In late 1976, with the Christmas season approaching and Star Wars nowhere near completion, director George Lucas was in a desperate state. 20th Century Fox had sunk $10 million into the project and had seen very few results for its money. Not even the movie’s own crew had seen much of it by then. The turning point was the production of a crude but effective, 107-second teaser trailer. The blog Episode Nothing tells how the promo was produced and how it was originally received in the article “The Story Of A Boy, A Girl, And A Universe: The Original Star Wars Teaser Trailer From 1976.”
Assembled over the course of three weeks at a cost of $3,915, the teaser was intended to appease the nervous Fox execs, get audiences excited about the film, and provide motivation for the beleaguered crew. On the last count, at least, it was successful. A screening for crew members was greeted by cheers. But the suits at Fox weren’t thrilled with it, and there were reports of audiences snickering at the unfinished footage. Actor Gene Wilder even warned Fox’s Alan Ladd Jr., the executive whose ass was on the line, that audiences were laughing at his Star Wars.
To modern viewers, the trailer is a bit disconcerting. Neither the familiar music nor the trademark logo are in place yet, and the effects aren’t finished. The lightsabers wielded by Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi are still plain white. And the tagline (“The story of a boy, a girl, and a universe!”) makes it sound like the film could be a romance between Luke and Leia. About the most impressive thing in the entire teaser is when the words “STAR WARS” explode at the very end. That effect came courtesy of a now-defunct company called Modern Film Effects. Also impressive? The narration by Malachi Throne, an actor ironically best known for guest starring roles on Star Trek.