Happy 45th Anniversary, Star Wars: A Fan’s ‘Love Letter’ to the Movie that Saved His Adolescence

This 2017 Star Wars The Black Series 6-in. scale action figure is a tribute to Kenner Toys’ original Luke Skywalker action figure from 1978. Image Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2017 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Star Wars – both as the original film and as a multimedia franchise – is 45 years old today.

On Wednesday, May 25, 1977, the space-fantasy film billed in its teaser trailer as the “story of a boy, a girl, and a universe” opened in a handful of theaters in North America (42 screens in all, according to The Hollywood Reporter), not an auspicious number, considering how big an impact Star Wars made on Hollywood, sci-fi/fantasy, and American culture in general.

I can’t claim I saw Star Wars on that red-letter day; I did not live in any of the select cities where theater owners had – somewhat skeptically – bid for the rights to exhibit Star Wars. I lived in Miami at the time, and it did not open there until the second week of June. It would have been physically impossible for me to have been a “May 25” Star Wars viewer unless I could have altered time or teleported myself to New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.

I also can’t claim I became an instant Star Wars fan when South Florida theaters finally started screening the film that eventually was rebranded as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I wasn’t a huge fan of either science-fiction or space fantasy when I was 14; the only movie I truly liked in that genre was Marooned, a 1969 adaptation of Martin Caidin’s 1964 eponymous novel.

Damn. Sony Home Entertainment needs to get this out on Blu-ray….stat!

I saw Marooned – which changed its tale of a Mercury Project astronaut stranded in Earth orbit and NASA’s desperate efforts to launch a rescue mission by updating the vehicle and technology to reflect the then-ongoing Apollo Program – a few times on Miami’s independent TV station WCIX.[1] I loved Marooned because it was well made, had a great cast that included Gene Hackman, James Franciscus, Richard Crenna, David Jansen, Lee Grant, Mariette Hartley, Nancy Kovack, and Gregory Peck, and boasted Academy Award-winning special effects.[2]

Ironically, this movie was the first I ever went to see twice in theaters.

I was also more interested in military history and serious, well-made war movies than genres that I believed were no longer interesting – namely, fantasy and sci-fi. The one movie that I was excited about that summer was A Bridge Too Far, and that was because it was the – unofficial – sequel to 1962’s The Longest Day.

I’ve written about my “Star Wars reluctance” in other blog posts, but in case you’ve never read A Certain Point of View, Too or its Blogger sibling A Certain Point of View, I will sum it by saying that the first six or seven months of 1977 were not exactly happy ones for me. Why?

  • My maternal grandfather broke his hip – he tripped on the sash of his bathrobe, according to my relatives – on or around New Year 1977. Mom flew down to Bogota to be one of the caregivers and stayed there till late March, coming home to Miami only because I came down with pneumonia. My grandfather died not long after my mother was back Stateside
  • While my mom was gone, I experienced the heartbreak of a failed relationship with a girl shortly after my 14th birthday
  • That summer, my recently widowed grandmother flew up to Miami to stay at our house in Westchester. She stayed for a few months, and along the way she convinced Mom to sell that house and buy the (yet unbuilt) townhouse where I lived from spring 1978 to the spring of 2016. Because Mom sold the Westchester house in early September of 1977 and the developers did not finish our new home till mid-February of ’78, we – Mom, my older half-sister Vicky, and I – had to share a cramped two-bedroom apartment in Sweetwater, Florida in the interim

Looking back now, I might have had a better year if I had not been as stubborn as I was about not going to see Star Wars over the summer of 1977. But I was too angry about my breakup and too despondent about the double whammy of losing my beloved grandfather and moving out of a house and neighborhood that I was fiercely attached to. But I was only 14 then, not 59, and often teenagers tend to act more impulsively, more emotionally, than middle aged adults.[3]  

Happily, in those last years before home video formats, multiplexes, and even the Internet changed the way movies are marketed and distributed, Star Wars had a long run. An impressively long run, in fact. In Miami, it was in some theaters for over a year. And over time, my resistance to everything related to Star Wars – the long lines, the “this is hot stuff, you must see it” vibe, and, of course, the sudden burst of pop culture “shock and awe” that rippled throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world – began to weaken.

