By Misty Volaski
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is bringing back its outdoor movie festival this summer, and kicking off the festivities this season is “American Graffiti” on July 31.
The film, released in 1973 but depicting teenagers in the summer of 1962, helped jump-start the film careers of several Hollywood legends-to-be, such as George Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford and Ron Howard, among others.
The Ojai Valley Inn’s screening will feature a question-and-answer session beginning at 7:45 p.m. with star Candy Clark, who played the saucy Debbie Dunham, followed by the film itself at 8:45 p.m.
Pete Crooks from Diablo Magazine is helping the inn contact stars again this year, said OVI public relations manager Veronica Cole. “Pete has worked with Candy before. He told me how entertaining she is and that she’s a great person to interview. So that clinched it for us!”
Although Clark has been to Santa Barbara before — once unexpectedly, as she broke down with co-star Charlie Martin Smith (“Toad”) en route to San Francisco for wardrobe fittings —- this month will mark Clark’s first time in the Ojai Valley.
“I can’t wait! I can tell it’s just superb there,” she said, adding that she’s excited to be hosting an event that will donate proceeds to the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation and the Ojai Education Foundation. “If it helps them, I’ll definitely be there.”
So why does “American Graffiti” have such staying power? “American kids are essentially the same,” said Clark. “Kids still want to go to the prom, get some liquor, smoke some cigarettes. They still want to be in the ‘in’ crowd, don’t want to be on the outer fringe like Toad. You don’t want to get your pants pulled down at the drive-in! A lot of people think it’s like a scene right out of their youth.”
Clark says even after almost 40 years, she isn’t tired of the film. “I’m proud to be a part of all this. A lot of actors don’t have a film they can talk about all the time, don’t have one that people love like this one. I’ve seen it at least 50 times — it’s hard to walk away from when you get started.”
These days, Clark is still acting, and loves going to screenings like the one at the Ojai Valley Inn. She’s also a regular at hot rod shows. The film “is definitely one of the hot rodders’ favorites!” Clark said. “People tell me (‘American Graffiti’) was where they took their wife on their first date. One guy showed me his upper arm and there was a tattoo of Debbie, but naked!”
Clark added that she still talks with several cast members. “We do a lot of hot rod shows together. We have a really good time together!”
“American Graffiti” will be the first of three movies in the inn’s series. Aug. 20, the inn will screen “The Sound of Music,” with a question-and-answer session with Angela Cartwright (who played Brigitta). “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will wrap the series on Sept. 20, with Louise Fletcher (Nurse Mildred Ratched) in attendance. “Tickets are $20 and can be found at brownpapertickets.com or at the gate. For more information, see ojairesort.com.”