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Webb ’61, RIP

From the Washington Post:

Charles Webb, whose novel ‘The Graduate’ inspired a Hollywood classic, dies at 81

With its Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack, mordant dialogue and bursts of sexual tension, “The Graduate” was a generational touchstone, launching the movie career of Dustin Hoffman, earning director Mike Nichols an Oscar and turning a character’s one-word piece of career advice — “plastics” — into a punchline.

Based on a novel by Charles Webb, the 1967 film foreshadowed Hollywood’s turn toward a more youthful audience and made more than $100 million at the box office, drawing rave reviews for its story of a disaffected college graduate (Hoffman) who is seduced by a married woman (Anne Bancroft) and falls in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross).

But for all its success, Mr. Webb largely distanced himself from “The Graduate,” which featured a Buck Henry and Calder Willingham screenplay that lifted much of the dialogue from his book. “It’s something that I cannot shake,” he once said of the novel. “It has defined my whole life. I just want to run away.”

EphBlog knows the feeling!

The whole obituary is amazing. See below the break for more.

Read more


Commencement Week Round-Up

In honor of commencement, several stories of note from recent weeks related to this week’s ceremonies and/or the graduating seniors:

  • Be sure to read this Williams feature highlighting some of the future plans for this year’s graduating class.   Great to see so many seniors interested in serving their country and/or the world.
  • Another must read: this interview with senior Mopati Morake’11, who has clearly thought deeply about higher education.
  • Talented writer Andrew Triska ’11 will be finishing his novel after graduation.
  • Of course, for baby boomers, the most famous “graduate” of Williams is Benjamin Braddock (the novel was written by Eph Charles Webb shortly after his own graduation, and although Williams is not mentioned in the movie, he does wear a purple-and-gold tie).  Apparently a new adaptation hones closer to the novel.
  • One of my favorite Williams traditions is the Olmstead Award for Secondary School Teachers.  Read about this year’s recipients here.
  • Congratulations seniors, and enjoy what should be a wonderful weekend highlighted by tremendous Commencement speaker Cory Booker.

Picture of Moore and Scandal Name/Song

mooreFirst, this is the only picture of Professor Bernard Moore that I have been able to find. (He is on the left. Source is Williams Record.) A Williams faculty member suggested to me that Moore may have actually avoided having pictures of himself taken (e.g., here) because he was concerned that someone might recognize him and, thereby, discover his various frauds. Can anyone point to other photos?

Second, can we settle on a scandal name and graphic, as we did for Nigaleian, Mary Jane Hitler and Willy E. N-word? See this morning’s discussion. Leading suggestion (with two votes!) seems to be “Catch Moore If You Can.” (Hat tip to Batman.) (The graphics possibilities are fun.) Moore’s cyclist hobby might prove relevant. I wish that there were some way to incorporate his lousy teaching and suspect academic work, but there is only so much we can squeeze into a scandal name. Moore is, obviously, the Leonardo DiCaprio character in the movie poster. But who is chasing him? Ephraim Williams? EphBlog? A purple cow? Give us your suggestions in the comments.

Third, Jeff has produced the perfect scandal song, based on Mrs. Robinson.

And here’s to you, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams loved you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
Falk bless you please, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams held a place for those who stray
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

We failed to know a little bit about you for our files
Forgot to help us learn about yourself
Look around you, hardly any sympathetic eyes
Please depart the grounds and head back home

And here’s to you, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams loved you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
Falk bless you please, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams held a place for those who stray
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes
Put it in your bank with your false gains
It’s a little secret, just a faculty affair
Most of all, you’ve got to hide it from the kids

And here’s to you, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams loved you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
Falk bless you please, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams held a place for those who stray
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

Sitting in the Congress on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Ev’ry way you look at it, you lose

Where have you gone, James McGregor Burns
A college turns it’s lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)
What’s that you say, Mr. Bernard Moore
McGregor Burns has left and gone away
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

But, with his permission, I think that we could improve the lyrics a bit by incorporating some more specific references to his various Williams activities. The chorus and the last stanza are perfect.

UPDATE: I only just realized how much of a genius Jeff is! Mrs. Robinson is, of course, appeared in the soundtrack of The Graduate, which was based on the book by Charles Webb ’61. We can combine this song with the slogan by just having it as “Catch Mr. Bernard Moore.” Thoughts? Assignment for better lyrics goes to Seth Brown ’01 of Rising Pun.

Below the break is the full Record article on Moore from October 29, 2008. (The Record archives are busted, so this was retrieved from the Google cache.) The article meets the Record‘s usual high standards in terms of investigative reporting. (Read: My daughter’s middle school paper produces harder-hitting copy.)
Read more


Braddock an Eph?

We have long speculated that protagonist of The Graduate is an Eph. Does the sequel provide proof?