I got my first glance of Star Wars – besides, of course, the TV commercials that I initially rolled my eyes at when they aired on Miami stations not long after May 25, 1977 – when ABC News covered the first test of the Space Shuttle Enterprise on August 12. We were still living in our soon-to-be-sold house (and I was still upset about that) when I turned the color TV in Mom’s bedroom on to watch Enterprise’s first free flight.

I was, and still am, a real-life space junkie, and I was in awe when Enterprise – which was named for the famous starship from Star Trek – was released from her specially-modified 747 “mother ship” and glided gracefully to the runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

During the broadcast – perhaps after Enterprise landed – ABC did an analysis of space travel and how it dovetailed with science-fiction and movies such as 2001 and Star Wars. The network – which was then not owned by the Walt Disney Company – then showed a clip of the Millennium Falcon being attacked by TIE fighters as it escaped from the Death Star.

It took some cajoling by my best friend at the time, Raul Fonseca, and a viewing of The Making of Star Wars – which also aired on ABC a short time after Enterprise’s first free flight – to get me to ask, nay, cajole my car-driving relatives to take me to a theater so I could finally see Star Wars.[4]

 If you are familiar with my blogs – the one on Blogger and this one – you know the rest of the story. Just as Star Wars helped America – especially her disillusioned young adults and older teens who had lived through the storms of the Kennedy-King assassinations, Vietnam, and the Watergate scandal – get over the traumas of the Sixties and early Seventies, that movie helped me cope through some of the toughest times I’d experienced as a young adolescent.

I don’t want to exaggerate and say that Star Wars saved my life; I was sad, angry, and scared for much of 1977, sure, but I do not remember feeling like I wanted to end it all and join my grandfather – who I loved deeply – or my father – who I did not have any living memory of because he died when I was almost two years old – in death. I was angry at my ex-girlfriend at the time, and I was scared that I’d never fall in love again or be in any type of relationship. But I was fiercely attached to life and dreaded dying, so….

Star Wars did save 1977 and the rest of my adolescence for me, though. Even though I had no girlfriend at the time and became extremely shy around women as a result, joining the world of Star Wars fandom helped me to connect with my friends at a time when I otherwise would not have. Just as I love hanging out on Facebook groups such as I am Addicted to Star Wars, The Non-Toxic Star Wars Fan Club, and igrewupstarwars as an adult, if there was one thing out in the pop culture world that I loved to talk about – and talk about it I did, believe me! – it was Star Wars.

And of course, I collected a lot of Star Wars merch, too.

The Luke Skywalker T-shirt. I had one just like it. My mom did not know how to wash T-shirts with transfers, so the Luke image did not remain intact after several wash cycles in our washing machine. Image credit: eBay seller americanringer.

T-shirts? Yeah. I had two of them in 1978 – one with Luke Skywalker pointing a blaster at an unseen Imperial stormtrooper (it was a publicity pose), and one with Darth Vader in an image – airbrushed, of course – that also graced my bedroom wall in a poster from the Image Factory.

Image Credits: Original Art – (C) 20th Century Fox Film Corporation/Lucasfilm Ltd./Factors Etc. Photo: eBay seller sdougherty7300
From 1980 to 2016, I had an unframed copy of this poster tacked to my wall in my Miami townhouse bedroom. My then-girlfriend had it framed, and for a while it hung on my office wall on the ground floor there. It’s now stored in the garage. image Credits: Art – (C) 1977 20th Century Fox Film Corporation/Lucasfilm Ltd./The Image Factory. Photo Credit: eBay seller snobben21

Posters? Yep. In 1978 and 1979, I had two posters: the Darth Vader one and another one with R2-D2 and C-3PO. Later, one of my first friends at South Miami High gave me the famous Hildebrandt Brothers poster, also from the Image Factory, and in 1983 my mom and my friend Juan Carlos Hernandez (hi, Juan!) gave me more posters, including the Drew Struzan teaser poster for Return of the Jedi.

(C) 1977 20th Century Records/20th Century Fox Film Corp

Soundtracks? Holy LPs, Batman. I received the two-record vinyl original motion picture soundtrack album on my 15th birthday. I no longer have that album, but I own various versions of it on compact disc and digital audio.

