Favourite Principal Character in American Graffiti

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Falfa and Young aren't principals, but they do get a lot of screen time. Wolfman Jack only has one (important) scene, but really he's around from start to finish.

Poll Results

Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) 3
Wolfman Jack 3
Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) 1
Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) 1
Debbie Dunham (Candy Clark) 1
John Milner (Paul Le Mat) 0
Terry "The Toad" Fields (Charles Martin Smith) 0
Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams) 0
Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford) 0
Joe Young (Bo Hopkins) 0

clemenza, Sunday, 2 May 2010 02:51 (thirteen years ago) link

I was majorly surprised when it didn't even place in ILX's top 100 of the '70s a few years ago. Kael's ridicule of the coda--how you find out what happened to the men, but not the women--is dead-on; I wince every time, and also at the obviousness of their fates. That aside, I still think it's a great film, and it had a big influence on me when I saw it on release. It's taken me a few tries to warm to Dazed and Confused; I like it fine now, but still prefer American Graffiti. I'm guessing Terry the Toad will win, but then I thought Haven would win the Nashville poll.

clemenza, Sunday, 2 May 2010 02:59 (thirteen years ago) link


Fox Force Five Punchline (sexyDancer), Sunday, 2 May 2010 03:01 (thirteen years ago) link

Suzanne Somers.

clemenza, Sunday, 2 May 2010 03:03 (thirteen years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Thursday, 6 May 2010 23:01 (thirteen years ago) link

agree re: the coda.

tempting to vote for wolfman as being ostensibly responsible for the soundtrack (does this happen in any other movie?). "runaway" is one of my all-time favorites. hard not to identify with dreyfuss on a personal level though.

second toughest in the internets (another al3x), Thursday, 6 May 2010 23:51 (thirteen years ago) link

Wolfman Jack

the sound of a norwegian guy being wrong (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 6 May 2010 23:55 (thirteen years ago) link

Going with Dreyfuss, but I could see arguments for lots of others, especially Terry the Toad. One of my favorite movies ever.

xhuxk, Friday, 7 May 2010 00:36 (thirteen years ago) link

And Dazed And Confused is another of my favorites, fwiw, liked it from the beginning even though it definitely seemed like a cover version first time out. Still like this more, though.

xhuxk, Friday, 7 May 2010 00:38 (thirteen years ago) link

Candy Clark

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Friday, 7 May 2010 02:02 (thirteen years ago) link

I knew you liked Terry, but I didn't know you thought so highly of the film, xhuxk--excellent. I still haven't voted, but--as much as I'm a big Terry fan myself--I think it comes down to the two most interesting females: Debbie or Carol. I immediately think of the way Candy Clark says "He's just...horny," or how Mackenzie Phillips all of sudden gratefully blurts out her address and the other information she's been keeping from Paul Le Mat. I also love this weasly looking character actor who turns up in the arcade scene with Dreyfuss and the Pharoahs; the same guy turns up in Philip Kauffman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake carrying around a rat.

clemenza, Friday, 7 May 2010 04:01 (thirteen years ago) link

Al Nalbandian's his name--guy on the right.


clemenza, Friday, 7 May 2010 18:30 (thirteen years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Friday, 7 May 2010 23:01 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

A clone of the Milner coupe just sped by me.

Status Update...in my Seether? (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:42 (twelve years ago) link

If there's a clone of Suzanne Sommers circa 1973 sitting in the back seat, follow that car.

clemenza, Thursday, 8 September 2011 21:21 (twelve years ago) link

six months pass...

I watched Berkeley in the Sixties last night. Had no idea Mel's Diner was a real place--it flashed by for a second in the archival footage, exact same neon sign and everything.

clemenza, Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:15 (twelve years ago) link

Mel's Drive-In, I mean!


clemenza, Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:17 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

Seeing as this is the only thread for the Graffiti movie, I may as well bring this up here. I got my copy out of storage the other day and rescreened, enjoying it more than whenever it was I'd last viewed. Last night, I'm looking for something to watch and remembered that my copy of AG is a flipper with More American Graffiti on the other side. Realizing that I've probably never even put that side in the player in the 7 or so years I've owned the disc, there's my evening's entertainment sorted.

What an odd follow-up! Acording to the imdb, George Lucas did a treatment which was turned into a script by Bill Norton (of Cisco Pike fame) who then got the directing job. Four episodes, each set on New Year's Eves running from '64-'67 and generally focusing on one of the major characters with occasional cameos from the others if their timelines permit.

