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Old January 30th, 2013, 03:55 AM
Brainbin Brainbin is online now
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Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

“Somewhere out in space, this may all be happening right now

– From the trailer for Journey of the Force, 1977

The life of George Lucas, a member of the cohort of New Hollywood auteurs, was one of seemingly soaring heights and profound depths, often at the same time. But his story was irrevocably linked to that of his wife, Marcia Lucas (née Griffin), whom he wed in 1969. When they had first met, George was a film student at the University of Southern California, and Marcia was working as an editing assistant for her mentor, Verna Fields, who had embraced many of the Young Turks of filmmaking who were emerging at the time. The seemingly unlikely couple had been paired to work together on projects for film libraries. Marcia was everything that George wasn’t: friendly, outgoing, and boisterous. She was also a working professional in the industry, whereas he was part of the first generation of students attending a degree-granting film school. Indeed, USC would go on to become one of the most prestigious such institutions in the country; this complemented their already sterling reputation in other professional fields, such as law.

Risk-taking for the sake of achieving one’s artistic vision was a cornerstone of the nascent New Hollywood movement, and this naturally came with tough consequences. Robert Altman, a former rising star of this generation, was brutally cut down after the failure of his subversive, satirical war picture M*A*S*H, and even George himself slipped and faltered after his pet project, the futuristic dystopia THX-1138, had bombed. But the bold, stylistic projects which had ushered in the New Hollywood Era – Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, The Wild Bunch, The French Connection, and The Last Picture Show were but a few of the more prominent examples of these – nevertheless continued to serve as a beacon to guide those auteurs who would follow in their footsteps, to urge them to press on despite their occasional stumbles along the way. Marcia, for her part, was able to seize an opportunity for steady employment from an established Hollywood studio, Desilu Productions, when they created an autonomous post-production house. The work was inauspicious – her earliest job was editing Doctor Who for American broadcasts – but she insisted on taking the job and bringing in some steady income (for Marcia had grown up poor, which would prove a persistent motivator throughout her life), rather than following George to form an intellectual share circle with his USC buddies in San Francisco. [1] George had little choice but to remain in Hollywood, for Marcia refused to let him chase his far-fetched fantasies when they needed to put food on the table. She had work, and he just had his hare-brained ideas, so her needs won out on that occasion. George, to his credit, quickly landed on his feet by spurring the rising wave of retro nostalgia with American Graffiti, which saved his career and vindicated his artistic vision. It also served as one of the earliest major movie gigs for Desilu Post-Production, whose talent had been eager to branch out beyond the small screen; Marcia had served as assistant editor on the picture, with her superior, Donald R. Rode (a multiple Emmy-winning television editor, revered for his work on Star Trek) credited as the primary editor. Though there were obvious concerns of nepotism, Rode immediately rose to the defence of his protégée. Among those who were paying attention was Herbert F. Solow, their ultimate superior (excepting Lucille Ball herself), who summarily reorganized the editing division of Desilu Post-Production, placing Marcia and placed her in charge of her own unit, Unit B (with Rode remaining in charge of Unit A). This decision was driven as much by pragmatism as by technical merit, as the job offers soon came flooding in after the success of Graffiti, a film often described as having been “saved in editing”.

Conversely, George wasn’t thrilled (creatively speaking) with Graffiti, which he had made largely to prove that he could work within the confines of the studio system, unlike some of his “rogue filmmaker” counterparts. The movie had done very well indeed, and the subject matter was close to him, but he made the movie as a crowd-pleaser, not a labour of love. He knew that people would embrace the movie, and he was right; for all his troubles connecting with his audience, he seemed to have a knack for understanding them. Marcia was much more the “heart-and-soul” sort of creator, yet another way in which the two complemented each other. The fruit of their labour, Grafitti, had been nominated for Best Picture, among a host of other Academy Awards, but it went home empty-handed. True to form, he brushed the whole thing off – hindsight had shown that the Academy had a thoroughly mixed record at best – but Marcia was quietly devastated, despite putting on a brave face. He did his best to console her – she, of course, was fiercely proud of her work on their film, and had wanted to win an Oscar to show for it, despite her acknowledgement of the award’s flaws. George, meanwhile, was already planning his next project in earnest. But Marcia would have her moment in the sun first. The massive grosses from Graffiti on top of the steady income stream from Desilu allowed her longtime desire to settle down and start a family to finally come to fruition. Unfortunately, as the couple tried to conceive, their doctors soon discovered that they would be unable to reproduce naturally; this led them to go ahead with adoption instead. They welcomed a daughter, whom they named Amber, into their home in 1974. [2]

