Retro Review: The Graduate (1967)

When I was almost 16 years old, I took my girlfriend to the cinema to see a film that everyone was raving about. It was a coming of age drama starring an actor I had never heard of, and an actress I liked a great deal. Critics and the viewing public were raving about the performances, the script, and even the soundtrack, which included songs by the very popular duo, Simon and Garfunkel. But I only wanted to see Anne Bancroft. She was 36 years old at the time, but looked older. Undeniably gorgeous, at least to me, she was my teenage dream of a mature woman.

If you don’t know the story, it concerns the emotional turmoil of an American 21 year-old university graduate, Ben Braddock. (Hoffman) He comes from a wealthy family, but since completing his studies, he seems to have no direction or ambition in life. We see him bored and listless, spending time in the family swimming pool, or just lounging around. His parents give him a large party to celebrate his graduation, where he encounters the sexy Mrs Robinson, (Bancroft) a family friend. They embark on a regular affair, with her controlling every aspect of it, and using the young man for her pleasure. Back then, it was unusual to see a female role with such power, and I have to admit it was intoxicating. I wanted to be Ben, and badly wanted Anne Bancroft to be my older lover.

But the Robinson’s daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross) arrives on the scene, and Ben is cajoled into asking her out on a date. His parents and Mr Robinson think they are the perfect match, but neither he nor his lover are happy about the situation. To put Elaine off, he takes her on an awful date, and behaves badly. He later regrets that, and accepts that he has feelings for the girl. But she discovers his affair, then is shocked to realise it has been with her own mother. Elaine returns to her college, and Ben follows her, to try to convince her it is over with her mother, and that he loves only her. But the redoubtable Mrs Robinson arrives, and after threatening Ben, takes her daughter away to marry a former boyfriend.

At the last possible moment, just as the vows are to be exchanged, a distraught Ben turns up at the church, hoping to stop the wedding.
I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it.

This is a film of its time. Rich young Americans, even richer older Americans, and a love triangle of the type rarely examined before. Hoffman is ideally cast as the confused young man, and Ross is perfect as a desirable girl of the 1960s. It is good to look at, and the drama works alongside some humour. Then there are those famous songs, and a complimentary soundtrack, as well as the excellent direction from Mike Nichols. But it is Bancroft’s film. She commands every scene she is in, looks wonderful, and portrays the predatory older woman with precision and perfection. I left the cinema with one thought though.

If I had been Ben, I would have ditched the soppy girl, and ran away with her mother.

61 thoughts on “Retro Review: The Graduate (1967)

  1. This is a film I’d like to rewatch since I now have older eyes and experiences. I have a funny story about this — a long time ago when my son’s friend came to visit, he rushed downstairs to the basement where I just came out of the shower and he saw me in all my glory and his mouth dropped open and we both were incredibly embarrassed. Twenty years later at my son’s wedding, he comes up to me and sits on my lap and kisses me and tells me it was his “Mrs. Robinson” moment. I honestly had forgotten all about it. Still, it was kinda cool to be in the same ranks as Anne Bancroft, even if for a moment…

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    1. That was an experience to envy for that young man, I have no doubt. πŸ™‚
      I was attracted to a friend’s Mum, when I was 17. I told him I thought she was lovely, and he laughed out loud. (She was 40 then) We can never see that side of our own parents, and forget that they can be desirable.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. I stand by my belief that she did look older than 36. But back then, many women did look ‘older’ because of fashions and styles. πŸ™‚
      Bancroft was enough for me to love the film, but the last shot was very clever, I agree.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I might have mentioned that already, Pete, but I have a curious relationship to this film. As a woman, I remember watching it when I was quite young and identifying with the younger characters, but I watched it a few years back when I was close to Anne Bancroft’s age, and I felt completely different about it, seeing it as a much sadder story. I agree she is great and love the songs but…

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  3. Great post πŸ™‚ Yeah you are totally correct that The Graduate does come off as a film of its time. As for what is Mike Nichols best film, that honor would go to (in my opinion) Carnal Knowledge. Anyway, keep up the great work as always πŸ™‚

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    1. Carnal Knowledge is a very different film of course, but I also watched that for the female lead, the wonderful and gorgeous Ann-Margaret. I didn’t care for Art Garfunkel as an actor though.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pete, this is a seminal film for so many reasons, so “of its time” as you say – I read a fantastic book about all of the films nominated for Best Picture in 1967, including “The Graduate” – if you like film history, “Pictures At A Revolution” is an amazing book – here is the link:

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  5. Wonderful review Pete. Very colorful. You put me into your shoes even though, I’m obviously female, heterosexual and quite contemptuous of women like Mrs. Robinson who prey upon much younger men, though, at least, Benjamin was of age and capable of making his own decisions. Anne Bancroft was a terrific actress and quite alluring, if I do say so myself.

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    1. Glad you can see that, Pam. Of course, I was very much an ‘impressionable teen’, but I still love to see Bancroft in anything, even today. Perhaps Mrs Robinson was the original ‘cougar’? πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Unimaginable as it might be I have never seen this β€˜iconic’ film. My parents were strict with what I could see at the theater. Gone With the Wind and Sound of Music were acceptable. I am still carrying guilt over sneaking in to see Valley of the Dolls with a couple of friends! so I likely won’t look this one up.

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  7. When looking at the trailer for this one, I really have to wonder where Hoffman is. Such a terrific actor, and lately you hardly see him anymore.
    This is another one of those classic films that has been on my list for most of my life. But somehow I still haven’t gotten around to it. I know my mother especially always raved about this movie. Great post Pete! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I guess so. It’s a shame though as he certainly was an amazing actor 😊
        I hope to maybe see it in September as I then have a three week vacation and plan on catching up with some stuff that has been on my list for ages 😊

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  8. I remember the film very well – and the soundtrack is great. However, even then something about Hoffman made me squirm as it has in every film I’ve seen him in. I don’t know what it is but I just don’t like watching him on screen.

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