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‘Star Wars’: What it felt like the first time

You share your stories of seeing George Lucas’ classic film

Our intrepid columnist, Wendell Wittler shared . Now here are some of your stories.

‘How did they film that up in space’I was only five and a half. I'm such a "daddy's girl," that my dad took me out on a "date" to see the movie. I don't remember why we went to see it, because I don't remember thinking I wanted to see it, but see it we did. I was dressed in a cute little sundress, my hair up in a bun; my dad was in a casual suit and tie. I remember thinking: "How did they film that up in space?" That's how real it looked to me! I've kept up with all of the "Star Wars" movies, despite them not being as good as the originals. And now, since my husband will be deployed to Iraq at the time the last one comes out, my dad will be taking me to see "Revenge of the Sith". How appropriate! —Krystyna Calloway, Los Angeles

‘My dad had to drag me out’
I was three years old and remember it like it was yesterday — this from a guy hard-pressed to recall what I had for dinner last night — anyway, it was at the Edwards Cinema (now closed) in Fountain Valley, Calif., on Brookhurst. I loved every second of that movie, so much so that I absolutely refused to leave the theater when it was over — my dad had to drag me out!! I'll never forget my vantage point, in the car, hands and face pressed up against the back window, watching the Edwards Cinema disappear in the distance, desperately wishing to see it again. I'm not sure anything else ever so completely captured me like “Star Wars” did. —Adam Weisbacker, Cincinnati, Ohio

‘I wanted to be Han Solo’I was five. My dad took me. I couldn't talk or think about anything else for two days. It was THE coolest thing I had ever seen. I wanted to be Han Solo and pretended my dog was a Wookie. To this day I think I am still trying to be Mr. Solo (but not having much luck). —Matt Ostrowski, Frisco, Texas

From the back of a ToyotaI first saw “Star Wars” at the Drive-in. I remember sitting in the hatchback of our 1975 brown Toyota Corolla wagon. I stayed awake from the opening crawl through to the droids landing on Tatooine, and then fell asleep. Hey, I was only three years old. But I'll never forget it.  —Kristoffer Hall, Denver, Colo.

A life-altering experienceIn 1977, I stood in line with hundreds of other “Star Wars” fans at the Avco Westwood Cinema in L.A. for an afternoon show. I was to repeat that exercise at least two other times, bringing with me converts — friends, family members, college mates — to subsequent showings. The lines grew longer yet each viewing remained a revelation. There was so much excitement and so much communion with others that transcended mere movie-going — “Star Wars” became a life-altering experience never to be repeated. “Star Wars” was a unique movie, from the first reel of the film, with its incredible THX visual and sound effects, to the thrilling battle scenes and destruction of the Death Star. George Lucas truly delivered and I thank him for his single-minded cinematic vision of a “galaxy far, far away...” —Cathy Garnica, Fillmore, Calif.

‘What a rush!’I went to the very first showing on the first day in Honolulu. I knew pretty much what to expect — I had read the novel that came out about six months before. But nothing prepared me for that first overhead shot — what a rush! Nothing has ever topped that as a first moment in a movie. —Katharine Kan, Panama City, Fla.

Schoolyard lightsaber battlesThe first time seeing a lightsaber ignited, it was the coolest thing in the world. I remember all of my friends in kindergarten making lightsaber sounds all day until our lips turned blue. Every time my siblings and I would see a flashlight we would pick it up and pretend it was a lightsaber and have a good lightsaber duel. We're all in our 30s now and when we see a flashlight we're still having lightsaber battles with each other!  —Joe B., Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Long lines even in GermanyI remember queuing for three hours at the end of a line that stretched six times up and down the sidewalks outside the theatre. I remember not feeling impatient at all because I was finally seeing the movie that had shattered every kids’ mind and made him want to see this incredible event for him or herself. The moment the movie began I was hooked and have been ever since. Why? It's “Star Wars” for Pete's sake! The first one (Episode 4) changed the way I saw movies and heard music forever for me. No other piece of cinema comes close because although I love other movies, just hearing the music is enough to make my spine tingle and my senses go through the roof. I'll never forget the moment I walked out of the theatre and just wanted to go straight back in and see it again. I'd even stand in the line all over again. Have you ever seen an event like it since? Somehow, in a world of CGI and all, I doubt we ever will. —Mick Trezise, Hannover, Germany

Film that defined a childhoodI've seen it so many times it's hard to tell when “the first time” was. I was only five when the original “Star Wars” was released so my first memory is of my parents leaving me with baby sitters on a number of occasions to go and see a movie called "Star Wars."

But then I remember seeing it with my mom and being very sad when Obi-Wan was killed by Vader and her reassuring me. I remember it was such a pop culture juggernaut that we even managed to drag my grandparents to see it on one of our many summer visits. I also remember countless hours of playtime throughout the course of a childhood devoted to acting out feats of heroism and yearning for life of swash-buckling adventure far from a tiny town that felt very much like it's own “Galaxy Far Far Away.”

Now with the arrival of my first children (twins) only two months away, it seems fitting (and a little ironic) that the films that defined my childhood should end at the same time.