“Home School” by Charles Webb is the sequel to the popular novel “The Graduate,” written in 1963 and made into what is now a classic film in 1967, starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katherine Ross — and directed by Mike Nichols.

The story focuses on 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock, a recent graduate of Massachusetts’ Williams College. He goes home to Pasadena where he meets Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s business partner. When she tries to seduce him (nude scene and all), he is shocked — but returns later and initiates an affair with her.

(Actually, Hoffman was 29 at the time while the allegedly much older Anne Bancroft was 35.)

When he meets her daughter, Elaine Robinson, he falls in love with her. That ends dramatically when the affair is discovered. Elaine becomes engaged to a more acceptable young man, but Benjamin can’t get her out of his mind — so he drives a horrendous distance to reach the church in time to stop the wedding.

He is not in time to stop it — but he runs away with Elaine anyway — to the accompaniment of the also famous Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack (“Mrs. Robinson” was the hit single), and the marriage is annulled.

This is the first time that I have ever seen it stated as fact that Braddock, like Webb ’61, is a graduate of Williams. Neither the orginal book nor movie make that claim directly, although the book begins with a line about Braddock graduating from a small college in June. Previous speculation here, and note the part about Mrs. Robinson being inspired, at least in name, by an Eph mom. Was there a Robinson in the class of 1961? We need to get to the bottom of that story.


Mrs. Ephmom

Did anybody read the Charles Webb ’61 article from two days ago? If so, how could you resist commenting on this part.

Although – to his considerable regret – Webb was never seduced by an older woman, Benjamin in The Graduate was pretty much a self-portrait: same background, same gaucheness, same disillusion with parental values.

Over the decades, Webb has become used to hearing people speculate – often authoritatively – about whom Mrs Robinson was based on.

In fact, she had a pretty hazy genesis. Although Webb’s own mother-in-law might seem the obvious candidate, she couldn’t stand him, regarding him as a quite unsuitable partner for her daughter.

However, there was one occasion when he passed the open door of her bathroom and saw her naked, stepping out of the shower. Webb insists that he wasn’t in the least aroused, but suspects the incident may have flicked a switch somewhere inside him.

Her name, meanwhile, came from a classmate in college whom Webb hardly knew. In adulthood, he met up with the classmate again, and learnt that the boy’s mother had been going around for years proudly claiming – with some justification – to be the real Mrs Robinson.

Mrs. Robinson was an Eph Mom! (I do not think that she is the commentator who goes by “ephmom” in these parts.) Perfect. And the “self-portrait” description means we can conclude that Benjamin Braddock (the Dustin Hoffman character) attended Williams. Too bad we could never confirm that he wears a Williams tie in the opening montage.


Post Graduate

An update on Charles Webb ’61, author of The Graduate. (Hat tip Newmark’s Door.)

It has taken Charles Webb 40 years to write a sequel to ‘The Graduate’. He made no money from the film, has sunk into the deepest poverty and now lives in a hotel in Eastbourne. ‘I wouldn’t have had it any other way,’ he tells John Preston

Sometime in the mid-1970s, several years after he wrote The Graduate and gave away all his possessions, Charles Webb was working as a clerk in a branch of Kmart.

One day he noticed that there was a new product on the shelves, designed to help children become potty-trained.

It was called The Graduate.

‘I think that’s when I realised this thing was never going to waft away into the distance.

“Although the film wasn’t my hit, my whole life has been measured by it.

“I’ve no idea how life would have turned out had it not been for this phenomenon, but everything would have been very different. That’s for sure.’

Read the whole thing.


Braddock’s Tie

Is this claim from Wikipedia correct?

Benjamin Braddock, the main character of the The Graduate, is widely believed to have attended Williams College. In the opening sequence of the movie, Dustin Hoffman playing Benjamin Braddock, is wearing a Williams College tie.

Most agree that Braddock attended Williams. The author of the book on which the movie was based was Charles Webb ’61. The book begins “Benjamin Braddock graduated from a small Eastern college on a day in June.” The number of small Eastern colleges with June graduations is not large.

But is Hoffman wearing a Williams tie in the movie? I don’t remember that. If so, we need a picture! Or, better, a video. Please help us, loyal readers.



Geoff Hutchinson ’99 notes that:

In the 1967 movie, The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman receives the one-word advice “Plastics.” If Hollywood were to remake the movie right now, chances are that one word would be the hot buzzword “Nano” as in “nanotechnology” or “nanoscience.”

All good Ephs know that Charles Webb ’61 is the author of the book that the movie was based on. We also like to believe that Dustin Hoffman’s character went to Williams, although that is never stated (nor contradicted) in the movie.

Yet, for me, the 2005 version of “plastics” is definitely “statistics.” Learn statistics, young Ephs. Doing so will serve you well in more careers than any other single topic taught at Williams today.


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