Saturday, May 26, 2007

By Paul Iorio

Hard to believe, but that cinematic

youthquake of 1967, Mike Nichols's

"The Graduate," turns 40 later this year.

And on the heels of that anniversary comes

the release of Charles Webb's sequel to his novel "The Graduate,"

on which the film was based. It's called "Home School" and is

about Ben and Elaine eleven years after they eloped, as they

attempt to home school their two sons. (Random House will release

it in July in the U.K. through its Hutchinson imprint; a U.S.

publication date has not yet been announced.)

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here; after all,

after four decades, some might not know what the first

"Graduate" was about, though many baby boomers could probably

recite the story by heart by now: Benjamin Braddock

(Dustin Hoffman) graduates from college, returns to his parents'

home in the Los Angeles area and is seduced by an older woman,

Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), who is also a close family friend.

Things get more complicated when Hoffman's character falls

for Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), a student at

the University of California at Berkeley, where he tracks her down

and eventually wins her over.

How best to celebrate the upcoming sequel and anniversary?

Perhaps a trip to Berkeley might be in order.

Sure, I know, around half of the movie is set in the

Los Angeles area. But Berkeley is where the plot really starts to turn

unexpectedly, some 75 minutes into the picture.

So if you're sitting on a sofa on a sunny afternoon,

and if you also happen to be visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, you

might want to stroll around the grounds near Cal (as the university in

Berkeley is nicknamed) to check out places featured in the film.

Here's a guide to wandering down the memory lanes of

"The Graduate" and revisiting the places where Ben and Elaine

became a countercultural item all those years ago. Below are several

locations seen in the movie, almost all within walking distance

of the university's south side in Berkeley.

* *

MOE'S BOOKS (as seen from The Mediterraneum Cafe)


Shortly after arriving in Berkeley, Dustin Hoffman sits at The Mediterraneum Cafe and surreptitiously watches Elaine as she leaves Moe's Books. In the background, we hear Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair/Canticle," which is played repeatedly in the film (for a full six minutes of screen time).


The Mediterraneum and Moe's still exist in their same locations (though the Print Mint is long gone), and there's still outdoor seating at the Cafe (where an espresso costs $1.50), but, truth be told, there are lots of annoying street people who frequent that stretch of Telegraph, so take a seat with caution. Moe's, known mostly for its vast collection of used books, is a browser's paradise for bibliophiles (open till 11pm every night).





After Elaine leaves Moe's, Ben follows her along north Telegraph Avenue, as "Scarborough Fair" continues to play in the background. She catches a local bus, and Ben chases it until the next stop, where he boards and starts an unwelcome, dangling conversation with her. (The film makers make a geographical gaffe; the bus travels north but somehow winds up at the San Francisco Zoo, almost 20 miles to the west and off any local bus route.)


The far north end of Telegraph, where the campus meets the Avenue, is still a bustling place, with lots of sidewalk vendors and stores selling everything from tie dyed t-shirts and radical bumper stickers to sushi, pizza and books. Among the most notable shops: alternative music store Amoeba Music (at Haste St. and Telegraph) and Rasputin's, which has a vintage collection of vinyl LPs. And, yes, the Avenue still has an old fashioned, incense-burnin' headshop, Annapurna (2416 Telegraph).




Near the film's end, Hoffman's character frantically parks his red Alfa Romeo and rushes into this frat house near campus to find out where Elaine's wedding is taking place. And early version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" plays in the background.


Forty years later, it's still the ivy-covered frat house it was in the film, home to an old line student organization that once claimed poet Robert Frost as a member (when he was at Dartmouth).





Before Ben parks his car in front of the frat house, there's a shot of Durant Avenue at College Ave., circa 1967, one of the main streets near campus. (In the background, we see student residence halls that, in 2006, are no longer visible from the street.)


Forty years later, the halls are obscured by lots of new student dorms and retailers, but the real reason to visit the block is what's two doors west: the Berkeley Art Museum. Farther down the street is a pricey but pleasant bar and restaurant, Henry's Publick House & Grille, in the upscale Hotel Durant (beware: it's $9.95 for a basic hamburger).


SPROUL PLAZA (at the University of California)



Ben stalks Elaine as she walks across Sproul Plaza, the main plaza on campus, watching her as she emerges from Sather Gate, on the far south side of campus. (Again, "Scarborough Fair" is the soundtrack.)


Sproul Plaza is still the big central square at Cal, and it looks much the same as it did in the film. Its main claim to fame is that it was one of the epicenters of political protest in the Sixties and Seventies, and is where activist Mario Savio gave his famous "machine" speech in 1964 (the Sproul steps have since been renamed the Mario Savio Steps).


BEN'S ROOMING HOUSE (said to be near the intersection of Durant Ave. and Dana St.)



This is where Ben rents a cheap room, has an affair with Elaine and suffers verbal abuse from various people. "I think you are filth!," Mr. Robinson tells him there (in a simple, desultory philippic, as S&G might say!). "I want you out of here," says his landlord. Richard Dreyfuss, in one of his first movie roles, plays one of the tenants.


Of all the Berkeley sites, the location of this house is the most in dispute. As the Northern California Movies website and others suggest, the boarding house is probably at the intersection of Durant and Dana, probably on the northwest corner (in the film, we can see what appears to be Ida Sproul hall in the distance, which is just south of the intersection. Only problem with that theory is there's a church on that corner that was probably in existence in 1967. In the film, during the zoo scene, Ben says, "I have this very pleasant room on Carter Street." But there is disagreement about whether there ever was a Carter Street in Berkeley. [NOTE: I'm still fact-checking this one.] In any event, the area around Durant and Dana is quiet and tree-lined and perfect for strolling, with eateries toward the east (Yogurt Park is a popular yogurt joint, and next to that is the cleverly named Sufficient Grounds coffee shop).


THE SAN FRANCISCO ZOO (at Sloat Blvd. and 47th Ave. in S.F.)



Elaine takes the bus to the S.F. Zoo, where she plans to meet her new boyfriend, Carl Smith, at the "monkey house" (which has signs on its fenced area that read "Do Not Tease"). Ben tags along with her until Carl arrives. The background music is -- you guessed it -- "Scarborough Fair"!


Decades later, the Zoo is still a big tourist draw, boasting the usual cast of rhinos and chimps and cranes (250 species are represented, they claim). It's also within walking distance of San Francisco's main beach, Ocean Beach. ______________________________________________

1 comment:

John Shelton said...

The location appears to be on the intersection of Dana and Channing. In the scene where Elaine and Ben are in the boarding house, following when Richard Dreyfuss wants to call the cops, Elaine leaves and Ben watches her from the window. You can see the street sign for Dana Street while Elaine heads east on Channing. The building at the NE corner of Dana and Channing is still there, raised up on concrete with railings and fencing. A historic house is still on the NW corner -- assumedly the boarding house where the scene was shot from the second floor.