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Christmas 1976 rolled over into New Year’s Day and the Bicentennial year was over. A Democrat was about to take over the White House, always a happy event in Hollywood. As January began, the town went back to work, crafting 1977’s most hotly anticipated hits: A Bridge Too Far, with Sean Connery, Robert Redford, and Ryan O’Neal; a new James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me; The Deep, from the author of Jaws; and a pair of highly touted dramas celebrating the viewpoints of women, Julia and The Turning Point. Woody Allen and Burt Reynolds also had movies on the way.
Everybody was poised to get rich or richer during the upcoming summer gold rush. But 20th Century Fox started the new year with a costly hangover. They’d spent two years backing a dubious novelty, the American Graffiti guy’s quirky tribute to the forgotten world of Flash Gordon serials, rumored to be something about a gorilla who flies a spaceship and a mystical force called “The Power.” From the screening rooms, word was filtering out: Star Wars was likely to be a loser—dull, confusing and corny, despite a couple of great special effects shots. The rough version was a mess and an unbreakable release date, May 25, was breathing down their necks. Thank God, Lucas stepped up and took charge of fixing it.