I still get that same sense of yearning every time Luke looks to the horizon and sees those two setting suns. —Chris Waters, Virginia Beach, Va.

Thrilled by just the trailerI clearly remember the first time I saw a TV commercial for the new soon-to-be-released Star Wars movie. In the Spring/early Summer of 1977, I was the FNG (F____ New Guy) on USS BUTTE (AE-27), having just flunked out halfway through my senior year of college and washed out of the NROTC program one semester shy of becoming a commissioned officer. So I was an enlisted man with marriage plans for the summer to be immediately followed by a scheduled seven-month deployment to the Mediterranean in the fall. I was not a happy person.

One day after knocking off ship's work, I was passing through the berthing compartment when this “Stars Wars” trailer came on the TV. I stood transfixed. I still see the gleaming stainless steel lockers around me, the green linoleum deck, the sleeping racks stacked three-tiers high in the dim light of the TV screen, and the strange, fascinating extra-terrestrial creatures in the cantina, the lightsabers (what's a lightsaber?), the old weather-worn space craft with exotic laser weapons ... I had to see it.

I waited a few months before my new wife and I saw “Stars Wars” on our “honeymoon” in Virginia Beach. I loved the movie, but I will never forget the feeling and images from the first time I saw the trailer for it. —Roger Mitchell, Peninsula, Ohio

Inspiring a career choice
I saw “Star Wars” in San Diego at the Mission Valley Theatre. I remember the owner, probably some guy who bet the farm on this sci-fi flick, who came out, cigar in mouth, rubbing his hands with glee at the crowd that wrapped around the theater twice. I was immediately hooked when the blockade runner came across the screen, thinking it was the coolest shot I had ever seen. Then, the Star Destroyer took FOREVER to cross and I knew I had found nirvana.

So now, years later, I find myself waiting for the final film to come out and, because of the inspiration from “Star Wars,” I have become an independent TV producer.  —Reginald Mizell, San Diego Calif.

‘Bravo, George Lucas’I remember when I saw “Star Wars” for the first time. I was sitting close to the front of the theater and a friend had already seen it and insisted that he be allowed to take me to see it. I remember sitting most of the movie with my mouth open in astonishment. The special effects were so innovative and so unlike anything I had ever seen, that I literally could not speak for awhile after the movie was over. I just sat there in total wonderment that someone had been able to do the special effects. I knew little to nothing about computers in those days, so it seemed to me like geniuses from another world had come to Earth to make a movie which would change everything. And, to a great extent Star Wars did that. From that time on, the viewing public has come to expect fantastic special effects, especially from Industrial Light and Magic. I say, “Bravo, George Lucas” for your contribution to the movie world and for giving us all a great series in “Star Wars.” I have made a commitment to my nephew to take him when it opens and we both are feverishly awaiting the next installment in the story, dark or not. —Holly Price, Memphis, Tenn.

First memoryI was three years old. My dad took me because we had some time to kill before seeing my mom, who was in the hospital after giving birth to my new baby sister. I don't remember the movie in its entirety, but the part with R2-D2 playing battle chess against Chewbacca while Luke is practicing his Jedi and lightsaber skills stayed with me my entire life — I can honestly say that the movie gave me one of my first/earliest memories.  —Mike Miller, Charlotte, N.C.

Not ‘a dumb boy movie’My older brother was excited by the commercials and couldn't wait to see it. As for me, I called it “a dumb boy movie.” I was a 13 girl who soon had to eat her words. I got dragged to it by visiting cousins. It took me about five minutes to become a convert and see the errors of my ways. How could any teenage girl resist Luke Skywalker standing in the double sunset? I couldn't! I have been a diehard fan ever since. My license plate even reads “77 JEDI.” “Star Wars” is the quintessential story of good versus evil. Thank you George Lucas for starting my continuing love affair with Science Fiction. However, “Star Wars” will always be my first love! —Kari, Victorville, Calif

Growing up in the ‘Star Wars’ eraWhen Episode IV opened in 1977, I was just two months away from my 15th birthday and growing up on the south shore of Long Island. My friends waited about two weeks to see the movie hoping the lines would be shorter (they weren't). I was in awe of the film and would see it in theaters probably a dozen times between ’77 and ’80.

When “The Empire Strikes Back” was released in 1980, I was a newly minted high school graduate and licensed driver. Being the only one in my circle of friends with a car (a van no less), I was very popular. We went to a midnight showing the first weekend. I will still never forget the reaction of the audience to the now famous line “No Luke, I am your father.” The gasp seemed to take all the air out of theatre. The cliffhanger made me nuts as I knew it would be three years till it would be resolved. I attended numerous late night showings of “Empire” while waiting for the finale.

When Jedi was released in 1983, I was a working stiff in an office in Lynbrook, Long Island. I still remember Time magazine doing a cover story on it. I had driven my friends crazy with questions over the three-year wait.

“Do you think they'll save Han?”

“Is Darth Vader telling the truth or just jerking Luke around?”

