The Families of Adam Keith

“Once upon a time ...”, family facts and tales

 

Star Wars creator

George Walton Lucas, Jr. [1944-]

 

Ancestry: Adam Keith1>Adam Keith2>Lewis Keith3>Elizabeth [Keith] m. [John] Leedy4>Samuel Keith Leedy5>Henry Clay Leedy6>Maude Ester [Leedy] m. [Walton Hood] Lucas7>George Walton Lucas8>George Walton Lucas, Jr.9

Star Wars

Compiled, Created and Edited by L. Mangue

 

George Lucas (born George Walton Lucas Jr.) was born on May 14, 1944 in Modesto, California, US, to George Walton Lucas Sr. (who worked, ran, then owned L.M. Morris stationery store) and Dorothy Bomberger. Lucas had three sisters, Katy (Nyegaard) and Ann who were older and Wendy who was three years younger. Like most other boys and children Lucas attended school, John Muir Elementary, Modesto Junior High then Thomas Downey High School (all in Modesto, CA), had nick names "Luke" (short for LUCas in High School) and "Georgie" (Elementary School), and was a typical boy in nearly all respects, maybe a little quieter than most.

 

Most of his pre-college years were spent reading comics, watching adventure shows on TV (after age 10), illustrating, a keen interest in photography, and...cars, cars, cars. It was only a near death car crash that moved Lucas down a different, less life-threatening path and ultimately towards and into an incredibly high-speed life and career.

When Lucas had just turned eighteen, and only days away from taking his final exams at Thomas Downey High, he was racing back home in his little fiat from a cram session at the library. Because of the speed in which he was traveling and the sun partially obstructing his view he collided with another teenage driver, in an Impala. The collision threw the fiat into a multiple spin which somehow disabled the seatbelt ejecting Lucas from a hole in the roof. The little car then smashed into a tree demolishing the semblance of 'car' into scrap metal and moving the tree several feet in the process, including its roots. Lucas was thought to be dead, when they picked him up he was not breathing, his lungs were crushed, and there was no heartbeat. The young man in the Impala came out of the wreck relatively untouched while Lucas had critical injuries requiring four months recovery. By all accounts he should have been dead.

 

During his time in the hospital Lucas rethought the course of his life and felt that his life could be better spent following less dangerous pursuits. Though Lucas remained obsessed by speed and cars in the following years he had been transformed, he was determined and focused. After his recovery he told his father (who was less than receptive) that he would be attending San Francisco State University (after pulling his grades up at Modesto Junior College) to study Art. Lucas spent one term in art school before his friend, Haskell Wexler, convinced him to go to film school at USC (University of Southern California) adding, 'it's near a race track' (Willow Springs). Lucas headed for Los Angeles and film school to make good use of his interests in social science, anthropology, sociology, psychology, art and photography.

 

Lucas was at home at USC, while other film students were busy complaining that nobody was giving them film to work with, Lucas was finding classes which offered bits of film (basically courses which used film to test skill) in which he took full advantage. His first was an animation class (nothing like we have today) where he made a one minute film called A Look At Life out of 35 feet of film, that miniscule length of celluloid garnered Lucas around 25 awards at film festivals around the world and he became a filmmaking star on campus and elsewhere.

 

He graduated from USC in 1966 with several award winning films under his belt, including THX 1138 4EB. USC offered Lucas a 6 month scholarship (funded by Warner Bros. to get work experience) to be spent on the Warner lot in Burbank. The film industry was suffering a low point, to put it mildly, and Lucas found that the lot was a virtual ghost town. The only production he could find was Finian's Rainbow (Francis Ford Coppola dir.) where he tried to go unnoticed on the set. Coppola didn't miss this attempt and was quick to ask who he was and what he was doing there. Lucas, ever enterprising, asked Coppola for a position and one was indeed granted, administrative assistant to Coppola himself. They worked together on The Rain People and made a good team in spite of their polar opposite personalities.

 

Coppola and Lucas would ultimately collaborate on a feature version of Lucas' student film, THX 1138 4EB, called just THX-1138 (these numbers came from a phone number Lucas had in San Francisco 849-1138, the letters corresponding with their numeric counterparts on the telephone dial...yes, before the push-button revolution), the film would slightly strain the relationship between Lucas and Coppola, but they would remain friends.

 

THX marked a somewhat bitter start in the Hollywood/Lucas relationship. The studio execs at Warner felt the need to cut THX up to suit their own desires and Lucas felt, rightly so, that his work was his own and shouldn't be tampered with. The film made its way to screens to critical accolades but its venue was limited to small art houses and the audience small groups of students and art house patrons, not nearly enough viewers to make any sort of financial or confidence ripples for the studio. The film enjoyed an open-minded European reception but was never considered successful.

 

With THX behind him, Lucas turned his attention to other projects, one of which was a semi-reflective piece revolving around his cruising years in Modesto (rolled into one slice-of-life night), American Graffiti. Again, the studio execs, this time Universal, felt a need to wield their old school studio power and meddle with the artwork. It was only after some negotiating and a sneaky manipulative move that convinced the studio head to only make one major change in the film. Shortly thereafter the film was released. Graffiti obtained an incredible level of popularity which grew with each week past its debut. Even though Graffiti was a success, Lucas was heavily disappointed that he seemed to have little control over the ultimate fate of his original work. He decided that it would be the last time studios would force themselves into his projects. In 1973 (the year American Graffiti was released) Lucas started to write Star Wars, one of his other projects, with revenge in mind. Without the success of Graffiti, the appreciative likes of Alan Ladd Jr. (Fox Studios head and son of actor Alan Ladd), Lucas' enthusiasm for his new project and the artistic conceptual genius of Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars might never have been made.

 

While the success of Star Wars and its unprecedented and lucrative licensing of all things related is well documented and near legendary in its entrepreneurial spirit, Lucas' success goes far beyond his epic space adventure, its sequels/prequels, subsequent financial windfall, accolades and awards. His sense of the future has rebuilt and revived the film industry and the way filmmakers approach their projects. Sound and special effects have simply not been the same since Lucas' innovation-out-of-necessity, cutting edge technology took hold...making possible the nearly impossible.

 

Today Lucas' companies continue to be leaders in innovative technique, striving to go just beyond the realms of current technology, always keeping one or more steps into the future.