Amber was brought into the Lucas household at a seminal time in the industry, and during a very busy period for the Lucases. By the mid-1970s, the generation of “Movie Brats” to which Lucas belonged – informed by the artistic film movements of the previous decades, and the increased “freedom of the screen”, coupled with the death of the studio system – was firmly in evidence, no longer able to be dismissed as another passing fad. Along with George, his friends and fellow film school graduates, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and John Milius, formed this quintet of these Young Turks who were already making their mark in Hollywood. Marcia became an integral associate of the clique, in her capacity as head of her own editing unit at Desilu. Unit B worked on the editing for all of these Movie Brats and their films, not just those of her husband. In a way, her close collaboration, and the hard work of the vast assemblage of talent at Desilu Post-Production, tempered the auteur drive and philosophy which guided their passions. “I’m real lucky to be working with such talent – I think we make a great team,” she was quoted as saying, referring not only to herself, but to her entire unit at Desilu. And much like the head of that studio, Marcia had a tendency to defer credit and downplay her own gifts, which were numerous: she had a singular ability to bring footage to life, and communicate ideas and themes to audiences, with judicious cuts, shot selection, and scene placement. Her proverbial “fresh eye” often saw potential that had been missed by directors, stubbornly retaining their “big picture” outlook in an industry where the devil was in the details. Despite having never been formally trained, having mastered her craft strictly through on-the-job experience, Milius often remarked that she was a better editor than George, a sentiment shared by the other Movie Brats. [3]

The mid-1970s were a phenomenally successful time for Desilu Productions as a studio, and for Marcia Lucas as an editor. Her personal breakthrough was, surprisingly enough, her assignment to supervise the editing for the “little shark movie”, Jaws, to be directed by Spielberg. Principal photography went far behind schedule and ridiculously over-budget [4], but Marcia – kept cloistered safely away from the hectic shoot and thus keeping her attention focused strictly on the incoming dailies – managed to take a lot of the clever, stylistic directorial choices made by Spielberg and bring them together (though the fine sculpting process that was the stock-in-trade of the editing profession) into a cohesive, engaging, and thrilling whole. Jaws became a smash-hit, the biggest film of 1975, dwarfing even Moonraker (also directed by Spielberg) from the year before. Always the least pretentious of the Movie Brats, Spielberg was more than willing to share the credit with his collaborators, particularly Marcia. In the highlight of her career to that point, and after the heartbreak of the near-miss for Graffiti, she would win the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for Jaws at the 48th Academy Awards, held on March 29, 1976. [5] That said, and although her collaboration with Spielberg had been fruitful, she received more steady work (which was, perhaps, more creatively fulfilling on a purely artistic level) from Martin Scorsese, whose work sadly seemed to be flying under-the-radar when compared to that his compatriots. [6]

George, for his part, was not finding himself doing all that much better. Spielberg and Coppola were both establishing proven track records by this point, but Lucas had Graffiti and nothing else. His half-baked ideas weren’t coming any closer to fruition, forcing him to take time off and nurse his bruised ego in between working on various pet projects. Even Graffiti had owed much of its success to the good people at Desilu Post-Production, including but not limited to his wife, Marcia. In some ways a very traditional man with equally traditional ideas of a woman’s place in the household, George was deeply uncomfortable with his wife enjoying greater notoriety and acclaim than he was, in his profession. He could no longer ignore the suggestions of his friends, that Marcia was a better editor than he was; in fact, it seemed increasingly likely that she was a better at her job than he was at his. George had always wanted to be the provider, to take care of her, but he was obviously going to have to do it on her terms, and not on his alone. But he didn’t mind; he always loved a good challenge, and would surely find a way to rise to meet this one. Because George was an “idea man” and Marcia could bring ideas to life like nobody else in the business, he decided to put his nose to the grindstone with a renewed passion.

His simplest, most straightforward idea was to make an adaptation of the classic, whiz-bang Flash Gordon action-adventure serials from his childhood. Having his youth inform his creative decisions had paid dividends with Graffiti, so it seemed a safe path for him going forward, and a good way to balance his interests with the potential for working with the suits once more. However, independent film producer Dino de Laurentiis had already purchased the rights to a Flash Gordon film in the wake of Moonshot Lunacy, and though George had attempted to come to terms with him (obviously seeing himself as the ideal director to helm such a project), tentative plans to pool their resources were quickly scuttled. [7] Lucas was forced to develop his own property, along somewhat similar lines. He had plenty of other avenues for inspiration; the 1970s trend of Orientalism was serendipitous for the Movie Brats, given their shared love of Akira Kurosawa, whose legacy was by now firmly entrenched. In particular, George drew inspiration from The Hidden Fortress, and its novel character perspective;the film focused largely on two lowly peasant farmers, as opposed to the hero or the princess or any other traditional protagonists. Lucas decided to use the same device for his potential film, which he felt an effective way to evoke the sense of “little people in a great big galaxy”. The basic narrative structure in place, Lucas then sought out particular themes and plotlines. In the end, these were found through a most unlikely source: The Hero with the Thousand Faces, a decades-old reference book about comparative mythology, written by Joseph Campbell. A classic Jungian work which dwelled heavily on universal character archetypes and their appeal with audiences, it informed George’s decisions about character development, interaction, and story arcs. Having already read this text in his days as a student in USC, he turned to it in his ennui, and it proved just what he needed to break his writer’s block. More importantly, it also helped him in presenting a more fleshed-out story outline to shop it around after Graffiti. [8] When it came to further input, he sought out his friends and fellow filmmakers for advice, expecting – and duly receiving – plenty of constructive criticism. At first, his wife Marcia was not involved in this process, but she would gradually become his primary adviser as he further developed his drafts.Her cachet would become increasingly important as pre-production commenced, though this would take time. Despite a strong textual foundation and a trial-by-fire through seeking advice from just about everyone he knew, George found relatively few parties interested in his draft, which told thestory of a farm-boy hero seeking his destiny by taking part in a rebellion against the evil empire controlling the galaxy. Originally titled Journal of the Whills, it was suggested that he change the name; indeed he did, to The Star Wars.

