Peter Bart: 50 Years Later, ‘The Graduate’ Reminds How Drastically Oscar Campaigning Has Changed

The reviews were strong. Filmgoers in key markets lined up around the block. Enthusiastic media coverage of the $3.2 million dark horse stunned industry veterans. Given this reception, the confrontation between producer and distributor was inevitable: With the Oscars looming, there surely had to be a campaign to support the film’s chances for an award. The response from mogul Joe Levine, whose Embassy Pictures funded the film: “I’m not spending a dime.”

Lawrence Turman, producer of The Graduate, this week recalled the events surrounding the release of his film exactly 50 years ago. His low-budget indie would go on to gross almost $800 million in today’s dollars and win an array of Oscars and Globes (it lost Best Picture to In the Heat of the Night). Its Best Director winner, Mike Nichols, was to go on to a brilliant career in film and theater, as would stars Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman.

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