PCR's past banners
Now in our seventh calendar year!

PCR #342. (Vol. 7, No. 41) This edition is for the week of October 9--15, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! Let me begin with a HUGE thank you to my honey, Juanita, whose computer I am composing on this week (and possibly next). I've got an old electric typewriter in a box somewhere and I may start doing the rant that way and faxing it off! Shall we begin?

"Infamous"  by Mike Smith
How Much Is That In Credits?...Buck....Also In Passing....No Wonder She Never Smiles....My Favorite Films, Part 41: "American Graffiti"  by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR

As mentioned here a few weeks ago, Christies recently completed their auction of original props and costumes from "Star Trek." Total raised: a whopping $7.1 million dollars, almost twice as estimated. The model of the Enterprise-D, featured in the first episode (as well as the credits) of "Star Trek - The Next Generation" went for $576,000 while Captain Picard's chair went for $52,000, almost 6 times it's $9,000 estimate. In addition to the Enterprise-D, nine other models sold for more then $100,000 each. Highest price paid for a costume was $144,000 for a space suit worn by DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy. Funny. In a universe where, according to Jim Kirk in "Star Trek V," money is no longer used, Harry Mudd and company are making a killing.

It's been a sad week here in Kansas City as Negro League baseball player and all around ambassador of the game John "Buck" O'Neil passed away at the age of 94. As a player, manager and spokesman for the league, O'Neil helped bring to the public the great achievements of such Negro League players as Satchel Page and Josh Gibson. He was featured in the Ken Burns documentary, "Baseball," and was instrumental this past summer in getting 17 former Negro League players and executives elected into the baseball Hall of Fame. That Buck was not one of the inductees (he missed election by one vote) is an injustice that I hope will soon be rectified. As a scout and then, in 1962, the first black coach in the major leagues, Buck had an eye for talent. Among his discoveries were Lou Brock and Joe Carter. He also encouraged Ernie Banks to continue to follow his dream of playing baseball when the future "Mr. Cub" was discouraged early in his career. Buck made countless appearances on behalf of the Negro League Museum here in Kansas City, both locally and around the world. Not many people were aware that, in the 16 years Buck represented the museum, he never took a salary. He did what he did for the love of the game. On many occasions my son and I would attend a function and just listen in awe to the many stories Buck told of his days playing baseball. A great and good man has left us. God bless, Buck.

Tamara Dobson, who gained fame in the early 1970s in the blaxploitation hit, "Cleopatra Jones," has passed away at the age of 59. Cause of death was pneumonia and complications from multiple sclerosis. The imposing 6'2" Baltimore native first gained notice in "FUZZ" but became an action star in "Cleopatra Jones." She followed with the obligatory sequel, "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold" and also appeared with Redd Foxx in "Norman, Is That You." After a few television appearances in the early 1980s, she retired from acting. Fred Benedict, who designed such iconic characters as Fred Flintstone and Yogi Bear, died in his sleep at his home in Auburn, California. He was 94. After working with Tex Avery and Walter Lantz on their animated theatrical cartoons, Benedict joined Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera when they began their television animation studio. For the 1960 prime time series, "The Flintstones," Benedict designed Fred Flintstone, his pal, Barney Rubble, as well as their wives. He was also responsible for the show's Stone Age gadgets.

In a speech earlier this week President Bush, commenting on the deployment of our troops in Iraq, said that "pulling out early" would leave his administration "unsatisfied." Nearby, Laura Bush nodded and sighed.

Starring: Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Paul LeMat and Candy Clark
Directed by: George Lucas

FIRST SEEN: Tyrone Theatre, St Petersburg, Florida
FAVORITE LINE: "That boy will make a fine moose!"
FAVORITE SCENE: Curt meets Wolfman Jack.

  • Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Clark), Best Original Screenplay (George Lucas, Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck) and Best Film Editing (Verna Fields and Marcia Lucas, who would later win Oscars for editing, respectively, "Jaws" and "Star Wars.")
  • BAFTA Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Williams)
  • Directors Guild of America nomination for Best Director.
  • Golden Globe awards for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Most Promising Newcomer - Male (LeMat). Nominations for Best Director and Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) Richard Dreyfuss.
  • Kansas City Film Critic's Circle award for Best Picture
  • Writer's Guild of America nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

    Based on his memories of teenage life, George Lucas managed to turn his lifetime of adventures into one final night among friends. While directors like Martin Scorsese are now masters at using old songs in their films, Lucas was the first director to really conceive his scenes around a particular song. Originally slated to contain bits from almost 80 songs, Lucas had to settle for 45 when the cost to obtain the rights to Elvis Presley's music was deemed too expensive. The cast was made up of actors that actually looked like the people that populated high school in 1962. Dreyfuss, in his first starring role, gives an almost sweet performance as Curt, who spends his last night before heading off to college pursuing a mysterious blonde in a Thunderbird. Ron Howard, who was best known at the time as playing Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show," played Steve, one of the most popular kids at school also destined for college. Also featured are then unknowns Charles Martin Smith (playing, in my opinion, George Lucas), Candy Clark, Paul LeMat, Bo Hopkins and soon to be stars Suzanne Sommers, Mackenzie Phillips, Kathleen Quinlan and, as drag racer Bob Falfa, Harrison Ford. The film also introduced to a new generation the one and only Wolfman Jack, who parlayed his work here into a long-running gig hosting "The Midnight Special" music program.

    Shot in 29 days for less than $1 million, "American Graffiti" was not at first embraced by Universal. After a test screening the powers that be deemed the film a failure. The story goes that Francis Ford Coppola, Lucas' mentor and the film's producer, offered to write the studio a check on the spot for the film. Thankfully for the studio, they didn't, as "American Graffiti" has gone on to gross an amazing $115 million since its release, including a 1978 reissue with extra scenes.

    As with all films, there are some great stories, like the Coppola one above. One long-circulated one is that, while editing the film, an assistant asked Lucas for the second reel and the dialogue reel that went along with it. However, he abbreviated his request to "R2D2," which Lucas used later in "Star Wars." Speaking of "Star Wars," Lucas was casting the film and asked Harrison Ford to participate in the readings for Luke Skywalker, reading the lines for Han Solo with the actors auditioning for Luke. Eventually, it became obvious to Lucas that Ford should play Han Solo. "American Graffiti" is Kathleen Quinlan's film debut. 20 years later, she would earn an Oscar nomination for her work in "Apollo 13," directed by Ron Howard.

    In 1979, Universal released a sequel of sorts, "More American Graffiti," which followed several of the characters on New Year's Eve in different years. Using film techniques made popular for each year (hand held when Toad is in Vietnam, split screen and psychedelic when Debbie is in San Francisco, etc) the film did little business but was, in my opinion, very well done.

    I've had the opportunity to meet Dreyfuss, Howard, Clark, LeMat and Hopkins and they all speak fondly of "American Graffiti." When I think of the film, my thoughts take me back to the night of June 11, 1978, when I first saw it during its reissue. It was on the way home from the film in a blinding rainstorm, with Matt in the passenger seat and the radio blaring "Shadow Dancing," that I wrecked my car. :-(

    Next week, the underrated Kurt Russell comedy, "Used Cars".

    Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.