threw him into a swimming pool the day before his closeups were to be filmed.
  • One actor set fire to George Lucas's motel room.
  • Richard Dreyfuss complained over the wardrobe that George Lucas had chosen for his character.
  • Harrison Ford was arrested one night while in a bar fight and kicked out of his motel room.
  • Mark Hamill auditioned for a part.
  • Over 100 unknown actors auditioned for Curt Henderson before Richard Dreyfuss was cast. George Lucas was impressed with Dreyfuss's thoughtful analysis of the role, and, as a result, offered the actor his choice of Curt or Terry "The Toad" Fields.
  • Because the main cast was associated with younger actors, the casting call and notices went through numerous high school drama groups and community theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Fred Roos, a former casting director on The Andy Griffith Show (1960), suggested Ron Howard for Steve Bolander. Howard accepted the role to break out of the mold of his career as a child actor.
  • George Lucas considered covering duties as the sole cinematographer, but dropped the idea. Instead, he elected to shoot American Graffiti using two cinematographers (as he had done in THX 1138 (1971)) and no formal director of photography.
  • George Lucas had wanted his wife, Marcia Lucas, to edit the film, but Universal executive Ned Tanen insisted on hiring Verna Fields, who had just finished editing The Sugarland Express (1974). Fields worked on the first rough cut of the film before she left to resume work on What's Up, Doc? (1972).
  • Some of the main characters represent different stages from George Lucas's younger life. Curt Henderson is modelled after his personality during USC, while John Milner is based on his teenage street racing and junior college years, and hot rod enthusiasts he had known from the Kustom Kulture in Modesto. Terry "The Toad" Fields represents his nerd years as a freshman in high school, specifically his "bad luck" with dating.
  • George Lucas was inspired by I Vitelloni (1953).
  • George Lucas turned down offers to direct Lady Ice (1973), Tommy (1975) and Hair (1979) in order to make this film.
  • MGM, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures all turned down the opportunity to co-finance and distribute the film.
  • Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz found the ending depressing and were incredulous that George Lucas planned to include only the male characters in the epilogue. Lucas argued that mentioning the girls meant adding another title card, which he felt would prolong the ending. Because of this, Pauline Kael later accused Lucas of chauvinism.
  • Although the story takes place in Modesto, California, George Lucas decided not to film there, as he felt it had changed too much in ten years.
  • Charles Martin Smith (18) and Ron Howard (18) were the only two real teenage principal actors of the film. Most of the remaining principal cast members were in their 20s with the exceptions of the 12-year-old Mackenzie Phillips, and Harrison Ford, who turned 30 during filming.
  • Francis Ford Coppola encouraged George Lucas to cast Wolfman Jack as himself in a cameo appearance.
  • After Verna Fields's departure, George Lucas struggled with editing the film's story structure. He had originally written the script so that the four storylines were always presented in the same sequence (an "ABCD" plot structure). But the first cut was three-and-a-half hours long, and in order to whittle the film down to a more manageable two hours, so many scenes had to be cut, shortened, or combined that the film's structure became increasingly loose, and no longer adhered to Lucas's original "ABCD" presentation.
  • Walter Murch assisted George Lucas in post-production for audio mixing and sound design purposes. Murch suggested making Wolfman Jack's radio show the "backbone" of the film.
  • Given the popularity of the film's cars with customizers and hot rodders in the years since its release, their fate immediately after the film is ironic. All were offered for sale in San Francisco newspaper ads; only the '58 Impala (driven by Ron Howard) attracted a buyer, selling for only a few hundred dollars. The yellow Deuce and the white T-bird went unsold, despite being priced as low as US$3,000.[56] The registration plate on Milner's yellow, deuce coupe is THX 138 on a yellow, California license plate, slightly altered, reflecting George Lucas's earlier science fiction film THX 1138 (1971).
  • After CinemaScope proved to be too expensive, George Lucas decided that the film should have a documentary-like feel, and shot the film using Techniscope cameras. He believed that Techniscope, an inexpensive way of shooting in 35 mm film and utilizing only half of the film's frame, would give a perfect widescreen format resembling 16 mm.
