At the poignantly ambiguous end of The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross leap aboard a bus and ride off into the sunset leaving cinemagoers to speculate on what the future holds for the young lovers.

Far stranger than fiction, though, was what became of Charles Webb, the author of the novel on which the film was based. Webb had sold the rights to his story for $20,000. It was a paltry sum given that the film went on to gross more than $100 million. Many years later, when a British newspaper compiled a list of “the world’s biggest mugs and the blunders that cost them a fortune”, Webb was alongside the record company executive who turned down the Beatles and the man who invented the digital audio player but let the patent lapse.

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