But Wait, there's more! Each episode is cut up and so you get a scene in '64 (covering Milner as a professional drag racer at a meet), then a sequence in '65 (Terry in 'Nam), followed by a bit from '66 (Debbie in Frisco) and something from '67 (Steve & Laurie getting mixed up in a protest at Berkley), each of which is shot in an exclusive style & aspect ratio by Caleb Deschanel.

It's a mess. There's a lot of cheesy "it was the SIXTIES, MAN" stuff, particularly in the latter two storylines. But I felt the 'Nam sequence was pretty well done (Deschanel's finest work in the film is here, working with handheld 16mm) and Paul LeMat (the Brando of 70s fast car movies) turns in another fine performance as Milner. And there are some other pleasures to behold, such as a small and funny supporting turn from Doug Sahm (who also performs "I'm A Man" (in the Yardbirds arrangement) and "The Race Is On" onscreen) in Debbie's Frisco tale and some choice soundtrack picks, not to mention an amusing uncredited cameo from Harrison Ford as Falfa. And at the end, perhaps as an answer to Kael, they replay the old "where are they now?" captions from the first film, but with additions for Laurie & Debbie.

Uncle Cyril O'Boogie (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 18 July 2013 20:37 (ten years ago) link

four years pass...

Watched both American Graffiti and More American Graffiti for the first time today. The first one is terrific, definitely a classic that I cannot believe I haven't seen sooner, but christ that is one unfocused sequel. Sure it's innovative, with occasional on point scenes, but to be honest the constant split screens made me feel ill. Dreyfuss is sorely missed and they shouldn't have replaced him with a different actor.

Oh and let's give Milner some love.

I'm Finn thanks, don't mention it (fionnland), Sunday, 15 April 2018 18:58 (six years ago) link

Gonna say Milner got robbed in this poll.

This was good;


piscesx, Sunday, 15 April 2018 21:39 (six years ago) link

American Graffiti is one of those movies that I seem to check in on once every decade of my life to see if I like it yet. With my 30s just about wrapping up, it may be time for another go.

Dangleballs and the Ballerina (cryptosicko), Sunday, 15 April 2018 22:02 (six years ago) link

I missed Grissom's long post at the time...I saw the sequel once, don't remember a whole lot (if anything, the hand-held Vietnam footage). The Dissolve piece is interesting, but I don't think I ever gave the film a second thought after seeing it. B.W. Norton made Cisco Pike seven years earlier.

clemenza, Sunday, 15 April 2018 22:41 (six years ago) link

two months pass...

Rep house screening last night ("Designing the Movies"). First time I've seen it in a while, and possibly--not sure--the first time in a theatre since it came out (45 years ago...). The person who introduced it did the usual "Who's seeing this for the first time tonight?" Scattered hands--really wished I could have been one of those people.

Even more strikingly than when I posted eight years ago, Candy Clark and Mackenzie Phillips steal the film (or at least share it with the music). About the eight funniest lines all belong to them. My favourite, from Clark: "Nope, he loves to drink, he told me so." Also the beautiful little forlorn wave she gives to Howard when he rushes off to find Cindy Williams.

The weakest thing about the film might be what seems most important to Lucas: will or won't Steve and Curt go off to college? He just overdoes it a bit. On the other hand, the film could have been a big portentous mess if Lucas had over-filled it with all kinds of omens about All the Bad Stuff Just Around the Corner, and he's surprisingly restrained there--there's a little of that, but, until the postscript, not a whole lot. In a odd sort of way, the scandalous postscript might have saved the rest of the film--Lucas was able to cram All the Bad Stuff Just Around the Corner into those four little end-bubbles. (Which is not meant to let him off the hook for his clueless omission of the women.)

Still love the film. The Wolfman Jack scene is unbelievably good.

clemenza, Friday, 15 June 2018 19:57 (five years ago) link

Also noticed Toni Basil's (choreography at the hop) and Kim Fowley's (production for Flash Cadillac) names in the credits. And this must be one of the first films to have such detailed song credits at the end.

clemenza, Friday, 15 June 2018 20:06 (five years ago) link

five months pass...
two years pass...

I am reading Ron & Clint Howard’s memoirs “The Boys” & Ron talks about how strange he found Lucas’ directing style, no notes just “action, cut, good” Lucas basically told him I don’t need you to do anything more or less, i will put the movie together when i edit.
the cast got to see the first 15 minutes after he’d added the music and were blown away. once he saw what he had in mind they got really excited about the project, until then they weren’t all that sure.

