Star Wars Subtitle Story | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Star Wars Subtitle Story


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In your Letters of February 7, Jonathan Rosenbaum asserts that "When I first saw Star Wars on opening day in Los Angeles in 1977, the title 'Episode IV: A New Hope' wasn't there. But even if my biased memory can't be trusted, a 20th Century-Fox spokesman recently verified that the title did not appear in the original version of Star Wars. It was added when the movie was rereleased in 1989."

Rosenbaum is right to trust his own "biased memory," but was misled by the Fox flack. Here's the real story behind the "Episode IV" debacle, as culled from the "official" Star Wars Frequently Asked Questions list, version 4.0.:

"An interesting point is that the 'Chapter IV: A New Hope' sub-title did not appear until the 1979 re-release of the movie. . . . So the order was:

"summer of '77: SW [no IV]

"summer of '78: re-release of SW [no IV]

"summer of '79: retitled SW IV, with ESB trailer

"summer of '80: ESB

"Empire Strikes Back (1980) was always sub-titled Chapter V and Return of the Jedi (1983) was always sub-titled Chapter VI. . . . (Note: the name of the first FILM is Star Wars--the name of the CHAPTER is 'A New Hope.' In Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi the film name and chapter names just happen to be the same. All the films together are collectively referred to as the Star Wars saga.)"

Even though Rosenbaum's facts are technically correct, it seems clear that George Lucas planned for the Star Wars saga to be at least a six-part one for quite some time.

Josh Neufeld

N. Marshfield

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