‘THE GRADUATE’: How Movie Magic Struck La Verne Exactly 50 Years Ago Today!

December 22, 2017
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La Verne United Methodist Church provided the backdrop for cinematic history made exactly 50 years ago.

LA  VERNE, California, Dec. 22, 2017 — This morning I woke up very early to David Allen’s excellent piece, “‘The Graduate’ wedding scene forever altar-ed La Verne church,” in the Daily Bulletin, which opened a flood of memories for me.


Released on Dec. 22, 1967, it was the first really racy (is that what “R”-rated stands for?) movie I ever saw. I watched the movie with my sister and parents at the Hastings Ranch theater in Pasadena as part of a twin bill with the equally provocative, “Barbarella,” starring Jane Fonda.


“The Graduate” is about a college graduate, Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), who is seduced by  a bored housewife, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), only to fall in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross).


Yet, what I most remember from that scandalous night of entertainment exactly a half-century ago was wanting the exact same Alpha Romeo convertible that Hoffman drove in the movie, zipping along California’s storied 101 highway.


I was also swept away by the Simon and Garfunkel sound track, which I played into submission, further surprising my parents who thought I was a hopeless Beatlemaniac.


While I never did get that Alpha Romeo, I did move to La Verne in 1984, which played such a vital role in  “The Graduate’s” iconic final scene.


In particular, that last edge-of-your-seat scene unfolds at the United Methodist Church in La Verne on D Street across from Bonita High School.


That fact gives some of La Verne’s Presbyterians heartburn because Hoffman in the movie is racing to the “First Presbyterian Church,” but as there was no Presbyterian Church in La Verne in 1967 (construction didn’t begin until 1970), the United Methodist Church served as a more than capable stand-in.


There was another reason for the selection of the United Methodist Church on D Street, according to Allen. Director Mike Nichols thought the church with its white exterior, expansive windows and floor-to-ceiling glass behind the altar exemplified that breezy and contemporary California cool he was aiming for. Allen further notes that all the glass would clearly show how Hoffman was walled off from the increasingly vengeful wedding mob.

Cinematic architecture.


The choice of the church is genius and pure movie magic. It is the vessel out of which pours all the movie’s most memorable closing scenes — Hoffman’s banging on the balcony glass to attract Katharine Ross’ (Elaine) attention, his swinging the cross like a cutlass before jamming it through the door handles to help buy his and his stolen bride’s escape, the sprint to the yellow school bus chugging down D Street and the long ride into our memories and movie mythology.


So today, two suggestions: Read David Allen’s masterful story at https://www.dailybulletin.com/2017/12/21/the-graduate-wedding-scene-forever-altar-ed-la-verne-church/ and stop by the church to rattle a few windows and cry “Elaine!” just as Ben did.


It also might be wise, however, to first warn church secretary Debbie Tucker of your movie reenactment plans.


Did you see the movie 50 years ago and did you rush out and buy the S&G record that was the soundtrack to our adolescent lives? Would love to hear your comments!


For the best in classic or contemporary real estate, call Colleen Bennett, longtime La Verne Realtor,

at 909.374.4744. 


2 Responses to “‘THE GRADUATE’: How Movie Magic Struck La Verne Exactly 50 Years Ago Today!”

  1. That was my senior year and as a member of the yearbook staff got permission to hang out on the set. My friend, Henrietta, and I spent hours watching them film. We were introduced to every major person in the film. I, personally, had more fun playing a game of tag football with a young man who nobody knew. He signed my yearbook with the following…to my sweet friend and best football player, love, Dusty. I’ve never called him Dustin! The cherry on top was getting to ride on the bus in the closing scene. Not the inside filming, but where they jump on the bus, then as you see the bus ride off…fun times.

  2. Nice read Peter.

    I did not know the church was in LaVerne.

    Love the Wayne’s World piece.



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