Posted: Mon, Apr 14 2008 - 23:32 PM

WORDSLINGER'S NOTE: This is part 3 of a series called The Best Damn Movies EVER, highlighting forgotten classics that many younger film lovers may have overlooked. This one is a bittersweet gem.

Director Robert Mulligan, who received worldwide acclaim for directing 1962's powerful drama To Kill a Mockingbird, struck gold again in 1971 with the coming-of-age story, Summer of '42.
Summer of '42 - original poster
Based on the memoirs of screenwriter Herman Raucher, the autobiographical story tells of Raucher's teenage years on his family's Nantucket Island vacation home. Named Hermie in the film (and played by Gary Grimes), the film opens with the 15-year-old playing on the beach with his friends, and spotting a newlywed young soldier carrying his bride into a beach house. All of the boys notice how beautiful the girl is, but Hermie is especially attracted to her. As the narration of Hermie's grown self plays over this scene (actually voiced by director Mulligan), we know how traumatically this young man has been smitten.

"That house up there. That was her house. And nothing from that first day I saw her -- and nothing that has happened to me since -- has ever been as frightening, and as confusing. For no person I've ever known, has ever done more to make me feel more sure ... more insecure ... more important ... and less significant."

Gary Grimes as Hermie
Jennifer O'Neill as Dorothy
Not long after, Hermie sees his unattainable war bride kissing her husband goodbye on the docks, as he ships off overseas. Soon after this, Hermie meets her on the street as she is picking up a dropped bag of groceries. Offering to help, Hermie packs up her groceries and follows her to her house on the beach.

NOTE: As played by Jennifer O'Neill, the woman, whose name is Dorothy, not only caused Hermie to fall madly in love with her, but countless men and boys who have seen this film since 1971 ... including me. Please forgive the overabundance of screenshots which follow, but somehow this face speaks volumes about not only Hermie's crush, but the appeal of O'Neill, and the power of this movie. This is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen.
Jennifer O'Neill
Jennifer O'Neill and Gary Grimes
Hermie and Dorothy on the beach
Jennifer O'Neill
Jennifer O'Neill
As the unlikely pair strike up an innocent friendship, with Hermie often helping Dorothy with manly chores, the lad falls deeper and deeper into the slough of unrequited love. This to the dismay and bewilderment of Hermie's two best friends, Oscy and Benjie (played by Jerry Houser and Oliver Conant), who have more typically crude teenage thoughts regarding sex and girls.

I abhor spoilers, but ... one doesn't need to be a genius to figure out where this story is going. One night when Hermie comes to visit Dorothy, he finds a telegram on her coffee table telling of the death of Dorothy's husband. What ensues between the two of them is moving and powerful, heartbreaking and unforgettable.
Hermie comes to visit
Jennifer O'Neill
Goodnight Dorothy
I'm sure I'm not the only one so moved by this film. Even simply hearing the haunting, Oscar-winning theme by Michael Legrand, stirs something deep within me. Watch the video below to hear it.

In 2001, Summer of '42 was turned into an off-Broadway musical play, which can still be seen around the country.

Jennifer O'Neill, who after a horrible history of physical abuse, failed marriages and countless miscarriages, has since become an author, speaker and a Christian minister, preaching the Good News to women all over the world. She remains beautiful and sweet, inside and out. She has also been trying to produce a sequel to Summer of '42, where Dorothy and Hermie meet again after decades -- to date, this has not got off the ground, but I would be interested to see it. For much more info on what she is doing today, check out her official website.

If you have seen this film, and you wonder if Herman "Hermie" Raucher ever made contact with the real Dorothy again, follow this link to the Summer of '42 Wikipedia page, where you can read all about it. Pretty powerful.
Outside Dorothy's house
Summer of '42 has been, and remains, one of my favorite films. If you are a sucker for romances, even of the melancholy kind, this is the movie for you. Seek it out.

Warning: spoilers. Also low recorded volume -- turn it up.