  • Universal initially projected a $600,000 budget, but added an additional $175,000 once producer Francis Ford Coppola signed on. This would allow the studio to advertise the film as "from the Man who Gave you The Godfather (1972)".
  • Production proceeded with virtually no input or interference from Universal.
  • Budgetary reasons meant that George Lucas to drop the opening scene, in which the Blonde Angel, Curt's image of the perfect woman, drives through an empty drive-in cinema in her Ford Thunderbird, her transparency revealing she does not exist.
  • Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
  • At the hop when Steve and Laurie are introduced to lead a dance the song playing is 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' by The Platters which is the same song Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter dance to in Always (1989).
  • Terry McGovern, who plays Bill Wolfe, coined the term "Wookie" during filming THX 1138 (1971).
  • For this movie, Francis Ford Coppola served as producer, while George Lucas was the director. In 1988, their roles were reversed for the film Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
  • American Graffiti takes place in Central California in the town of Modesto
  • The film is set in director George Lucas hometown of Modesto, California.
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
  • Producer Francis Ford Coppola would later cast both Cindy Williams and Harrison Ford in The Conversation (1974) (produced, written and directed by Coppola) the following year.
  • The Fender Stratocaster that the guitar player is using at the sock hop is a 1950's body. However, the neck was replaced with a neck from 1966 or later. The Strats from 1965 and earlier had smaller headstocks.
  • Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
  • Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) wears a T-shirt that says "Surf Boards by Dewey Weber". Weber was a well known surfer in the 1950s and 60s. In 1960 he founded Weber Surfboards in Venice, California and sold thousands of boards until longboards declined in popularity in the 1970s. After his death in 1993, his widow and two sons revived the business, and still use the original logo seen in the film.
  • Features Candy Clark's only Oscar nominated performance.
  • It is the only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year not to win any Academy Awards.
  • This is the first of two films in which both Charles Martin Smith and Ron Howard appear together. They would star in the western The Spikes Gang (1974) opposite Lee Marvin the following year.
  • The film was briefly considered to be released as a TV movie as studio executives felt the film's lack of stars (at the time) and unconventional story structure made it unmarketable.
  • Of the six films directed by George Lucas, the only one not to be in the science fiction genre (his other directorial credits are THX-1138 and four Star Wars films).
  • The only film directed by George Lucas that doesn't begin with a big block of scrolling text (the opening crawl in the Star Wars films and the opening credits of THX 1138 (1971)).
  • With its production budget of about $770,000 and its eventual box office gross of over $115 million, this is among the most profitable movies ever made.
  • The Fonzie character was added to Happy Days because Paul Le Mat's John Milner Greaser character was such a hit in American Grafitti; Michael Eisner and Gary Marshall; who created the series; felt they needed a Greaser character as well. So Fonzie was based on and inspired by John Milner in American Graffiti. Though it's also the case that Henry Winkler appeared (with Sylvester Stallone, among others) in the 50's New York set '"The Lords of Flatbush", where his character is a dress-rehearsal for Happy Days.
  • In late 2018, after witnessing the financial success Universal Studios was enjoying with The Fast & The Furious franchise for nearly two decades, it was announced that Disney was interested in producing a limited series that takes place in the same universe as American Graffiti for their upcoming online streaming service. The story outline indicated the series takes place around 2003 and the cast is mainly comprised of the original characters offspring, leaving the opportunity for many of the cast to return to their respective roles. The new series is meant to invoke a feeling of nostalgia for the '90s and early 2000s tuner automotive era in America. The story outline aims to both reignite interest in the continued story for fans of the original 1973 film, while also attracting a new generation to the franchise. The working title for the story outline was "American Graffiti: Another Slow Night in Modesto"
  • The band playing at the sock-hop, Herby and the Heartbeats, is Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids who also played Johnny Fish and the Fins on Happy Days (s2-e20, 'Fish and the Fins').
  • The movie that's listed on the marquee on the movie theater when the cop car loses it's rear axle is "Dementia 13", which was written and directed by producer Francis Ford Coppola.
  • President of United Artists David V. Picker gave George Lucas the go ahead to write American Graffiti on Lucas' 27th birthday, May 14, 1971, which was the day he and his wife Marcia Lucas went on a short European holiday that included stopping by the Cannes Film Festival to sneak into a showing of THX 1138 (1971). Meanwhile back in the states, his production partner Francis Ford Coppola celebrated the birth of his daughter Sofia Coppola also on the 14th of May, and she would go on to play a small part in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).