My 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack display in its final form; we added The Black Series figures of Supreme Leader Snoke (far left) and Emperor Palpatine (far right) to get rid of empty space on the floating shelf.

Action figures, vehicles, playsets? Dude. Please. I may not have every one of my original Kenner Toys collectibles; some were stolen, and others broke when a too-flimsy bookcase that was not designed or built to last collapsed and sent fragile items like my original Landspeeder vehicle to the ground – hard. And even those figures that I still have from the 1978-1985 Kenner days are missing accessories like blaster pistols and rifles. Despite that, I still have most of my 100+ figures from that era.

My Star Wars The Black Series 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack display stand. It came with the 40th Anniversary figure of Darth Vader; I had to buy the other 11 figures to complete the display.
Image Credit: Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2017 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Books? Sure. I have novelizations, original novels, and Marvel Comics adaptations galore. I even have commercially published editions of the scripts for the first six Star Wars films, most of them in the Art of Star Wars series of coffee table books.

Comics and novels and figures, oh my! Photo by the author

And, of course, I have the movies on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital copies. In 1977 – indeed, until 1983 – I did not have Star Wars in any available media. Not even in those short, edited versions sold on Super Eight film at the time. But except for Laserdisc, I’ve owned Star Wars on most of the home video formats from VHS to digital.

A promotional image of the 2020 ‘Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga’ 27-disk box set, a Best Buy exclusive. Photo Credit: Best Buy/Buena Vista Home Entertainment/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Of course, as I’ve grown older, I have joined other fandoms, too. Star Trek was next; I did not watch The Original Series until after Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and even then it took a viewing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to convince me that Gene Roddenberry’s creation was just as interesting as Star Wars. Then Indiana Jones, E.T., and Jurassic Park joined the list of must-see or must-own movies. Later, the Jack Ryan series, The Lord of the Rings, and 24 became favorites, too.

Still, Star Wars, aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is, and always will be, primus inter pares. It’s the movie that got me interested in screenwriting, and it made my adolescence a bit less painful than it would have been.

So, thank you, George Lucas, for creating that galaxy far, far away and the denizens that live there.

And happy 45th Anniversary, Star Wars. Many happy returns of the day, and may the Force be with you – always.

[1] WCIX (Channel Six) became a CBS affiliate in the late 1980s, and in 1989 it switched places on the VHF dial with WTVJ (Channel Four), thus becoming WFOR-TV.

[2] Columbia Pictures needs to release Marooned on Blu-ray! It doesn’t have be in 4K UHD; I’ll settle for a 2K scan version. It’s probably not as good as, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s a damn good movie. And it was directed by John Sturges!

[3] Although, considering how things are going in the third decade of the 21st Century, especially in the United States, I sometimes wonder if this is true.

[4] Fans who only like the more “serious aspects” of Star Wars, regardless of whether it’s the military tech it depicts or the whole Dark Side/Light Side duality of the Force, will be surprised that what piqued my interest in the movie was the comedic relationship between C-3PO – who hosted The Making of Star Wars – and R2-D2. The other ingredients, such as the main characters, the story, and John Williams’ score, came to the fore when I finally watched Star Wars at the Concord Plaza in early October.  

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

2 thoughts on “Happy 45th Anniversary, Star Wars: A Fan’s ‘Love Letter’ to the Movie that Saved His Adolescence

  1. I think I’ve told you the story that I, too, did not rush out and see Star Wars. A schoolmate had told me it was “scary” and I didn’t like horror films (still don’t) so I refused to see it and my parents went without me. It was when it was at the $1.50 theater near my house that another friend convinced me to go and I ended up seeing it 7 nights in a row in August. What a great time that was. And my original action figures visited a “mud planet” and were destroyed. sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yow! That wasn’t nice of that schoolmate to do. I understand your reason, too. There are genres of film that I don’t like much, either, so if some fool had told me “Star Wars” was from one of those – say, like a “Godzilla” movie – I would have been even more resistant and not even The Making of Star Wars would have changed my mind.

      Some people….(shaking my head).

      As for your lost figures, I mourn with thee. I still miss my original 1978 vehicles!

      Liked by 1 person

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