One of the few who did express the slightest interest in George’s pitch was newly-installed Paramount executive Alan Ladd, Jr. [9] He had been hired to replace the notorious Robert Evans, who had finally departed the studio owned by his hated boss, Charles Bluhdorn. Ladd was eager to maintain the New Hollywood legacy at that studio, which had culminated in Chinatown – though, perhaps, with a slightly less self-consciously artistic and pretentious bent to their product. Lucas and his whiz-bang throwback action-adventure ideas appealed to him, more than anything else that was being brought to his attention. Paramount, being owned by the industrial conglomerate, Gulf+Western, was under the purview of the notorious miser Bluhdorn, who had bought the studio in 1966 and had seen very little in the way of substantive profits since then – though any given definition of “profit” was always suspect in Hollywood. Lucas was willing to work for scale rates wearing each and every one of his many hats, in exchange for some future concessions from the revenues of the film. Merchandising rights seemed an obvious compromise to him, but surprisingly, Bluhdorn immediately balked at this notion. “Are you kidding? After all the money Lucy made on the whiz-bang and starships and alien worlds? Money that could have been mine. That’s our insurance policy for when this movie flops.” [10] Lucas eventually agreed to accept a share of the profits – and accepted Bluhdorn’s insistence that the name of The Star Wars be changed again. Bluhdorn found that name highly derivative of Star Trek (which was obviously a sore spot for him). Lucas eventually settled on Journey of the Force, a nod to the “hero’s journey” delineated by Campbell; “journey” was also a synonym for “trek”, in a backhanded, devious way to continue to evoke Star Trek without raising the ire of Bluhdorn. “Force” was a nod to the mystical energy in his fictional universe which was akin to magic, though also with an element of destiny; characters who were sensitive to the Force were able to tap into it and use its power, but the passage of events were often said to be “the will of the force”. And so, production finally having been green-lit by Paramount, despite what reservations that studio’s chief continued to have about the project, it became time for George to assemble a team who could bring his ideas to reality on the screen, as sure as Marcia would be able to do so offscreen. For all that she might have been the most important member of the film crew, she was far from the only one. The creation of a fully-realized world required artistic and technical skill of all kinds: art direction, set decoration, makeup, costuming, visual effects, alien designs, and musical scoring.

Being an “idea man”, Lucas had no plans as he was writing his treatments of what any of the characters and settings in his mind would actually look like in the flesh. He needed conceptual art, and he sought out one of the finest such talents in the field. Ralph McQuarrie was commissioned to provide illustrations for Lucas based on the very earliest drafts of his outline scripts. In doing so, he would fulfill much the same function that Walter “Matt” Jefferies had done for Gene Roddenberry in the planning stages of Star Trek, though his own works tended to lean more in the direction of epic fantasy, transposed into an interstellar setting; different from the “raygun gothic” aesthetic which had informed science-fiction from those halcyon days of the action-adventure serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, finally culminating with Star Trek. Instead, McQuarrie took inspiration from the visual style of 2001: A Space Odyssey,and later Moonraker,whichhad attempted to copy the actual look and feel of the modern space program as closely as possible; he could then elaborate that style as needed into more technologically advanced settings (despite Lucas borrowing from fairytales in setting the action “once upon a time, in a faraway galaxy” [11]). In particular, he seemed to favour taking dark, ominous castle chambers and narrow pathways flanked by bottomless chasms and making them somehow fit into the grand chambers of space stations or starbases. It was a truly unique look which was, because of its components, somehow very familiar; this was the chord that Lucas hoped to strike constantly in each and every aspect of his production. Now he simply had to bring McQuarrie’s drawings to life.

