Cast & Crew
Revisiting Long Island, New York after almost thirty years, a middle-aged man recalls that when he was fifteen years old, his family spent the summer of 1942 there. A war was going on, but it seemed far from the antics of the teenaged Hermie and his best friends, Oscy and Benjie. Despite the boys' juvenile pranks, Hermie was on the verge of manhood, and that summer, he met a woman who changed his life in a way from which he never recovered. He recalls how it was for him: Oscy, Benjie and Hermie spy on a young, happily married couple who are renting a summer cottage. As sex is on the boys' minds, Oscy speculates about what the couple does inside the cottage, but Hermie is simply mesmerized by the woman. At the beach, brash Oscy crudely strategizes ways to get his hands on a girl, but Hermie thoughtfully suggests that before getting physical, one should talk and surmises there is a mysterious order for "doing things." Benjie, who is less mature than his friends, offers to show them a medical book his mother owns. Looking through the book full of Latin terms and explanatory photographs, Benjie doubts that his parents do anything that "stupid." Although surprised to learn that what he has heard about sex is true, Hermie admits that it may look dumb in the book, but it is apparently "pleasurable." Hermie again sees the couple at the ferry, where the man, in uniform, is leaving for the war. Entranced, Hermie watches how the woman kisses him goodbye, and then tearfully heads back alone to her cottage. When the boys see her later at the beach, sunning with her eyes closed, Oscy teases Hermie into trying to talk to her. Hermie approaches the woman, but hesitates to speak. In fun, Oscy and Benjie, shout out warnings that Hermie is a "rapist," causing Hermie to flee in embarrassment. When he reunites with his friends, Hermie furiously fights them, until Oscy, unable to comprehend Hermie's annoyance at their joke, subdues him. Oscy cannot understand Hermie's attraction to the "ancient woman" in her early twenties, but Benjie suggests that they have a "meeting of the minds." Later in town, Hermie offers his assistance when he sees the woman struggle with several bags of groceries. She accepts his help gratefully and tells him about a twelve-page letter from her husband. At her cottage, she offers to pay Hermie for helping her and, when he refuses, offers him a cup of coffee. Wanting to seem older, he accepts the coffee, pretending to like it black, and makes awkward, though well-mannered attempts at conversation. As he leaves, he warns her about the danger of getting a hernia from carrying heavy objects. Outside, Oscy and Benjie wait to hear about his adventure, but, feeling foolish for his last remark to her, Hermie provides few details and goes home to think. That evening, at the movie theater, Oscy spots three girls and attempts to set up a triple date. Too immature to be interested, Benjie runs off, and Gloria, the unattractive girl he abandons, also leaves. Self-confident Miriam, whom Oscy has chosen for himself, negotiates that she and her friend Aggie will join them, if the boys buy a candy for each of them. During the movie, while Oscy tries to grope Miriam, Hermie tentatively puts his arm around Aggie and, touching skin, believes he is holding her breast. Looking over and seeing that Hermie is fondling Aggie's elbow, Oscy tries unsuccessfully to redirect Hermie's hand. On another day, Hermie, at the invitation of the woman who has asked for help moving boxes, walks to her cottage. The sight of her dressed in shorts almost makes him swoon, but he manages to lift the boxes through a ceiling door that leads into the attic. Afterward, he awkwardly tries to say that he likes her and, unaware of the depth of his painful infatuation, she gives him a kiss on the forehead. When he shows the lipstick mark to Oscy and Benjie, Oscy believes that Hermie has "struck gold" and asks Benjie to retrieve the sex manual, suggesting that if they make a list of what to do, they can keep it with them at all times. When Hermie expresses concern about making a baby, which he cannot afford, Oscy, relying on information supplied by an older brother, tells him that he needs a "rubber." Pressured by Oscy, Hermie enters the drugstore, but, too embarrassed to ask outright for a prophylactic, stalls by ordering a strawberry ice cream cone. When he finally gets the courage to ask for condoms, the druggist, pretending to take him seriously, asks what brand and how many he would like to