  • Harrison Ford's character Bob Falfa was named after Robert Dalva, a USC friend and collaborator of George Lucas.
  • The company which provided the DC-7 airplane for the final scene was called "Magic Carpet Travel Services" in real life. It was altered to read "Magic Carpet Airlines" for the film.
  • The way George Lucas had originally written the script had each of the four story lines following each other in the same order. This way, a scene featuring John Milner would always be followed by a scene featuring Terry, which would then be followed by a scene about Steve, and Curt after that. When Lucas realized he had to cut out entire scenes to keep a reasonable running time, he reluctantly had to give up this structure. However, it was used in the sequel, More American Graffiti (1979).
  • According to George Lucas, this film was the first to list all of the crew members during the end credits instead of only the department heads as had been the norm. The idea came from wanting to close the film with another musical number that would send the audience off on an happy note.
  • John wears a white T-shirt and jeans, which was the uniform of the day for the tough kids with the custom hot rods. Not having a shirt pocket, he has a pack of cigarettes rolled in the sleeve of his shirt, so that they wouldn't be crushed. The classic look is completed by the cigarettes being unfiltered Camels.
  • As Milner starts cruising, the 1961 Del Shannon song Runaway is playing on the radio. This was the first hit song to feature a synthesizer. The next hit with a synth was Telstar by the Tornadoes, which was released the same year as the setting of the movie. Telstar was inspired by the telstar satellite, which was the first communications satellite launched and the first to carry a live TV broadcast. While most likely unintentional, the fact that Runaway was in the film but not Telstar supports the movie's theme, which draws a division between the familiar past and the unknown but enticing future.
  • The retro band at the hop was Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids. Founded in 1969, it was inspired by the retro band Sha Na Na, which performed at Woodstock in August of 1969. The retro band concept, which began as a parody / tribute to an era that was only fifteen years earlier, created a minor cultural revolution that resulted in such television shows as Happy Days (1974) and such Broadway plays as Grease.
  • Steve kids a classmate about using "zit makeup." This refers to Clearasil, a pimple concealing product introduced in 1950 that combined a material that absorbed skin oils and which was combined with a flesh-toned make up to hide the blemish.
  • Carol calls Jon a J.D., which is short for juvenile delinquent.
  • John's "Alright, boss," response to Carol was an imitation of Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, who played Jack Benny's valet on Benny's long-running radio show, and then on television on The Jack Benny Program (1950).
  • The Pharaohs talk about the mysterious D.J., the Wolfman, speculating that he was either broadcasting from an airplane or from a pirate radio station in Mexico. In fact, Wolfman Jack worked as a disc jockey from 1964 to 1966 for XERF (1570 AM) in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. At the time it was a 250,000 watt radio station that was powerful enough to reach much of the United States. It was known for interesting choices in music and disk jockeys with a lot of attitude. It was considered a "pirate" radio station as it did not have to pay any FCC licensing fees and because it could get away without paying royalties. Its outlaw nature led to its being the focus of a popular song by ZZ Top, "I Heard It On The X".
  • During most of the film the sounds on the radio and enhanced with a "slap-back" effect - a near simultaneous echo. This is to simulate the sound of multiple radios at different distances, all tuned to the same station, which reflects what is happening with all the cars in the movie.
  • The cars in the film are metaphors for their drivers. The snooty girls are riding in a parent's Cadillac, John's car is wild but quickly becoming an antique, and Steve's car is fairly powerful but completely stock and conservative. Laurie's car is an Edsel, which was intended to be forward-thinking and futuristic, but not in sync with the larger world beyond. Curt's car is the strangest of all - a Citroen - a French car that is as quirky and odd as the members of the Moose lodge, and which, like Curt, simply doesn't belong. The most telling car of all is Toad's, which, like his life, is non-existent and represented by fantasy versions of himself - a respected car like Steve's and a rugged, manly Jeep..
  • Harrison Ford initially turned down the film because he was offered $485 a week, less than he earned as a carpenter and not enough to support his family. When the offer was upped to $500, he accepted.