Makeup, meanwhile, had quietly undergone a revolution in the past decade, thanks to two seminal films, both released in 1968: Planet of the Apes, with makeup by John Chambers; and 2001, with makeup by Stuart Freeborn. Chambers had been awarded a special Oscar in recognition of the makeup created for the film despite the more convincing work by Freeborn; 2001’s co-writer, Arthur C. Clarke, publicly mused about the Academy assuming that they had hired real ape-men for the famous “Dawn of Man” sequence (and given the control-freak reputation of the film’s director, Stanley Kubrick, it would not have surprised anyone). In the years since, both Chambers and Freeborn had cemented their reputations as trailblazers; both would work on subsequent instalments of the Planet of the Apes franchise, including the television series, which began its run in 1974. (A slightly modified version of the realistic Freeborn ape design had appeared in the 1973 film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes [12], in order to depict the less-advanced specimens of the Ape society in the midst of a civil war). Freeborn would supervise the makeup for Journey of the Force; Jim Henson, meanwhile, was secured to create the puppets. The line between makeup and puppetry was a very fine one indeed, and it continued to shrink with new innovations in both fields, so the two collaborated as needed.

As with several of the other production duties, the visual effects were left to Desilu Post-Production, and this would certainly have been the case even if Marcia had not been in their employ. The studio maintained the Star Trek legacy (and many of the same personnel who had worked on the series, for that matter), and had secured a reputation as one of the best in the business. They were incredibly experienced with space-opera settings, having also worked on Doctor Who for a number of years in addition to Star Trek, as well as the Galactica and Planet of the Apes programs. A concern for George was whether their television-scale effects could be properly translated to the big screen, but he was pleasantly surprised on this score. Unencumbered by a television budget, and with proven experience stretching the slightest amount of money to the breaking point, the effects designers were able to exceed even the wildest expectations for them, proving the one unqualified triumph of production, in the eyes of both the studio and Lucas himself. The spaceships and interstellar objects were many and varied, but they were all realized with exceptional craft, as befitted a sprawling epic depicting an intergalactic civil war. This was particularly true when it came to the depiction of space battles, which had been inspired by footage from World War II-era dogfights (contemporary, appropriately enough, with the serials which had initially inspired Lucas). Although each model was filmed separately and composited into the frame, this was a seamless and entirely convincing process, which fooled all observers into believing that they were watching a clash of the titans unfold.

With the “what” and the “how” addressed, the “where” would have to come next. There was no question that the scenes depicting the jungle planet would be filmed in the Dominican Republic, an area in which Bluhdorn had personally invested quite heavily, as his company owned a very large parcel of land there. Many previous films, such as The Godfather Part II, had already been filmed in the area by the time that Journey of the Force had started production. For Lucas, it was a cheaper, more easily controlled setting than the logical alternatives of Central America and the Philippines. [13] Those scenes depicting the desert planet, on the other hand, were filmed at the Algodones Sand Dunes in Imperial County, California, about two hours due east of San Diego along the I-8. The dunes were exceptional terrain for the United States, far more evocative of the endless tracts of the Sahara than anything in the New World, and would seem perfectly “alien” to American audiences. [14] Other desert landscapes, closer to Los Angeles, were also featured, including Death Valley. However, the well-known Vasquez Rocks, colloquially known as “Kirk’s Rock”, were avoided entirely for their association with Star Trek, as it would remind too many audience-goers of various episodes from that series (particularly the one with the Gorn); this was brought to George’s attention through Marcia, as “Kirk’s Rock” had become something of an in-joke at Desilu. Finally, Described as “a planetary fortress, hidden beneath the guise of a simple moon”, but looking for all the world like a heavily-fortified military base on an otherwise-dead celestial body, the “Death Star” outwardly very much resembled the moon bases which had been seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or (ironically enough) the famous Star Trek episode, “The Sleepers of Selene”. [15] The plot established that the relatively few and sparse installations poking above the surface were merely the tip of the iceberg; contained within was a vast network of underground facilities, including the engines, which had their only direct connection to the surface in the form of ventilation ducts. The base was “played” by a model, with all “location” shooting done on studio soundstages.

But for all the exacting prep work that had been done in the run-up to production, the real magic of the big screen was in choosing the actors. They would play the characters with whom the audience was intended to relate, and many other movies had been enhanced – and even rescued – by performances which transcended their surroundings. Surely, Journey of the Force would be no exception on that score, and George screen-tested actors extensively, often with outdated versions of the continually evolving script. Marcia, being an editor, often watched the dailies of these screen-tests with George, as he tried to come to a decision. Despite the relatively low profile of the film, it had attracted no shortage of talent. The deciding factor, it would appear, was in casting for chemistry between the three young leads. After considerable deliberation, with George seeking opinions on a scale even greater than he had done as he was writing early drafts of the script, he finally had his core trio – two boys and a girl.

