Mike Nichols’ movie The Graduate, released on December 22, 1967, is one of the most important films of the late 1960s and one of the most beloved American films of all time.
The movie is based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb, who wrote it after graduating from Williams College.
The film was nominated for seven Oscars at the 40th Academy Awards, and Mike Nichols won the Academy Award for Best Director. It marks the screen debut, in the title role, of Dustin Hoffman, who portrays Benjamin Braddock, a bright college graduate, uncertain of his future who has a tangled affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father’s business partner, and then proceeds to fall in love with her daughter Elaine, portrayed by Katharine Ross.
During the production of the movie, director Mike Nichols was a big fan of Simon & Garfunkel’s music, but he never expected that they would agree to do his film’s soundtrack. He managed to convince them to allow the use of a few songs for the film. These later proved to be an integral part of the storytelling process and brought the music of Simon & Garfunkel to a wider audience.
Nichols used three existing Simon & Garfunkel songs: “The Sound of Silence,” “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” and “April Come She Will.” However, he needed a new song and asked Paul Simon to contribute a new song for the soundtrack. Simon told him that they were busy touring and that he only had “a song about times past — about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff,” but it wasn’t finished.
The song was originally titled, Mrs. Roosevelt and had absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the movie. It was a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt and the passing of a more innocent era. When Nichols realized the title had the same number of syllables as “Mrs. Robinson”, he asked Simon to change the title and the song “Mrs. Robinson” was born.
Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” became the first rock song to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was popular in many other countries and has been covered by a number of artists, including Frank Sinatra, the Lemonheads, and Bon Jovi.
As written by the Rolling Stone magazine, “Nichols became close friends with the duo and cast them both in his 1970 movie Catch-22, though he cut Paul’s part shortly before filming.
Art remained in the picture, refusing to drop out just because Paul lost the job. This didn’t sit well with Simon, and both parties now claim the ensuing fight was a key factor in their split.”