have, which causes Hermie increasing distress, until the druggist asks if he knows what prophylactics are used for. Taking refuge in innocence, Hermie says they are filled with water and dropped from a rooftop, which amuses the druggist into selling him three. That night Hermie and Oscy have dates with Aggie and Miriam at the beach. While Hermie and Aggie spend the evening roasting marshmallows and saying little, Oscy and Miriam go off into the darkness alone. Soon, Oscy asks to see his notes, and later, for one of Hermie's condoms. When Aggie discovers what Miriam and Oscy are doing, she runs off. Another day, Hermie sees the woman writing a letter on the bluff near her house and awkwardly makes conversation. Although friendly, she is preoccupied with her letter. When he asks if he can visit her that evening and she agrees, he asks her name, which she says is Dorothy. At home he polishes his saddle oxfords and dons a suit for his big night. As Hermie is leaving his house, he sees the well-meaning Oscy, who asks if he has rubbers, but Hermie tells him that it will not be "that kind of evening." At Dorothy's house, Hermie's knocks are unanswered, so he gently enters, calling to her. Inside he sees crushed-out cigarettes, an empty wine bottle and a silent, spinning phonograph turntable. On the coffee table is a telegram informing Dorothy that her husband was killed in action. When she enters the room with eyes red and puffy from crying, she attempts to clean up, slowly and distractedly, and puts on a record. In grief, she leans on Hermie and they soon begin a slow dance. Long after the music stops, trance-like, she kisses him and leads him to the bedroom, where they slowly take off their clothes and get into bed. Later, after she gets up and walks to the porch, Hermie dresses and follows her and they say goodnight on the porch. The next day, Oscy complains that, as Miriam was taken to a hospital for appendicitis, his "first lay is gone with the wind." Presuming that Hermie's evening with Dorothy was disappointing, Oscy tries to console him and suggests they wreak mayhem on the Coast Guard station. Ignoring Oscy, Hermie returns to Dorothy's house, where a letter from her is attached to the door. She has returned home, the letter states, and will not try to explain what happened, trusting that Hermie will find "a proper way to remember it." She closes by wishing that he is spared senseless tragedy. In the present, the middle-aged man says that he never saw her again or learned what became of her. He reasons that for everything we take, we leave something behind and in the summer of 1942, he concludes, he lost "Hermie" forever.
Ed Morey Jr.
Robert A. Roth
Robinson Ware Spotswood
Best Writing, Screenplay
Summer of '42
It's worth noting, however, that the project didn't have its start in the '70s but nearly twenty years before. Herman Raucher was working successfully as a writer for several television drama anthology series in the 1950s when he wrote the initial script. Failing to garner any interest in getting it produced, he shelved it for a decade until meeting director Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962). Mulligan liked the story and took it to Warner Brothers, the studio that produced his Hollywood-set period piece Inside Daisy Clover (1965). Warners was tepid on the project at first, but Mulligan convinced them it could be produced for a relatively modest $1 million. After making the decision not to pay for the script but to offer Raucher a percentage instead, the studio approved it.
Mulligan brought in an appealing, if mostly unknown, cast. Gary Grimes, 15 at the time, was cast as Hermie (the character based on Raucher), who is spending his summer vacation on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts with his parents. Hermie has two good friends his age on the island, Oscy, played by Jerry Houser (at 20 a few years older than his character) and Benjie, played by Oliver Conant. (All three boys made their feature film debuts here.) While Oscy obsesses constantly about the illusive prospect of having sex for the first time, the sensitive and shy Hermie develops a crush on an older woman married to a pilot off fighting World War II. The young wife is amused and flattered by his attentions but never thinks of Hermie as anything but a sweet young kid. Then she gets the news that her husband has been killed in action, triggering a brief, tender moment of love that neither will ever forget, although they will never see each other again.