Chosen to play the farm-boy hero, Annikin Starwalker, was newcomer William Katt, whose very 1970s hairdo (a long-haired perm) was one of the few contemporary styles allowed to remain largely intact within the film (“This is hardly the only time in history that men have worn their hair long like that,” George mused, whichever however accurate that statement might have been, definitely missed the point). [16] Annikin’s character arc involved him learning that he came from an ancestral line of Jedi-Bendu, an ancient knightly order who were scattered upon the rise of the Empire, and becoming accustomed to the ways of the Force with the help of one of the few surviving practitioners of the art, a wizened old sage. In writing Annikin, Lucas sought to portray the character with a gee-whiz attitude, but Katt hit on a more disillusioned, bitter, and well, rebellious note. The “angry young man” portrayal seemed more authentic to his generation – the contrast between the youth of the rebel characters and the age of the established Imperial ones was an obvious undercurrent throughout the film – and also couldn’t help but evoke the “new generation” feelings that had swept both the United States in general and Hollywood in particular in the previous decade. Fittingly, this allowed the character to start out as the proverbial “rebel without a cause”, only to actually find one.

The devilish rogue, Han Solo, was played by the former child star, Kurt Russell. [17] Having aged into a charming, handsome, and cocksure young man since his days appearing in The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes,and other fluff Disney films of the 1960s, Russell played the character as being far more bark than bite, having a bluster that belied his internal insecurities. The character made an auspicious entry into the film; having been contracted to secure passage into space for Annikin and the sage, he steals a ship (with the help of a non-human crewman) from the boss of the criminal syndicate to which he belongs, finding himself the target of an enormous bounty. Both he and Annikin were very much attracted to Princess Leia, creating a classic love triangle; but his own personal loyalties, including whether or not he was associated with the Rebels, remained an open question throughout the film. In many ways, Solo and his arc resembled that of Rick Blaine, played by the legendary Humphrey Bogart, from the equally legendary film, Casablanca; perhaps no film of the Golden Age of Hollywood had captured the essence of Campbell better than that film.

Finally, as the Princess Leia of Organa, Karen Allen was chosen for the role over many candidates, some as young as mid-adolescent. [18] Two of the leading child actresses of the day, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jodie Foster, were both under consideration for the role, but the decision was made to choose a twentysomething actress. All three leads – Katt, Russell, and Allen – had been born in 1951, helping them to form a rapport and friendship, on- and off-set. Allen played the Princess as spunky and defiant, completely capable in her role as leader of the rebellion, despite her relative youth, and not the slightest bit intimidated by the imposing old men representing the Empire whom she encountered throughout the film. Solo, clearly impressed by her, acutely notes her “spirit”. Angered at having been captured like a damsel in distress, she engineers their escape from the Death Star once Annikin and Solo are able to break into her cell. The jewelry prominently worn by Princess Leia was amber, in a blatant nod to Amber Lucas, and that eponymous gemstone was depicted throughout, including in the medals which she hands out at the end of the film.

As Kurt, Russell, and Allen were all born in the same year and were therefore part of the same generation, and all three of their characters were portrayed with a uniform sense of rebellion against the Empire, an allegorical interpretation quickly emerged, and it dominated academic discussion of their characters forever after. It entailed the Baby Boomers and their parents, who had grown up during the Great Depression and then fought in World War II (either on the home front or on the battle front), seeing the United States emerge as a superpower – or an Empire – of its own, whose own actions in foreign politics had been debatable in the decades since. And closer to home, the characters also represented the Movie Brats, a cadre to which Lucas himself belonged; they were among the young turks who had worked to dismantle the last vestiges of the Hollywood Empire (the old studio system) in order to enjoy “the new freedom of the screen”. Just as the rebels hoped to liberate the galaxy, the New Hollywood generation hoped to forever change the filmmaking industry. And it was this seemingly innocuous connection, in future years, would easily come to dwarf the others

Rounding old the core cast was Keye Luke as the wise old sage, who turned out to be knowledgeable in the ways of the Force due to having been a member of the ancient and noble order of Jedi-Bendu. Luke was in many ways an ideal compromise candidate. [19] Like George’s ideal choice, Toshiro Mifune, he was an old-school actor of Asian extraction; indeed, he had appeared in a key role in one of the many franchises (Charlie Chan) which Lucas had been hoping to evoke in his property. Luke was also a fluent English-speaker, which would prove a good deal less complicated than casting Mifune. Though most of the executives at Paramount were fairly reluctant to cast an actor whose glory days had been decades in the past, Hollywood was in the throes of Orientalism at the time, and Luke had kept active through appearances in television as a character actor, so he was “known” to modern audiences. This combination led those in charge to realize that Luke could be a box-office draw, despite his advanced age and minority status (a fatal combination in years past). In a controversial decision, the character was killed off at the end of the second act; Marcia had suggested this plot development to George, as a means of strengthening the dramatic tension and giving weight to the climax of the film (during which time his “ghost” reappears to further counsel Annikin).

