Few films have the societal footprint that Mike Nichols’ movie The Graduate had in the late 1960s. At a time when Hollywood’s standards remained puritanical by nature, the film played a huge role in showing that grittier, more erotic movies had a market in an increasingly liberal world around it. Much of the film’s conceit takes place in the Taft Hotel. However, people might better know that location for something that happened not long after the filming wrapped.
What is the Taft Hotel?
According to Film and Furniture, the Taft Hotel was the famed meet-up spot for the titular Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s Ben, and Ann Bancroft’s iconic Mrs. Robinson, the married woman with whom he has a steamy affair. Within the film, the hotel boasts interior designs that appropriately reflect the ever-changing world of the 1960s. It’s become famous as the site of one of the most infamous affairs in movie history.
While the outdoor bar is predominantly featured, the most iconic shot of the movie takes place in an all-white hotel room, where Mrs. Robinson’s continued seductions make the affair spiral out of control. One iconic image, in particular, where Mrs. Robinson seductively takes off her stocking while Ben looks on in fear and lust, became the film’s provocative poster.
The white room stands in strong contrast to the coarse nature of the movie, but it also helps to exude the naive innocence of Ben as the seductive married woman takes him in. It helps convey the messages of young minds being tainted by the predatory nature of the older generation.
While certain aspects of the film’s gender politics and portrayal of a predatory relationship do not age well, the film remains a classic. However, while the film was shot in an actual hotel, the Taft is a work of fiction. However, the actual hotel is infamous for an entirely different reason than the affair within the Graduate.
The real Taft Hotel
The Taft Hotel was a placeholder for the infamous Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles. According to LA Conservancy, the hotel opened in 1921 as the brainchild of renowned architect Myron Hunt. It was a massive project built on nearly 24 acres of land. For most of its life, the millionaire Schine Family owned the Ambassador, who owned the property for over 50 years.
The hotel was built at an awkward time when technology moved faster than it ever had before. As a result, it became a burden, as the shifting tides around the world, increased safety regulations, and the demand to remain on top of things so that its deep-pocketed clientele kept on coming ate away at the budget. The hotel experienced several renovations over its 68-year history until it closed in 1989.
From there, it remained intact as a popular filming destination until it was sold off and demolished in 2006 after years of failed attempts to revitalize the iconic hotel. However, the hotel’s most infamous moment became as much a part of its legacy as any film role, presidential suite, or failed renovation.
‘The Graduate’ as a Hollywood time capsule
According to KCET, the Ambassador’s most infamous event has nothing to do with The Graduate’s affair. In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was in the middle of a successful Democratic campaign when he was assassinated in the kitchen at the infamous hotel. Like his late brother, he became the victim of another politically motivated assassination.
This, in part, helped secure the hotel’s demise. In many ways, however, The Graduate remains a time capsule of what it was in the months leading up to Kennedy’s assassination. An expensive hotel where deep-pocketed patrons could enjoy a life of luxury away from reality. Unfortunately, these films are all that remains of the late hotel. However, its legacy remains intact 15 years after it was brought down to the ground and gone forever.