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Herbie Hits the Hammer


By Mary Daily

Published Apr 1, 2011 8:00 AM

The whole family will love the antics of Herbie, the 1963 Volkswagen beetle in the Disney classic, The Love Bug, presented in the Family Flicks series by the Hammer Museum and the UCLA Film & Television Archive.


Photo credit: Getty Images

This 1968 comedy was the first in a series starring the feisty VW and was the last live-action film produced under Walt Disney's watch.

In the film, Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), a washed-up race car driver who lives in a San Francisco firehouse with his friend and mechanic, Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett), goes in search of cheap wheels. When he sees a car dealer named Thorndyke (David Tomlinson) abusing Herbie, he comes to the bug's defense. In revenge, Thorndyke parks the car at Jim's house and files charges of grand theft, which he drops when Jim agrees to buy Herbie.

Jim soon discovers that Herbie has a mind of his own — and a penchant for speed — and the two become favorites on the racing circuit. What follows is a series of pranks and sticky situations as Thorndyke, also a racer, tries to sabotage Herbie's chances for success.

The Love Bug
Sunday, May 22 at 11 a.m. Billy Wilder Theater. (35mm, color, 108 min.) For more information, call (310) 443-7000 or visit the Hammer Museum online.

The Love Bug's box-office success inspired a number of sequels, including Herbie Goes Bananas, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie Rides Again.

A remake, in 2005, starred Lindsay Lohan and found Herbie rescued from a junkyard and a demolition derby in order to continue his racing prowess.

Herbie also served a stint at a driving school, in a 1982 TV series Herbie, the Love Bug.