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The Original Name of Simon and Garfunkel’s Song “Mrs. Robinson” was “Mrs. Roosevelt” and was about Eleanor Roosevelt

Entertainment | March 20, 2018

Simon & Garfunkel Publicity Still NEW YORK - CIRCA 1967: Singer/songwriter Paul Simon (right) and singer Art Garfunkel of the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel in a Columbia Records publicity still circa 1967 1966 in New York, New York. (Photo by Columbia R

The original name of the epic Simon & Garfunkel song, “Mrs. Robinson,” was, “Mrs. Roosevelt” and referenced historical events.

“Mrs. Robinson,” was originally titled, “Mrs. Roosevelt.” The song and had absolutely nothing to do with the plot of Mike Nichols’ movie, The Graduate.” It was originally a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt and the passing of an era; a more innocent era to be exact. When Nichols realized the title had the same number of syllables as “Mrs. Robinson”, he asked Simon to change the title and the song “Mrs. Robinson” was born.

Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” became the first rock and roll song to win a Grammy Award for Record of the Year and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was popular in many other countries. It has also been covered by a number of other artists including Frank Sinatra, the Lemonheads, and Bon Jovi.

Mike Nichols released his famous movie, “The Graduate,” on December 22, 1967.

The movie is based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb, who wrote it after graduating from Williams College. As the story went, Benjamin, a recent college graduate returned home after his senior year of college. He was met with both approval and disapproval.

During the production of the movie, director Mike Nichols was a huge fan of Simon & Garfunkel’s music. That being said, he never expected that they would agree to do his film’s soundtrack. He managed to convince them to allow the use of a few songs for the film. These later proved to be an integral part of the storytelling process and brought the music of Simon & Garfunkel to a more diverse audience.

Director Mike Nichols had Simon and Garfunkel change the name of their song for “The Graduate.”

Nichols used 3 of Simon & Garfunkel existing songs, “The Sound of Silence,” “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” and “April Come She Will.” Nichols, however, decided he needed a new song. Ultimately, he asked Paul Simon to contribute a new song for the soundtrack. Simon told him that they were too busy touring and that he only had “a song about times past, about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff,” but it wasn’t finished yet. The song was entitled, “Mrs. Roosevelt.” Nichols was ultimately able to convince the pair to change the name of their song to, “Mrs. Robinson.”

As written by the Rolling Stone magazine, “Nichols became close friends with the duo and cast them both in his 1970 movie "Catch-22," though he cut Paul Simon’s part shortly before filming.

Benjamin, played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie, spend the summer following his college graduation day dreaming by the pool.

He was floundering and was at a loss as to what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. The epic song is reflective of a boy becoming a man. In actuality, he was lost. Too young and inexperienced to be a man but also too old to continue being a child. He was stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

Benjamin, although he had graduated, was still floundering as to what to do with the rest of his life. All eyes were on him as guest of honor and of course everyone wanted to know what his plans for the future were; a sore subject with Benjamin to say the very least. He was all but expected to go to graduate school and possibly follow in his father’s footsteps. His father was a successful attorney and wanted his son to make a name for himself.

The party was awkward for Benjamin. The last thing he wanted to do was to have to explain his decisions; or rather, lack thereof. To compound his anxiety, Benjamin found himself in the uncomfortable position of driving home, Mrs. Robinson, the intoxicated wife of his father’s law partner.

The Graduate was a coming of age film unlike any other.

Benjamin’s parents were proud of his accomplishment but were also pressuring him to decide what was to come next. Buckling under the pressure, he took solace in an unethical, purely sexual relationship with an older woman; the wife of his father’s business partner.

Anne Bancroft portrayed The Older Woman That Seduced Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate

Mrs. Robinson felt alone in her marriage. She felt neglected by her husband and drank to drown her grief. On this particular evening, she insisted that Benjamin drive her home because she had over indulged at the party. Once alone with him, Mrs. Robinson shamelessly seduced Benjamin which started a whole sequence of events that would change his life forever.

After arriving at her home, Mrs. Robinson invited Benjamin to come in for a drink. She lured him up to her daughter, Elaine’s (Katharine Ross) room to see her portrait. He was caught off guard when she appeared in Elaine’s room naked. He was taken aback by her forwardness and refused her advances. A few days later, though, all bets were off.

Mrs. Robinson was a scandalous character in the film.

Once he had gotten into the relationship, he found out that he was in over his head. It is like the old saying goes… be careful what you ask for. Benjamin was being blackmailed into continuing the relationship. He had found that he was in over his head.

Benjamin ultimately discovered that he was in love with his mistress’s daughter and was stuck in an awkward spot between the two.

Katharine Ross portrayed the beautiful, Elaine, in “The Graduate.”

Benjamin’s parents had been encouraging him to take Mr. & Mrs. Robinson’s beautiful daughter, Elaine out on a date. Mrs. Robinson, however, wanted him all to herself and had strictly forbidden him from doing so. Not surprisingly, he ended up taking her out to please his parents. Eventually, he fell in love with her. Ultimately, Benjamin discovered that he was in love with his mistress’s daughter and was stuck in an awkward spot between the two.

Bound and determined to stand between them, Mrs. Robinson threatened to tell Elaine about their tryst. After being tormented by her, Benjamin decided to tell her first. Her reaction was as much as he had expected. Elaine was devastated and didn’t want to see him anymore. Unbeknownst to Benjamin, Mrs. Robinson told Elaine that he had raped her.

Elaine picked up the pieces and moved on with her life. She went back to school and met a young man whom she planned to marry. Benjamin just couldn’t shake his feelings for Elaine and continued to pursue her; all the way up to her wedding day. Benjamin made it to the church just in time for the, “I Dos,” but still didn’t give up on his true love.

In the end, true love won out!

In the end, Elaine had softened and realized that she also loved Benjamin and she left her new husband standing at the altar. Don’t feel bad for him, though, because he was a dirty dog and had a string of other women. To her parents’ dismay, Elaine had run off with Benjamin to live happily ever after. The happily ever after that her mother never had.

When this film came out in 1967, it was no doubt scandalous but also very racy for the time. Young men everywhere must have had trouble looking their friends’ mothers in the eye that summer.

The film was nominated for seven Oscars at the 40th Academy Awards, and Mike Nichols won the Academy Award for Best Director. It marks the screen debut, in the title role, of Dustin Hoffman, who portrays Benjamin Braddock, a bright college graduate, uncertain of his future who has a tangled affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father’s business partner, and then proceeds to fall in love with her daughter Elaine, portrayed by Katharine Ross.

“The Graduate” has been regarded one of the most important films of the late 1960’s as well as one of the most beloved American films of all time.

It is interesting to wonder if the film would have fared as well if not for the contribution of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.