Once, Twice, Three Times the Graduate

Once, Twice, Three Times the Graduate

I can’t remember if we smuggled human bodies in that trunk or just illegal contraband. I got your attention, didn’t I? Relax, I was referring to a trip my buddies and I made to a drive-in movie theater in Richland, Cambria County, PA. We were in our late teens and concealing a person in the trunk to save on the admission price was a frequent practice. Hiding beer in the trunk was common too.

The big attraction was “The Graduate,” staring Dustin Hoffman, Katherine Ross and Anne Bancroft. The songs of Simon and Garfunkel still ring true in my ears today. What a great movie! Phenomenal!!

And that Katherine Ross - what a beauty and what a great actress! She was absolutely gorgeous! What did she see in Dustin Hoffman? He was nothing but a slumped-shouldered, socially inept doofus. He was also short. We couldn’t imagine why the casting director would have placed those two in the same movie – with amorous intentions toward each other to boot. Katherine Ross was a fine choice, but couldn’t they find another actor other than Dustin Hoffman?

And what did Dustin see in Anne Bancroft? Even with a few brews to fog our brains, she wasn’t anything to brag about. We could not understand why anyone would risk a relationship with Katherine Ross, for the likes of an over-the-hill Mrs. Robinson. She was just too old for him. And she drank too much for her age. And she couldn’t act. We thought she, like Dustin Hoffman was a lousy choice.

But we loved the plot and we loved the music. After all, we were young. Years later, I sat down to my second viewing of “The Graduate” on television one night. The music brought back memories. It forced me to look for that old Simon and Garfunkel album that had been collecting dust for eons. I became entrenched in the movie more so this time than the first. Maybe my fixation was due to the fact that I was now in my middle-age (Mrs. Robinson) years. Or maybe I was just more mature. Whatever the reason, my perceptions of the acting in the movie changed a little.

I still thought Dustin Hoffman was out of his league pursuing Katherine Ross. Don’t get me wrong, she was still very good-looking, but her acting skills weren’t quite what I had remembered. In fact, Dustin Hoffman did a pretty decent job of making himself look like a doofus. Is it possible that he was a better actor than Katherine Ross? Why did I look at the acting so differently this time around? Was I growing old, or wise, or both?

And you know Mrs. Robinson looked differently now too. Anne Bancroft was a fairly attractive lady. I was totally oblivious to her acting skills in 1969, but she did a good job with her character, I thought. She brought to life the unhappy, alcoholic, married woman – grabbing on to one last fling, while she still had the appeal. How did I miss that before?

It was the same movie, same actors, and same music. Apparently, I wasn’t the same. Last fall, I caught “The Graduate” again on cable. It was late one night and I couldn’t sleep. After wandering through the channels, I stumbled on to the once-big attraction for the third time.

True to real life, the plot moved so quickly. I could barely keep up. Why does time seem to go by so fast as we age? I thought this movie was much longer the first two viewings.

The music flew by too. I still enjoyed the songs, but they seemed so short now. I also noticed the clarity of the music did not stack well compared to today’s modern CD’s. With laser-burned technology, the contemporary version of Simon and Garfunkel’s hits made the original score sound archaic – as if it was played on Edison’s original phonograph.

You know, that Dustin Hoffman was a great actor! He made his character come to life so well - he was so believable. He wasn’t a doofus at all – he just pretended to be. How did that escape me all these years?

And what an actress in Anne Bancroft, Mrs. Robinson - she was stunning in character and persona. She was striking. She was outstanding. She was utterly gorgeous!

Finally, there was Katherine. Katherine, who?

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA