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Summer of ’42 (1971)


Oh, the humanity. I saw this at an impressionable age and it has stayed with me in a way that few films do. It also introduced me to the music of Michel Legrand. When I went away to college at 17 I stepped into a piano bar one evening and once I was sitting down the house musician played this theme, The Summer Knows:  instantly I felt more at ease in my own skin. It calls up all sorts of feelings of recognition, yearning, regret, hope, fear. What is it about this film? The music, certainly. The story of a boy’s sentimental education with a young Army wife who then becomes a war widow. The setting on Nantucket. The summer breezes blowing the grasses on the dunes. The waves, the waves, constantly forming the backdrop to experience. Now Voyager in the movie theatre. Jennifer O’Neill’s incredible beauty. Gary Grimes’ awkwardness as Hermie. Jerry Houser’s typical boy, Oscy. And of course the bespectacled Oliver Conant as Benjie, whose sex manual gives the boys the keys to the kingdom, as they see the world of girls. TV writer Herman Raucher narrates his own story:  because this is what happened to him aged 14. He was persuaded to novelize his screenplay and it was a bestseller before the film’s release, going through many print runs. He got ten per cent of the film’s gross because Warners weren’t sure it would make money:  it never quit and he would never agree to a remake. Robert Mulligan directed. It is a remarkably resonant and touching work and it’s what Shelley Duvall is watching on TV in The Shining. There’s a sequel that I’ve never seen. This will do. It’s perfect.

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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