  • American Graffiti (1973) is considered one of the best movies ever made; More American Graffiti is considered one of the worst sequels ever made.
  • The film title "American Graffiti" is analogous to the term "salvage ethnography" in film studies, for as Lucas himself says, he wanted to capture the uniquely American subculture of car cruising on film (supplanted by the Beatles and Hippy culture) before it vanished for cultural memory. Nevertheless, a subplot between Steve and Laurie and Steve and the iconic car-hop, Budda, beyond the period music and cruising cars is conjectural on careful inspection of the dialogue. Steve and Laurie are clearly middle-class; Steve is going off to college. Budda appears to come from the "other side of the tracks." There's not a whole lot of indication of this, but she appears to work for tips and she uses language that Laurie, Carol and even, the more worldly, Debbie do not use. When she's gruffly reminded by her employer she still has an hour of work left, she shouts, "All right, all right, you old fart, relax!" Listen to the dialogue between Steve and Laurie in her car at the canal. Steve overlays Laurie on the seat and she meekly protests with "No. Steven,we'vet been though this before. Steve tries the mild emotional blackmail of "wanting something to remember her for" and threats about "forgetting her". When Laurie applies the passive resistance of playing possum Steve becomes angry and responds, "Don't be so damn self-righteous with me, after all that stuff you said about watching your brother." (Is it hard to guess what her brother was doing?) Laurie flies into a rage with Steve,"You're disgusting! I told you never to mention that.Get out of my car." (Is Laurie angry with Steve for his disclosure, or feeling guilty about her own voyeurism?) A conclusion to be drawn here is that Steve has never be able to advance his intimate relationship with Laurie beyond mild petting. What of Steve and Budda? The brief scene between Steve and Budda in Mel's diner, just after Steve and Lauries' split-up, is suggestive. Budda knows Steve is leaving town and then learns of his split with Laurie. She tells him, with a look of anticipation on her face, "I get off in an hour and though you could just come over." She continues, "This time it would just be for fun". According to the Alternate Version this line is preceded by the omitted line, "Hey, listen if you think I'm chasing you again...." Again? How long had that gone on? Had Steve gone behind Laurie's back?...and what exactly would just be for fun? Budda immediately rushes away as if it's all settled. Steve must get up,follow her and say, "I just don't think it would work out." Budda is visibly crushed. There appears to be a history of them doing more than drinking soda and dancing to 45EP records.The Anglo/Australian term of "getting a bit on the side" may apply to Steve, here. Budda's "chasing him" may have been expressed in her being more forthcoming than Laurie needed to keep Steve's affections.

Spoilers

  • The 1955 Chevrolet driven by Bob (Harrison Ford) was actually three different cars: the "hot rod" version that is seen the most--which was also the same car used in the earlier Two-Lane Blacktop (1971))--one for interior camera shots and one for the rollover after the drag race. Both the "hot rod" '55 and the 1932 Ford coupe were bought from the studio by an individual in Overland Park, Kansas, in the mid-1980s who restored them back to their movie appearance.
  • As the plane takes off in the final scene, a drive-in movie screen can be seen in the distance. This was the original screen at the Solano Drive-in, which operated until the fall of 2004, and has since reopened, showing double-features, as of December 2008.
  • The scene after the drag race in which John admits to Terry that he was losing when Falfa's car lost control and rolled was improvised by Paul Le Mat and Charles Martin Smith. They had not had time to prepare for that scene, as it had been scheduled to be shot at another time.
  • The scene in which Steve assures Laurie he is staying in town and not going with Curt was shot in one take. Ron Howard and Cindy Williams had already been released from shooting and were in their street clothes when they were told to put their costumes back on so they could shoot that scene.
  • The original version's end title for John Milner indicated that he was killed in June of 1964. Versions of the film released from 1979 on indicate that Milner died in December of 1964. This is presumably a revisionist move to bring the film in line with the sequel, More American Graffiti (1979), where the filmmakers chose to follow four separate character story lines which each take place in December of a different year (Milner in '64, Toad in '65, Debbie in '66, Steve & Laurie in '67).
  • John and Steve never speak directly to each other, and the only thing that Steve says to John is "Milner, you son of a bitch!" after the accident in the drag race.
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