The woman is played by Jennifer O'Neill, a highly successful model since her teens with a handful of small movie roles to her credit. The studio didn't want to audition any actress under the age of 30. O'Neill was only 22 at the time, but her agent convinced producers to let her read for the part. During production, Mulligan kept her isolated from her three young co-stars, particularly Grimes, so that they would not develop a rapport too soon and hinder the sense of awkward tension he was aiming for.
The film was shot over a period of eight weeks mostly in Mendocino, California, substituting for Nantucket. Much of the praise for the movie went to the Oscar-nominated cinematography of Robert Surtees, who had been nominated nine times previously, winning for King Solomon's Mines (1950), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Ben-Hur (1959). Surtees was also nominated this same year for his evocative black-and-white work on a decidedly different period piece, The Last Picture Show (1971). It's interesting to compare the two and their dissimilar visual and thematic approaches to the past--one a warm and cozy envelope for its sentimental memories, the other stark and minimal for a story laced with bitterness and regret.
Summer of '42 also earned Academy Award nominations for Raucher's script and Folmar Blangsted's film editing. It won for Michel Legrand's memorable score, which produced a hit song, "The Summer Knows," with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman. (The three previously won for the "The Windmills of Your Mind," the theme song from The Thomas Crowne Affair, 1968.) Legrand's score also won BAFTA's Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music. The picture earned mostly good reviews, although Roger Ebert said its taste and restraint left merely "some beautifully produced and photographed notes toward a movie." Nevertheless, it was a huge hit at the box office, the sixth highest-grossing film of the year and one of the all-time winners when judged by the ratio of cost to profit.
Despite production coming in on time and within the modest budget, Warners was still wary of its chances for success. To hedge their bets, they asked Raucher to adapt his script into a book to be released before the film in order to build some advance interest, as Paramount had done with Love Story (1970). Raucher completed the novelization in three weeks, and the book quickly became a best seller. Although the film had actually been completed first, Warners promoted it in trailers as being "based on the national bestseller."
Raucher's novel was reprinted 23 times between 1971 and 1974 to keep up with demand, but by the end of the decade it had slipped into obscurity (not before the author had reaped a fortune off the book's sales and his percentage of a blockbuster movie). After a well-received off-Broadway musical adaptation of the story in 2001, the book was brought back for a new generation. Raucher also wrote a film sequel, Class of '44 (1973), which was met with negative reviews and poor box office performance. The only cast members to return were Grimes, Houser and Conant, who appeared only briefly in his second and final film. Several other young actors in the cast may be more familiar to today's audiences, including William Atherton (Ghostbusters, 1984; Die Hard, 1988), Sam Bottoms (The Last Picture Show, 1971; Apocalypse Now, 1979), and a very young and slimmer John Candy (Spaceballs, 1987; Uncle Buck, 1989).
One interesting bit of trivia about Summer of '42: One of the teen girls to capture the boys' interest is played by Katherine Allentuck (in her only film appearance). Allentuck's mother, Oscar-Tony-Emmy winner Maureen Stapleton, appears in the film as the off-screen voice of Hermie's mother.
