So May is a busy month for the Star Wars fandom. Not only do we have May the Fourth, but May 14th is another reason to party as it is the birthday of the maker himself George Lucas, who turns 71 today. Traditionally, the latest Star Wars movie is released on this day to coincide with his birthday, but we’ll have to wait until December 18th this time, so in the mean time let’s celebrate by taking a look back on his life and career.
He was born George Walton Lucas Jr. on May 14th 1944 in Modesto, California to Dorothy Ellinore Lucas and George Walton Lucas, Sr. He grew up with a passion for racing cars and was on his way to becoming a race car driver until a near fatal accident in 1962 made him change his mind. He was always interested in film and went to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts to study in their motion picture film school, where he first met his long time friend and future collaborater Steven Spielberg. He was inspired by the European avant garde cinema of the time and made a few 16mm short movies before graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1967. He tried to enrol in the US Air Force after this but was turned down due to a large amount of speeding tickets, so he went back to USC to study Film Production, which eventually led to his first full length piece “Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB”. This won first prize at the 1967-8 National Student Film Festival and he was rewarded a student scholarship with Warner Bros. to observe and work on a movie of his choosing, so he opted for “Finian’s Rainbow” as it was being directed by film school-graduate Francis Ford Coppola.
He and Coppola founded American Zoetrope in 1969 to help film-makers with distribution of their movies outside of Hollywood’s studio system. He remade his first movie into “THX 1138” and released it under AZ, but it wasn’t successful so he started Lucasfilm Ltd. in 1971. His first title with his own company was 1973s “American Graffiti”, and the success of this helped him to start create a story set in space. I’ll leave it here for you guys to fill in the rest!
Along with directing duties, he has also been screenwriter for several other successful feature films including 1986s “Labyrinth”, 1988s “Willow” and of course the “Indiana Jones” series which he created and got his friend Steven Spielberg to direct. He also founded several editing and post-production companies to help him with movie making, starting with Industrial Light & Magic (visual, and later special effects) in 1975 and continuing with Skywalker Sound (sound effects and mixing) in the same year and THX Ltd (high quality audio representation for movie theaters) in 1983. These companies have now become industry standard and go to services for nearly all high-end productions, skip forward in the credits of any current movie and you’ll no doubt see Skywalker Sound credited, and the THX “deep note” has become synonymous with movie theaters worldwide.
George Lucas is a storyteller, first and foremost. Some may argue that his directing skills on the Prequels aren’t as sharp as Episode IV, and his constant tweaking and revisions to the Saga are a massive cause of contention amongst the fans, but there is no doubt that his acclaim lies in his writing talents. To have been responsible for creating arguably the most inspirational series of films in the 20th Century doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of his career, and testimonials to his movies cover a massive range, and everyone from leading Hollywood Directors to some random guy on the bus has a story about their love of the Saga. We’ve all been moved by Star Wars in some way, even if we don’t realise it or pretend not to like it (don’t deal with these persons, they are vexatious to the spirit!), and whenever it’s raining outside or we’re feeling a bit run down after a heavy weekend we are always guaranteed a smile when we throw the DVD on and see the opening scrawl.
Star Wars is the one thing that he is predominantly known for, but he is also a philanthropist (The George Lucas Educational Foundation which promotes innovation in education, plus proceeds of his $4.05 Bllion Disney takeover will go towards charity) and an incredibly generous and humble person. Watching interviews with him you are surprised at how down-to-earth he is and he never tires of talking about Star Wars and the love that people have for it.
We are all grateful for his presence and his imagination, so from all of us here at Dork Side, Happy Birthday George Lucas!