With the major characters recruited, Lucas finally had all of the pieces in place; one of the greatest behind-the-scenes assemblages ever gathered in film history. Production was ready to begin in earnest. He had largely deferred to the talents and suggestions of others up to this point, but now he had the reins. Even those advocates of the collaborativeview on filmmaking had to concede that the actual directing of the film was surely best left to the director, and that was George. Despite being “big picture”-oriented, he did his best to keep the sheer enormity of the situation out of his mind as he gave the order to roll camera. Principal photography began in the Death Valley, shooting location footage representing the desert planet of Utapau, the home of Annikin Starwalker, played by Katt (along with the Algodones Sand Dunes in Imperial County). The location props and practical effects proved finicky to keep in good working order under such dry, sandy conditions; and, indeed, they often failed, which made it hard to stay on schedule. The sheer heat of the California deserts were also not particularly kind to the cast and crew. And unfortunately, the problems only mounted as Lucas went further afield from the watchful eye of those at Paramount Studios. George was a man of pride, this much was obvious; he was hoping to make the movie he had envisioned in his head, but his actors were independent-minded and had ideas of their own. And his cast, much like his crew, had good ideas, which they rightly felt were worth bringing to the attention of their director. Marcia, who was usually on-set, particularly in California, found herself acting as a mediator, working to moderate communications between the two sides. Though she (and their daughter, Amber, who often accompanied them on-set) proved a calming and steady influence on George, she was also very helpful in convincing him that his actors (and cinematographers, and technical crew) were usually onto something good, and that he should try to integrate their suggestions into the shooting as best as possible. Most everyone had problems with the script; George may have been an “idea man”, but a great dialogue writer he most definitely was not. This was actually the principal factor in delays, necessitating retake after retake; lines were extensively re-written on-set, as the previous versions were deemed unmanageable by the actors who tried to deliver them. When coupled with the aforementioned difficulties in the props and effects, it was enough to try anyone’s patience.

Charles Bluhdorn, who was in fact a man of very little patience, and even less generosity, continued to grow even more agitated at reports of continuing production difficulties on this little pet project of George’s. He was also becoming increasingly vexed at how Ladd had somehow convinced him to take this enormous gamble. But he was running into the same problem that had stymied L.B. Mayer, Jack Warner, and many other studio chiefs before him – his subordinates had just enough power and autonomy to subvert his ultimate authority. Ladd fought long and hard for George Lucas, for he saw great potential in his idea and even believed in it, a peculiar notion indeed for a Hollywood executive. But the negativity went beyond even Paramount Pictures, across the wall to Desilu Productions, which might as well have been co-producing the film, considering the amount of work various branches of the studio was doing for it. Herbert F. Solow, effective head of the post-production house which was being booked solid by Journey of the Force, expressed concern at his studio having been tied to a potential turkey of that magnitude. He brought these concerns to his boss, the face of Desilu, and the person who would wear any potential damage to her studio’s reputation personally: Lucille Ball. It was enough to raise eyebrows from even the notoriously unflappable studio chief, and she sought to discuss terms with her employee, Marcia Lucas, who for obvious reasons functioned as the nerve centre of production at Desilu.

Ball had a gift for reading people, and Marcia had a gift at winning them over, so it was no surprise that the two got along handsomely. Marcia gently reminded Ball that she had assumed risks on behalf of Desilu before, and that she still had yet to let the studio down. She owed her workplace much, it having hired her when she couldn’t find much work elsewhere in Los Angeles, and she intended to pay it back in full. Ball no doubt saw something in Marcia that she recognized in herself from so many years ago, and from that point forward, she fought long and hard for Marcia Lucas. Still, working on the editing was a trying time. However hands-on Marcia’s role had been during production, she still had some difficulty fathoming all of what remained ahead of her in the editing suite, with nothing more than reels upon reels of film and her Moviola for company. It didn’t help that most of those reels were useless, since many extraneous scenes had been shot that would completely derail the narrative flow if they were to be included. The scenes that George wanted were also not ordered in the optimal fashion, leading Marcia to completely reorganize and restructure scene placement and shot selection, largely of her own accord, though she increasingly worked with George as his other post-production responsibilities were concluded. They would discuss their plans for the edited footage with other members of the production team, with the executives at Paramount, with their friends and fellow filmmakers, and with Marcia’s co-workers at Desilu, where the couple spent increasing amounts of their time – not that anybody saw that much of the couple in person. Their daughter Amber was usually left in the care of various Desilu staffers, most of them joking that they saw far more of Amber, and Amber far more of them, than anyone did George and Marcia! Such was the grueling process of editing, which, to be fair, allowed for instant gratification, and was very much its own reward.

