Nearly 40 years after its initial release, “American Graffiti” remains a time capsule in more ways than one. In director George Lucas’ homage to the age of drive in restaurants and late night cruising, several notable celebrities appear as fresh-faced newcomers.
“American Graffiti” is set in Modesto, Calif. on a late summer evening in 1962. As a small group of high school friends prepare for the next stages in their lives, nothing goes as expected:
* Ron Howard and Cindy Williams, two stars who would appear on the successful TV shows “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley,” appear here as young lovers Steve and Laurie. Steve is having second thoughts about going away to college and leaving Laurie behind.
* Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss plays the role of Curt, Steve’s friend who also is college-bound. For Curt, this night is a rite of passage as he says goodbye to all the rituals that defined his high school years.
* Charles Martin Smith plays Terry, the prototypical high school nerd who just wants to find his place. In the sequel “More American Graffiti,” Terry, also known as Toad, has been deployed to Vietnam to fight for his country.
* Harrison Ford, the future owner of the Millennium Falcon,plays arrogant hot rod racer Bob Falfa in a few scenes. Ford and Lucas made movie history with the “Star Wars” saga as well as the character of Indiana Jones.
* Paul Le Mat made an impressive film debut as John Milner, the bad boy amongst Steve’s circle of friends. John is well-known on the drag racing circuit and to the police officers who pull him over. Le Mat went on to star in “Melvin and Howard,” a amusing little film about Howard Hughes and his elusive will.
* Before taking things “One Day at a Time,” Mackenzie Phillips was hilarious as Carol, a 13-year-old with a fresh mouth. John Milner picks up Carol while cruising, not realizing how young she really is. Opinionated and rebellious, Carol wields a mean can of shaving cream.
* Suzanne Somers of “Three’s Company” fame appears in “American Graffiti” as Curt’s object of affection. Curt spends the night chasing an elusive blonde in a T-Bird, but only speaks to her via telephone. In the closing scenes, Curt gets one last fleeting look at the beautiful blonde as he flies away to college.
* Born Robert Weston Smith, the disc jockey known as Wolfman Jack became the voice for “American Graffiti.” The film definitely gave the Wolfman a serious boost, establishing his popularity with a new generation.