Brian Keith O'Hara said:

Great movie, the way we sometimes imagine love, beautiful, sincere and bittersweet.

Pconlon said:

****** This Movie at the time packed a wallop as they say. You really can't get your finger on it , but it touched a Raw Nerve in many including me. Unrequited love , or Remembrance of things past does not go away . If anything it brings out the "Better angels of our Nature". I am however speaking for Men & Boys , and I know some are reluctant to admit it.

****** I first saw this film in Long Beach about 3 weeks after release. It stayed with me for well over a year, because well Dorithy was just so perfect, Many of us were Hermie and we all had occasionally irritable, insensitive friends. Also it invoked a simpler time , although then things were far from perfect.

****** Mr. Raucher's little story is a true gem. It's Cinematic production was that rarest of rarities - both a commercial and an artistic success and it does belong on the National Registry. Does it stand the test of time ?? Possibly not 100% , but Color films normally have a harder time to begin with.

***** Unless you are an Amoral, insensitive jerk it will hit home and it will be timeless. Most felt they were better people from having seen it. I am not alone in this viewpoint.

**** On another website I read that in October this year a 40th anniversary gathering near LA will take place from all the cast & crew including Gary Grimes who stays mostly out of sight these days.Jennifer O'Neill I presume will be there as beautiful as ever at age 62. The Planets all lined up when this film was planned and put together. We are the better for it's existence.

Wed, Sep 8 2010 - 17:46 PM

Mr. Tony in Houston said:

TRULY, One of the BEST DAMN FILMS EVER up there with such classics as GONE WITH THE WIND, CASABLANCA, WIZARD OF OZ (was the character here also named "Dorothy" for a reason?), and Mulligan's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. This move has stood the test of time and is really ICONIC. A masterful work all around, so powerful in its simplicity (e.g. only six speaking characters, no music in that final non-rushed scene (except the theme from the phonograph player) and only the sound of the waves, virtually almost no dialogue at all between Hermie and Dorothy at the finale but every moment oozes with meaning and communication). The power of the theme song brings up two quintessential words and concepts "haunting" and a "melancholy" that is not really just a sadness either but goes beyond it.

Saw this film many years ago as a young man NUMEROUS TIMES, dissected it I don't know how many times, and recently got a copy of it. WOW....Final scene STILL her most sensitive, tender, touching performance! TRULY, STILL the MOST beautiful woman in the world inside and out....PERIOD.

I think the final scene and as she says the "....proper way in which to remember it" is this: This is not a seduction movie, she is not "the cougar" in the hunt. Not a "Mrs. Robinson" scenario either. And what happens is not some type of "reward" to Hermie for being so sympathetic. Hermie is not just a good "cry on the shoulder" either for her grief. She does not fall onto his shoulder sobbing uncontrollably looking for some solace - although she really would be more than justified in doing so under the circumstances. The end is not really sexual per se, although it is sexual in nature, there is no grunting, groaning, etc. It is really a nude sex scene which was so tastefully done in a way you really just do not see anymore, if even we ever did. And after seeing this scene, you do not think of it either as a nude sex scene.

Here, we have young newlywed bride obviously so much in love who has l just lost her husband - the love of her life, the one she has worried about every minute of every day, is he is alright and even alive - gone, not even a body to say a final, final goodbye to. Hermie also loves her too, in his own way. Dorothy has reached out to that love that is standing before her in an attempt in her own way to recapture, reconnect, relive, and re-experience in a concrete way the love she has just lost. Her ultimate worst fear and nightmare has just devastated her life. Death of a loved one we all universally have / will experience. When she is dancing with Hermie and the tears flow (from both of them as she kisses his away - was that in script?) as Dorothy and her husband's obviously favorite song is playing, she is REALLY dancing with her husband.

My conclusion and my "right way in which to remember it" is in that finale, that ending, Dorothy in her own way is really saying goodbye to her husband.