When the rough cut screening of the film finally took place, after having been delayed multiple times, reactions were all over the place. Most of the crew were very pleased with how the film was turning out, but some of the executives were horrified; only Ball, who had attended the rough cut screening by special invitation, seemed unambiguously pleased with the result, declaring “I liked it!”. Her lieutenant, Solow, was not nearly so enthusiastic. Ladd remained cautiously supportive, but Bluhdorn was livid. Having made his fortune in heavy industry, and being a native Germanophone, he was, granted, perhaps not the best-qualified person to judge the quality of American film. But he knew what he liked, and he did not like what he had seen on the big screen. But the film was largely “in the can” – small changes could be made, and indeed many were, but Bluhdorn knew that he and his studio would ultimately be wedded to what he saw as a sure-fire disaster. Hoping to recoup as much money as possible from this certain flop, he ordered a merchandising blitz from the summer of 1977 through to Christmas of that year. George and Marcia, meanwhile, along with a handful of other key production personnel, continued to work on the film until just days before the scheduled premiere (which would be followed by a limited release).

By this time, the troubled production of Journey of the Force had become legend in the industry – not helped by the shameless gossip in the trade papers, including both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, with some going so far as to call it “Lucas’s Folly” – and there was surprise as much as relief when the premiere turned out to be a smash. The limited release was no less exceptional, with word-of-mouth attracting ever-larger audiences, which in turn spurred ever-wider releases. Just in time for the Christmas season, Journey of the Force was playing all over the country. The stores couldn’t keep up with requests for Journey of the Forcetoys, which were flying off the shelves; in turn, the manufacturers couldn’t possibly fill their orders from retailers, creating a shortage which played havoc with the still-recovering economy. Paramount, which had been treading water for years, finally had a bona fide blockbuster to call its own. Charles Bluhdorn couldn’t be happier; his cash cow had finally come home, and thanks to the insidious Hollywood Accounting practices of the entertainment industry, Paramount – and, therefore, Gulf+Western – didn’t have to show a penny in profits. This was unfortunate for Lucas, who had only received scale wages from Paramount in exchange for profit participation, which would naturally never come. This was a truly meagre arrangement, considering the grosses that Journey of the Force was bringing in for Paramount. Once again, Marcia had been more successful than George, having been paid far more handsomely by Desilu for her part in the production (and was even given a very large bonus by Lucille Ball herself the following year). Both of the Lucases were enraged at the unfairness of this situation. Once more, the surprisingly resilient studio empires had managed to strike back at the filmmakers who were merely seeking to assert their independence and maintain their dignity and artistic vision. Much as the confrontation between the Rebellion and the Empire in the film had not ended in a total victory for either side, it was clear that George Lucas and Charles Bluhdorn would resume their dispute another day. However, in spite of his financial woes, George was vindicated; the critics continued to heap plaudits on the film and grosses continued to climb. No more was George Lucas a one-trick pony, and no more was he a mere studio hack. He was a real filmmaker. But he couldn’t have done any of it by himself. As much as certain aspects of the New Hollywood ideal had been justified, others – particularly the auteur theory, so hated by Marcia – had been utterly refuted.

At the 50th Academy Awards, held on April 3, 1978, Journey of the Force was nominated for numerous awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Makeup. The continuing controversy over George Lucas and his lack of profit sharing from the film raged, and it didn’t help that Journey of the Force remained in wide release as of Oscar weekend, nearly a full year after it had premiered. An uneasy “truce” was being maintained, with all sides agreeing to play nice for the sake of keeping up the good image of the entertainment industry at this, their most self-congratulatory event; but there was little sign that it would continue beyond it, with Lucasfilm preparing to file litigation. The war between the Rebellion and the Empire had taken on a whole new dimension, indeed. Bob Hope, the Master of Ceremonies, did his best to crack his usual vaguely sarcastic jokes throughout the proceedings, but most presenters – especially those for categories in which Journey of the Force was nominated – were visibly nervous. But that didn’t stop the film from taking home ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture (accepted by Gary Kurtz, a close friend and associate of Lucas) and Best Director (won by Lucas himself). Marcia Lucas received her second Academy Award for Best Film Editing in three years, one of a number of the awards won by Desilu personnel that evening. [20] It was, without question, the triumphant exclamation point to conclude the entire saga that was the making of Journey of the Force. After the ceremonies had concluded, and as the couple departed the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Marcia Lucas, clearly thrilled at her husband having won his first Academy Award, exclaimed “You did it!” in delight. In response, George Lucas simply smiled and replied “No. We did it.”

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[1] IOTL, they went to San Francisco, eventually settling in nearby Marin County.