The first half of “Jedi” was great. The second half seemed a little Disney-esque for me. But a guy goes through a lot of changes between age 15 and 21. For better or worse I had grown up during the “Star Wars” era. I look forward to “Sith” even though I am now 42 and a father. I even just got a talking Darth Vader for my basement!! Some things never change!! May the force be with all of you, always! —Joe Schaefer, Cheshire, Conn.

142 times!I was one of those kids in a small town with nothing to do but go to the movies and go I did! I saw the original “Star Wars” 142 times (it was a really small town)! I was 13 when the movie arrived and my life was pretty much a mess. The movie brought me a release from reality that was not possible outside of the theater and, being the ’70s, was legal. The first time I saw it, there wasn't much of a line, but that changed over the next few weeks. For “Empire,” a friend and I “borrowed” her parents brand new Camaro and went to Mann’s Chinese Theater — under the guise of a trip to Magic Mountain. We waited for six hours in line to see the first showing. It was worth every minute of the wait and we talked of nothing else except Luke’s parentage on the way home. My daughter was nine months old when “Jedi” was released and it was her first movie. She had the princess Ewok with her. She slept during the entire movie until the ending — when she woke up and clapped with the rest of the audience.

The “Star Wars” saga filled my youth. I had dreams and aspirations that I may have never had otherwise. My kids have grown up watching the movies on VHS and know the lines better than some of the actors do, I'm sure. My son, daughter and I make a point of seeing each of the new movies at the midnight showing, opening night. It has become a family tradition. May 19th has been scheduled on our calendar since the date was released. We'll be in line early. —Nickye, Phoenix, Ariz.

Affair with ‘Star Wars’ more than a tryst
I remember hearing about “Star Wars” for the first time. I was living in northern Manhattan and I was taking a woman I met in City College out on a first date. Dennis Cunningham, a critic with WCBS-TV was on. I had never heard a positive review from him, yet he was raving about “Star Wars.” It was opening night and off we went.

I remember being stunned by the opening scene. And when Darth Vader appeared, everyone in the capacity filled theater hissed and booed. That was the start of my love affair with “Star Wars.” I remember being annoyed by C-3PO's prissiness and amused by R2-D2's saucy antics. Luke was sincere and Han was “cocky.” Han was a devilish rascal and EVERY guy remembered Leia's name as Laya not Leeya. Obi-Wan Kenobi as played by Sir Alec Guinness introduced many of us to this great actor and brought class.

But it was Darth Vader who made the biggest impact. Even though the story revolved around Luke, Vader seemed larger than life. It was his photo that ordained the outside of my apartment door (and subsequently vanished).

It would be romantic to say that my date went beyond a tryst, but it didn't. But I fell in love in spades with “The Empire Strikes Back” and its Yodaisms. But that's another story. —Jeff Saxton, Ridgefield Park, N.J.

‘Film is forever’The first time I saw “Star Wars” was on a sweltering July day in 1977. I was 13 years old, and my best friend and I had to sit in the second row with our heads craned at a strange angle because that's the only place there were two seats still left together. I remember it like it was yesterday. After standing in line for what felt like forever, in the heat, we were just happy to finally be let inside to the air conditioned coolness, but that happiness would soon pale in comparison to the bliss of the experience of the visual images that flew across the screen.

To say “Star Wars” had an impact on me is putting it mildly. I was transfixed, transformed, spellbound by it; I was in awe! The film itself, unlike anything I had ever experienced up to that point, made me want to be a filmmaker, and although that turned out not to be my vocation in life (though I even tried to get a job at Lucasfilm at one point), “Star Wars” still remains the definitive film for me, the one that all other films are measured against. To this day, I would rather sit in a darkened theater and watch a “Star Wars” film for the hundredth time than go see any one of the hundred drab flicks that land in our local theaters year after year. And although, “Star Wars” began the experience, for me it has never ended.

I am not partial to any particular episode in the saga, though I use to think “Empire” held the strongest appeal for me because of its romanticism. There is certainly a nostalgia with “Episode IV” being the first “Star Wars” film, but I love them all and see them all as part of a whole story, the saga. That is why my brother, who though 10 years younger than me, and I fell in love with these films as well, though it was much later as he was only three at the time of the first film's release, we are eagerly waiting in sweet anticipation for this final film, the chapter that will close the circle and complete the arc of the stories set in motion with the first all those years ago.

I'm so grateful to George Lucas for dreaming up such fantastic entertainment for the masses, for enchanting us and enthralling us again and again. That summer of ’77, I would stand in my backyard and look up at the stars and imagine a Millennium Falcon coming down to swoop me away to a galaxy far, far away. What other film series has had that kind of impact on a teenager, a child, and even an adult of 41 years old now. It's amazing! The saga is part of our pop culture now, but is also a part of our personal experiences and memories. Only truly great storytelling has that power to last, to lock into our psyches, and to envelop our hearts and minds, especially through 28 years!

This final film will be bittersweet for that reason. It will be sweet for fans to finally get the big “pay-off,” but it will be sad to know that there will no more. Yet, the great saying, “Film is forever,” is our consolation. WE can go back to that galaxy again and again, just as we did in 1977. That is the experience of “Star Wars” for me.—Deborah Ranquist, Gales Ferry, Conn.