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12 Seductive Facts About The Graduate

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Hello, The Graduate, our old friend. We’ve come to look at you again. The seminal 1967 satire helped usher in the “New Hollywood” era of moviemaking and turned an unknown actor named Dustin Hoffman into a star. It provided hotshot director Mike Nichols his first and only Oscar. It gave us “Mrs. Robinson” as a new slang term and reminded us of the importance of plastics. Here, while you’re sitting at the bottom of the pool in your scuba gear, read these behind-the-scenes details. 

1. DUSTIN HOFFMAN HAD TO DROP OUT OF THE PRODUCERS TO STAR IN IT.

The young actor, who’d worked steadily in theater and TV throughout the 1960s but hadn’t had a major film role yet, was set to appear as Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind in Mel Brooks’ first movie when The Graduate came along. Brooks didn’t blame Hoffman one bit for taking the bigger opportunity—especially since Brooks’s wife, Anne Bancroft, was already cast as Mrs. Robinson.

2. IN REAL LIFE, THERE WAS ONLY A SIX-YEAR AGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BENJAMIN AND MRS. ROBINSON.

What everyone remembers about The Graduate is that Benjamin is seduced by his parents’s middle-aged friend. “Mrs. Robinson” even became a slang term for a sexually aggressive older woman, what we today might call a “cougar.” But Bancroft was only 35 when the film was shot, and Hoffman was 29. Mike Nichols used lighting and makeup to give Bancroft an older look.

3. THE ADULTS ONLY HAVE LAST NAMES.

Even after they’ve begun sleeping together, Benjamin never calls Mrs. Robinson anything other than “Mrs. Robinson.” We never learn what her first name is—nor the first name of any other adult in the movie. Only Benjamin and his peers have first names, underscoring the generation gap at the heart of the movie. 

4. THAT’S NOT A CHRIST REFERENCE AT THE END.

It may look like crucifixion imagery when Benjamin shows up to stop Elaine’s wedding and spreads his arms out across the church window, but there was actually a more practical reason for it. As Hoffman later explained, the idea was that Benjamin would be pounding his fists against the glass to get Elaine’s attention. But the minister of the church where they were filming was keeping a close eye on things, so pounding was out of the question. Instead, Hoffman spread his arms out against the window, suggesting urgency without doing any damage.

5. THE DIRECTOR HIJACKED AN UNRELATED PAUL SIMON SONG AND TURNED IT INTO THE MOVIE’S SIGNATURE TUNE.

Paul Simon had been contracted to write three new songs for The Graduate but had only produced one by the time editing was nearly done. Mike Nichols later recounted how he pestered Simon for more, anything, and Simon said he had a new number he was working on, but not for the movie. “It’s a song about times past—about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff,” Simon said. Nichols replied, “It’s now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt.” And the rest is history. 

6. GENE HACKMAN WAS FIRED FROM THE FILM.

Hackman had been hired to play Mrs. Robinson’s husband, but three weeks into rehearsal, Mike Nichols realized something: Hackman was too young. He was actually a year older than Anne Bancroft, who was playing his wife, but for whatever reason it wasn’t working. He and Nichols parted ways amiably, and Murray Hamilton took over the part. 

7. NOBODY, INCLUDING DUSTIN HOFFMAN, THOUGHT DUSTIN HOFFMAN SHOULD STAR IN IT.

The obvious choice for the role of Benjamin Braddock—a privileged Beverly Hills kid with wealthy parents—was someone tan, handsome, white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant. Robert Redford was everyone’s first choice, but Nichols vetoed him on the grounds that the audience wouldn’t believe him as a character who has been rejected by women. Nichols auditioned hundreds of actors for the part. After seeing Hoffman’s audition, Nichols realized the key to the character should be that he’s out of place. He’s surrounded by tall, beautiful blond people, but he’s none of those things. Hoffman thought his audition had been terrible, but Nichols hired him, against the advice of the producers and financiers.

8. THAT FAMOUS POSTER USED A STUNT LEG.


The iconic image of Benjamin looking at Mrs. Robinson’s leg stretched across the frame does not feature the actual leg of Anne Bancroft. It’s Linda Gray, then an unknown model. (She said she was paid $25.) Gray went on to play Sue Ellen Ewing on Dallas, and later starred in West End and Broadway productions of—wait for it—The Graduate. As Mrs. Robinson. 

9. THE AUTHOR PATTERNED BENJAMIN AFTER HIMSELF, RIGHT DOWN TO HIS DISTASTE FOR HIS PARENTS’ WEALTH.

Charles Webb, the son of a successful San Francisco doctor, published The Graduate in 1963. He said Ben and Elaine were modeled after himself and his wife (there was no real-life Mrs. Robinson, though), and that included his anti-materialism attitude. He sold the movie rights to The Graduate for $20,000 (a pittance considering how valuable it later became), gave most of his royalties to charity, and turned down an inheritance from his father. 

10. ONLY ONE OF THE TWO CREDITED SCREENWRITERS ACTUALLY WROTE THE MOVIE.

After producer Lawrence Turman had secured Mike Nichols to direct the film, he sent the novel to a screenwriter named William Hanley to take a crack at adapting it. Hanley’s draft was “horrible,” Nichols said, so they gave it to another writer, Calder Willingham, “who also turned in a script that I just wasn’t crazy about.” Nichols’ friend Buck Henry ended up writing the version that made it to the screen, but Henry had to share credit with Willingham. “The Writers Guild said that Willingham deserved partial credit,” Nichols said, “but to tell the truth, I didn’t use any of his script. It’s all Buck’s work.” 

11. IT COULD HAVE STARRED THE BOY WONDER!

Burt Ward, then becoming very famous as the Caped Crusader’s sidekick in TV’s Batman, was offered the lead role by producer Turman. But Ward’s bosses nixed it. Ward said, “Because Batman was so enormous and successful ... they didn’t want to dilute anything to do with the character by having me play a different role. The studio wouldn’t let me do it.” 

12. IT COULD HAVE STARRED ABOUT A MILLION OTHER PEOPLE, TOO.

Besides Redford and Ward, many other actors were considered for Benjamin, including Charles Grodin, who came very close to being cast before dropping out over money and scheduling. Elaine, eventually played by Katharine Ross, was supposed to be Candice Bergen, with Natalie Wood, Ann-Margret, and Jane Fonda on the wish list, too. Nichols’ top choice for Benjamin’s father (William Daniels) was Ronald Reagan, who was just then going into politics. Doris Day turned down Mrs. Robinson because the book was too dirty (according to one telling, her husband-slash-manager didn’t even show it to her). And when Nichols visited Ava Gardner, who’d expressed interest in playing Mrs. Robinson, she acted like a nutty movie star. She declared, unasked, that she wouldn’t take off her clothes, and said she’d been trying all day to place a phone call to Ernest Hemingway, who really was a friend of hers but who’d been dead for five years.

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
iStock

If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
iStock

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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