Director: Robert Mulligan
Producer: Richard A. Roth
Screenplay: Herman Raucher
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: Folmar Blangsted
Production Design: Albert Brenner
Music: Michel Legrand
Cast: Jennifer O'Neill (Dorothy), Gary Grimes (Hermie), Jerry Houser (Oscy), Oliver Conant (Benjie), Katherine Allentuck (Aggie), Christopher Norris (Miriam)
By Rob Nixon
Summer of '42
Not even the BEST of friends go halfsies on a rubber- Oscy
At the beginning and end of the film, voice-over narration by the adult "Hermie" reminisces about the summer of 1942 and describes the contradictory emotions he felt after meeting "Dorothy," which he has continued to feel throughout his life. As noted in Filmfacts, director Robert Mulligan was the voice of the mature Hermie. Although the CBCS listed Ken Clayton as "Hermie the Man," an adult Hermie does not appear in the film. Near the end of the film, as Hermie reads the letter, its contents are heard in voice-over narration by Jennifer O'Neill, as "Dorothy." "The druggist" and Dorothy are the only major adult characters to appear in the film. The voice of "Hermie's mother," who is never seen, was provided by Maureen Stapleton. Katherine Allentuck, who portrayed "Aggie," is Stapleton's daughter. The onscreen cast credits, which provide the name of each actor superimposed over his picture, appear only at the end of the film. The CBCS reported that the voices of Gene Hackman and Cliff Robertson were used in the film, but they were not discernable in the print viewed. The full copyright statement for the film reads: "Warner Bros., Inc. and Mulligan-Roth Productions, a joint venture of Park Place Productions, Inc. and Richard Alan Roth Productions, Inc."
The nostalgic tone set by the narrator at the beginning of the film is enhanced by the diffused, warm brown Technicolor photography of the coastal setting, which, as described in the Hollywood Reporter review, is "full of slow pans" and "something like those overexposed snapshots that never seem to stay glued in scrapbooks." According to July 1970 Hollywood Reporter news items and the Variety review, portions of the film were shot at Fort Bragg, CA, and the New York Times review mentioned that the Mendocino area of California was used to portray the Long Island setting of the story.
According to Filmfacts, Herman Raucher wrote the screenplay for Summer of `42 in ten days, then turned it into a novel, which was published in 1971 and bears the same title. As noted in Filmfacts, Raucher stated that the story was autobiographical and that all the names of the characters were the actual names of real people. "The Summer Knows," Michel Legrand's critically acclaimed, haunting theme heard throughout the soundtrack of the film, is reprised near the end of the story as a recording played on Dorothy's phonograph. Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman wrote lyrics for the melody, but they are not in the film. In the movie house sequence, the film attended by Hermie, Aggie, "Oscy," and "Miriam" was Warner Bros.' Now, Voyager, which, in actuality opened in October 1942. Now, Voyager's famous quote, "Don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars," is heard in the sequence while Hermie is holding Aggie's elbow. During the sequence, the movie house's posters advertised The Wagons Roll at Night and Sergeant York, two Warner Bros. films released in 1941.
As noted in the Variety review, the film was "the first `story' film from the new [Warner Bros.] management since taking over 21 months ago." A May 1971 New York Times article discussing two films about teenagers growing up during World War II claimed that Summer of `42 and Universal's 1971 Red Sky at Morning were "two of the first period films to treat the drab forties as an exotic, nostalgic wonderland." The New York Times review commended Mulligan's direction of 15-year-old Gary Grimes (Hermie) and seventeen-year-old Jerry Hauser (Oscy), both of whom made their screen debut in the film, saying that "neither [performer] betrays the mystery of his youthful status with the perfunctory mannerisms of child actors." Also making their film debuts were fifteen-year-old actors Allentuck and Oliver Conant (Benjie).
About Hermie's sexual initiation by a beautiful, older woman, the LAHExam reviewer felt that the film appealed "not to our sense of reality, or even our ideal version of reality, but to idle fantasy." The film marked Robert A. Roth's debut as a producer. Summer of `42 received three Academy Award nominations: Best Writing-Story and Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Legrand won an Academy Award for Best Music for Original Dramatic Score. Although the film was originally rated R, the designation was later changed to PG. Grimes, Houser and Conant reprised their roles in the 1973 Warner Bros. sequel, titled Class of '44, which was written by Raucher and directed by Paul Bogart. In 2002, a musical play by Hunter Foster and David Kirshenbaum, which was based on the film, had a brief run in New York.
Released in United States Spring April 1971
Debut as producer for Robert A. Roth.
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Spring April 1971