Paul Le Mat is so goddamn handsome, he knocks me out every time I watch this. I keep thinking i’ll one day find his scenes w Carol creepy but its always weirdly charming

I still really love Terry, on account of how he hunts deer and bears on horseback

TERRY: Oh yeah? I used to have a couple of horses myself. I used them for hunting. I do a lot of hunting. Deer mostly, although I got a couple of bear last year. Yep, they were good ponies — hunting ponies. I had to train ’em special, you know. I had to sell ’em. To get these wheels… and a jeep. I also have a jeep pick-up, with four-wheel drive. It’s got a gun rack. And I use that for hunting mostly.

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 15 November 2021 01:42 (two years ago) link

"Nope, he loves to drink--he told me so."

I mentioned Al Nalbandian above--the linked photo is gone, but he's Hank, one of the old guys they dupe at the arcade. I'm in the middle of So I Married an Axe Murderer (first time, believe it or not), 20 years after American Graffiti, and there's Al; he turns up in Nancy Travis's shop, placing a very specific order.


He died in 2017, four years shy of 100.

clemenza, Monday, 15 November 2021 01:51 (two years ago) link

Click on the link yourself if that's not working:


clemenza, Monday, 15 November 2021 01:52 (two years ago) link

I try not to whine about poll results, but this one's so long ago, I'm going to indulge myself a little: amazed that anyone could vote for the ultra bland Steve (Ron Howard) over either Milner or Terry.

clemenza, Monday, 15 November 2021 01:54 (two years ago) link

I really like Steve but he’s the least interesting of the main characters

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 15 November 2021 03:11 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

"Why didn't you say something earlier? We wouldn't have had to go through all the fun."

clemenza, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 05:20 (five months ago) link

I've never seen this movie, but I recently picked up the soundtrack and the first soundtrack sequel (which I guess only contains one song from the film or something).

peace, man, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 15:12 (five months ago) link

Surprising--I remember the sequel having, like the original, a wall-to-wall soundtrack. They picked a totally different set of songs for the album?

clemenza, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 16:10 (five months ago) link

This movie brings out the Bozelka in me

Dwigt Rortugal (Eric H.), Tuesday, 7 November 2023 16:15 (five months ago) link

1. Fast Times, 2. American Graffiti, 3. Dazed and Confused

clemenza, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 16:18 (five months ago) link

xp to clemenza: No, there were two sequels to the original soundtrack (More American Graffiti & American Graffiti Vol. III) prior to the movie More American Graffiti being released in 1977, which had its own soundtrack, also titled More American Graffiti.

peace, man, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 16:40 (five months ago) link

Looked it up on Discogs, and yes, I do remember that album now. And you're right: looking over the songs, I don't think even one of them turned up in the first film.

clemenza, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 16:45 (five months ago) link

By the time they put out Vol. III in '76, the wave of '50s nostalgia that was everywhere the first half of the decade was on the wane. So even with the sort-of tie-in to the upcoming movie sequel, I'm guessing it sold next to nothing.

clemenza, Tuesday, 7 November 2023 16:51 (five months ago) link

fascinating tracklists on II and III. they feel like much more exciting, deep-cut affairs, but I can't tell how much of that is because the original soundtrack (as an LP in my house growing up, and as an influence on the contents of future oldies radio/etc.) has *made* the first one's selections seem relatively obvious and over-familiar.

not the one who's tryin' to dub your anime (Doctor Casino), Tuesday, 7 November 2023 19:07 (five months ago) link

Thought this revive was about the botched DNR on the new 4K disc, a real uncanny valley on some of the images I’ve seen .


Dan Worsley, Wednesday, 8 November 2023 08:58 (five months ago) link

three months pass...

"Don't say anything, and we'll get along just fine."

clemenza, Thursday, 22 February 2024 03:29 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

Added to Netflix today.

A favorite line I always forget: Terry, trying to get somebody to buy him Old Harper outside the liquor store, telling a guy he lost his ID "...in a flood!"

Also find it really amusing that Terry draws a audience of respectable old people to his barfing when it's supposed to be like 3 or 4 in the morning by then.

I've never changed my display name, but "The Bozelka in Me" is tempting.

clemenza, Tuesday, 2 April 2024 01:40 (two weeks ago) link

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