Dustin Hoffman got his first starring role in this gentle Oscar-winning satire about American values as Benjamin Braddock, a 21-year-old graduate who is seduced by the older Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).
Essentially a ‘rites of passage’ tale, The Graduate has many funny moments, with most of the humour derived from Ben’s naivety – his notion of sexual arousal is to put his hand tentatively on Mrs Robinson’s breast as if he were feeling her pulse.
While Ben just wants to talk about art (or anything), Mrs Robinson (who majored in fine arts) just wants sex – Until the affair becomes impossible when he falls in love with her young daughter, Elaine.
Undeterred by the fact that Elaine has just married a man she does not love, Ben turns up at the church, fights off the wedding party with a giant cross, uses it to jam the church door and escapes with Elaine – still in her wedding dress – into a happier future on a passing bus.
The music of Simon and Garfunkel helped to popularise the film. Director Mike Nichols originally offered the role of Mrs Robinson to Doris Day, who turned it down saying, “It offended my sense of values.”
He also considered Robert Redford as Benjamin at one stage, before taking the bold move to select Hoffman.