For an actress at only the age of 22 to pull ALL that off in the way that Jennifer did (I call her that because I feel I know her I have seen this movie so many times), is a tribute to her unique skills and professionalism at what really is such a newbie rookie age for an actress, or anyone. In a way, being such a young actress enabled her to bring to the part a freshness and sincerity that was a true strength and asset.

My ultimate dream is to meet and speak with her face to face and say "thank you for changing my life" before I die, then I can go peacefully.

.....sigh Mr. Tony in Houston

Fri, Oct 7 2011 - 08:20 AM

konway87 said:


One of the most haunting movies of all time.

This is one of the few films where everything is done right. Mulligan's Direction, Performances (especially from Jennifer O'Neill and Gary Grimes), the script by Herman Raucher, and a haunting score by Legrand. I would like to explore into a different angle of this film and the real life incidents of Herman Raucher and the real Dorothy.

One of the interesting things about this film is that Dorothy's life is explored through eyes of a young man who deeply loved her and sacrificed his innocence and his virginity so that his beloved Dorothy will survive that miserable night. After all the sacrifices he has done, he still loses her forever.

The heartbreaking point to me is that we are exploring Dorothy's misery in the end through the eyes of young man who deeply loved her. We can only imagine what went through Hermie's head when he saw his beloved Dorothy in that horrible condition. Every sad moment of Dorothy's misery in the film is explored through loving Herman Raucher, because he wrote the script. This really shows the depth of Hermie's love for Dorothy.

Even after the losing of Dorothy, Herman Raucher succeeded in resurrecting his beloved Dorothy for the audience in 1971 through this film. I found the real Dorothy to be an extremely cruel person, because she didn't contact Hermie after she left him. Hermie faced so many tragedies after dorothy left him in real life. Hermie was there for the real dorothy when she needed comfort in her miseries. But the real Dorothy wasn't there for him when he needed comfort in his miseries. After she left hermie, the real Dorothy got remarried and had children and grandchildren. She contacted Hermie only after the release of this film (29 years after the incident). And that was the only time she contacted Hermie after she left him. Hermie always hoped that he will one day see his Dorothy again. But she never allowed him to see her. Not even once.

Thanks to Herman Raucher's script and Mulligan's Direction, I think Jennifer O'Neill was able to create a woman of Every man's dream.

Unlike the real Dorothy, I have a hard time believing that Jennifer O'
Neill's Dorothy will abandon Hermie in the end. This is because of the way she portrayed her character. She was kind, loving, innocent, and everything a man could dream of a beautiful woman. O'Neill's Dorothy was greatful for every bit of kindness Hermie did for her throughout the film. We know she really meant it when she expressed her gratitude towards Hermie. But we don't know if this was the case with the real Dorothy, because its "possible" that she could have been using hermie for her own personal gain. Hermie was the only friend she had after her husband went to war. If the real Dorothy really cared for Hermie, then she would have at least contacted him once (before the release of the film) just to make sure that he is doing fine. But she never did.

It must be noted that we are exploring the film through the eyes of Herman Raucher and his romantic feelings towards Dorothy. So we are watching what Hermie wants us to see.

I know two things through this film- The first thing is Hermie's deep love for the real Dorothy drove him to make the most beautiful illusion of Dorothy (through Herman's script and O'Neill's brilliant performance based on Herman's script) that every man loves. The second thing is that Dorothy can only exist in the present and also in the future through Hermie, because of his script for the film and his book "Summer of '42." So in a way, Dorothy completely belongs to Hermie now.

Sun, Apr 1 2012 - 00:42 AM

IƱigo Escudero said:

Robert Mulligan, the director of the film, had made a vivid impression on me in his film "The Other", of the horror gothic genre. He is a great cinematographer in all senses. Providing that the musical score in films is the real subject or argument in the visual sound artistitic-aesthetic endeavours, the music of Legrands, is what really shines in an atmosphere of beautiful natural scenery surroundings, young nice people, the great marvellous ocean.

Thu, Oct 29 2015 - 04:02 AM

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