[2] IOTL, they did not attempt to conceive until much later, and found themselves facing an identical situation; in 1981, after much deliberation, they adopted a baby girl whom they named Amanda. After the divorce, Marcia conceived naturally with her second husband, and George adopted two additional children as the sole parent. ITTL, the “Mini-Boom” and the job security from Desilu encourages them to adopt much earlier in their lives.

[3] Based from an OTL quote from Milius, believe it or not, which can be found right here.

[4] As IOTL, more or less, but somewhat less so (it would be hard to make it more so!)

[5] Verna Fields was credited as the sole editor for Jaws IOTL, and she duly won the Academy Award for Film Editing that year.

[6] Marcia Lucas was the primary film editor for Martin Scorsese throughout the 1970s IOTL, having first worked with him on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, to add authenticity to the making of this “woman’s film”. She also worked on Taxi Driver, which does not exist ITTL. Eventually, she was supplanted as his primary editor by another woman, Thelma Schoonmaker, who has won three Oscars in collaboration with him.

[7] De Laurentiis owned the film rights IOTL, as well, and a Flash Gordon adaptation would not emerge until Star Wars made the market ripe for a ripoff.

[8] IOTL, he did not revisit The Hero with a Thousand Faces until 1975, well after he had begun writing the early drafts of what would become Star Wars.

[9] Ladd began working for 20th Century Fox in 1973, IOTL. In that capacity, he approved production of Star Wars.

[10] IOTL, as everyone knows, George Lucas retained the merchandising rights to Star Wars, which made him a multi-millionaire, and, eventually, a billionaire.

[11] As opposed to “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”.

[12] IOTL, the film was entitled Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

[13] The scenes depicting the rebel base orbiting Yavin were filmed in Tikal, Guatemala (a historic site of the Mayan civilization) IOTL.

[14] The scenes depicting the planet Tatooine were filmed in Tunisia IOTL. However, the Algodones Sand Dunes stood in for Tunisia in the filming of Return of the Jedi.

[15] This establishes the Death Star as a glorified moon base that acts like a very large vessel, as opposed to a very large vessel which resembles a moon.

[16] The character of Luke Skywalker was instead portrayed by Mark Hamill IOTL. Katt was in the running for the part, however, and would achieve his most lasting fame appearing as the lead in The Greatest American Hero. Believe it or not!

[17] As opposed to Harrison Ford, who got the part IOTL as the first step of his one-two punch at screen immortality. Ford does help with casting ITTL however, as he did IOTL. Let’s just assume that, for whatever reason, his greatness is simply muted and cannot shine through. (I told you I wasn’t writing a utopia!)

[18] And Princess Leia Organa (not of Organa, as IOTL she hailed from the doomed planet of Alderaan) was played IOTL by Carrie Fisher.

[19] Mifune was sought IOTL, but for whatever reason – sources variously claim that the studio refused to cast a non-English-speaking Asian actor in a major role when there were already so few stars in the film, or that Mifune himself was unavailable – Oscar-winning actor Alec Guinness accepted the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, which he would regret for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, Luke had been cast as Master Po in Kung Fu, which does not exist ITTL (and he has no equivalent role in The Way of the Warrior).

[20] Star Wars won seven competitive Academy Awards IOTL: Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. ITTL, in addition to Best Picture and Best Director, the film also wins Best Makeup, an award that IOTL did not yet exist.

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Special thanks to e of pi, who was effectively the co-writer of this update, having provided suggestions, proofreading, and editing throughout its development. Not to mention the magnificently awful pun of a title! This is how you know you’ve picked a winning collaborator Thanks also to vultan for his advice in the making of this update.

I apologize for the extreme length of this update, which is much longer than my usual, but a story was rather desperately begging to be told here, and thus this post has emerged as something of a linchpin for the remaining years of this timeline. In writing this timeline, in addition to the help provided by my consultants, I would like to acknowledge two additional references. First of all, the germ of this entire running story is owed almost entirely to a chapter of The Secret History of Star Wars called “In Tribute to Marcia Lucas” , which struck a chord with both e of pi and myself in approaching the character of George Lucas (along with serendipitous RL events that have taken place concerning He with the Flannel and the Beard since I first began writing this timeline). For those of you who are rather more interested in the nitty-gritty plot and storyline details of an alternate Star Wars saga (deliberately left relatively vague here), I behoove you to read An Alternate Rise of the Blockbuster, an excellent timeline by ColeMercury.

That said, if you ever wanted to see how Star Wars might have looked with William Katt and Kurt Russell, here is an excellent place to start.

And thus concludes the 1977-78 cycle! Thank you all so much for reading and for commenting.
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The Turtledove Award-Winning That Wacky Redhead: Big Dreams Have Big Consequences!

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Last edited by Brainbin; February 2nd, 2013 at 04:10 AM..
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