Charles Webb, Author of ‘The Graduate,’ Dies at 81

His books “New Cardiff” and “The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker” were also adapted into feature films

The Graduate Dustin Hoffman
Embassy Pictures

Charles Webb, the author of the book “The Graduate” that was adapted into the iconic Mike Nichols comedy, has died. He was 81.

Webb died June 16 in Eastborne, England, of a blood condition, according to reporter Jack Malvern, who spoke with The Associated Press. Malvern was close friends with Webb, and Webb dedicated his final novel to the journalist.

“The Graduate” was Webb’s debut novel published in 1963, and the deadpan writing was a satire of his wealthy upbringing in Pasadena, California, and college education from Williams College in Massachusetts. In the book, his protagonist, Benjamin Braddock, scorns his parents and his schooling and starts an affair with an older woman, Mrs. Robinson, who is the mother of the young woman with whom he’d eventually fall in love and run away with.

The book was adapted by Nichols to become the Best Picture-nominated counter-culture film “The Graduate,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, even though the book was initially deemed a commercial and critical failure. It would later sell more than a million copies, though Webb saw minimal proceeds from the blockbuster film.

Although the late screenwriting legend Buck Henry is often credited for much of the film’s dialogue, much of the dialogue, including one of its most famous lines, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you,” was drawn directly from Webb’s prose.

“The Graduate” was not Webb’s only novel to be adapted into a film. His 1970 book “The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker” was adapted into a film of the same name by Lawrence Truman in 1971, and his book “New Cardiff” from 2002 became the film “Hope Springs” starring Colin Firth from 2003.

Webb published several novels and was often disappointed that “The Graduate” distracted from those other works. In the ’80s, he teased that he would write a sequel to “The Graduate” that never materialized. And in 2007, he reluctantly released his book “Home School” because he and his wife Eve Rudd were in desperate need of money. Some of his other works include “Love, Roger,” “Orphans and Other Children” and “The Abolitionist of Clark Gable Place.”

Webb is survived by his two sons.