It’s 12:26 am
We recently reviewed a “coming of age” movie in “The River Why” It was a very pleasant movie and was very well acted by some very well known and experienced actors. It was brightly polished with some amazing location shots.
While I was writing that review and thinking of the themes of the film,I couldn’t help but think of another “coming of age” movie I had first watched on my local ABC station on a late Saturday night. That movie was “Summer of 42” with its haunting and Oscar winning score by Michel Legrand. I saw the movie once and later on,I read the book.
When I heard that Warner Brothers Archive has released “Summer of 42” on BluRay,we asked if we could review it here on the blog. They very graciously agreed and sent us a copy. (Thanks Matt!!!)
Normally here I tell you about 75% of the plot and hopefully leave enough of a cliffhanger that you’ll be interested enough to get the movie. But this time is different….because the first time I watched this movie through the eyes of the main character,a 15 year old boy named Hermie (Gary Grimes).
Hermie is spending the summer on Nantucket Island along with his friends Oscy (Jerry Houser) and Benjie (Oliver Conant),otherwise known as the Terrible Trio. All the boys are immature but Hermie is the most thoughtful and is a very sensitive soul. He is well read and can hold a conversation somewhat with adults.
Oscy is a beefy jock type is who into girls and losing his virginity while Benjie is the typical “follower” and does what the other two boys want.
When Hermie sees a older but married woman,he is almost instantly smitten. While the other two tease him about his crush even going so far as to provoke a fight between Hermie and Oscy over it,it doesn’t deter Hermie from gazing afar at her.
The woman and her husband,who is flying planes over in England,are young and in love. When the husband leaves back for the war,the young is alone. Hermie sees her struggling with her groceries and helps her carry her bags to the house. They have coffee and chat awhile.
While their relationship is just starting,the terrible trio are learning about sex from a book that Benjie shows them. Sex becomes the most important to Oscy and he arranges dates at the movies for the boys. But Benjie’s shyness overcomes him and he bails.
The older woman comes by and asks Hermie if he could come over and help her move some heavy boxes,he agrees and then the two boys have their dates.
After Hermie helps both the young woman with her boxes and Oscy with his main goal..the summer goes on,the boys start slowly drift apart and when Hermie invites himself over to the young lady’s,we finally learn her name,which is Dorothy (Jennifer O’Neill) and she herself is only 22 years old.
That night when Hermie comes over to the house,he enters a 15 year old boy and leaves it a few hours later a young man who has learned a lot of life’s lessons in a most unexpected way.
Summer of 42 is a true story written by Herman “Hermie” Raucher and the events pretty much happened as they did.
This is a lovely movie in the rawness of the cast. These actors were not only just starting into their careers,they were the right ages as well. They were not polished or experienced. Summer of 42 was only Jennifer O’Neill’s second film. The interaction she had with co-star Gary Grimes is very real and touching. Watching the movie this time through Dorothy’s eyes as she is suddenly dealing with the death of her husband felt very personal to me and I think filming that scene no doubt had both actors crying real tears,there isn’t a false move. Grimes’s Hermie seems so very unsure of what to say and he know his “Sorry”while heartfelt,is hollow. This sense of realness comes from director Robert Mulligan whose excellent career included directing one of the best movies ever made in “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
His choice to go with a sparse script written by Raucher is the right one as the sounds of island actually push the story along. Legrand also made a bold choice by only have music around Dorothy and when Hermie and Dorothy interacted except in the most important scene where any kind of musical score outside the scene would have just felt wrong.
Jennifer O’Neill should have been a legendary star in Hollywood,she was drop dead beautiful and had been a very successful model before becoming an actress. She had many personal life issues that seemed to conspire to keep her from reaching the level of stardom she seemed destined for after “Summer of 42”. She has long been one of my favorite actresses and she never looked as beautiful as she does here.
Summer of 42 spawned a sequel called “Class of 44” which isn’t nearly as good as the first film.
Summer of 42 while rated “PG” back in 1971,should be considered a “PG-13” film for language and themes. The run is 1 hour 44 minutes and you can buy the movie at Warner Brothers Archives shop.
You already know we gave this movie our highest recommendation…2 thumbs/4 paws and a tail straight up.