The Force And George Lucas

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This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
I'm happy for George Lucas. Not that he needs my atta boy. But, early reports say the new "Star Wars" is great. It's a darker, better more grown up version of the previous movies. Nobody would have guessed this kind of success for Lucas when he was in high school.

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I had the good fortune to spend a day at the Sky Walker Ranch a few years back, and did a long leisurely interview with the movie maker.

To begin with, Lucas is lucky to be alive. He almost died in a terrible car accident while still a teenager. He reluctantly confessed that perhaps he had not been the most motivated student but, after the accident his life literally began to take focus.

He decided to head to USC for college and here's the best part. When he chose to study film, he thought the film school was geared toward photography -- not movies. He was soon blowing everyone away at USC.

My other favorite Lucas tale involves the classic, "American Graffiti" -- the story of teenagers and cars and rock and roll. With an impossibly tight budget he cast a number of unknowns who would become movie stars, including Harrison Ford. But, the studio didn't get it. Really didn't get it. In fact they wanted to release "American Graffiti" as a made for TV movie. Horrified, Lucas peddled the film to anyone who would watch and finally generated enough good will to earn a reluctant theatrical release. A box office smash, "Graffiti" long stood as the most profitable movie of all time.

Long before "Star Wars" George Lucas had the force.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith