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on January 5, 2004
It is the summer after Pearl Harbor. The world is at war, and America is sending her best, strongest and healthiest men to fight overseas. Meanwhile, those too young, old, or physically disabled to serve stay behind, as well as wives and sweethearts. Among these are Hermie, Oscy, and Benjie (Gary Grimes, Jerry Houser and Oliver Conant). Together, this "terrible trio" raids the Coast Guard station, frolics on the beach on Packett Island, and sneaks looks at "dirty pictures" from a medical book.
But even as the three friends goof around on lazy summer days, the war's effects will soon touch the more serious and sensitive 15-year-old Hermie. He finds himself falling in love with the beautiful Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill), who is seven years older and married. He worships her from afar, enduring both his friends' merciless teasing and his own confusion about his feelings.
But when Dorothy's husband Pete goes overseas to enter the fray, Hermie befriends Dorothy, helping her with chores such as carrying her groceries to her house on the beach and placing boxes in the attic.
At the same time, the more rambunctious Oscy (and Hermie's best friend) is trying very hard to pick up girls and lose his virginity, and he makes it his mission in life to help Hermie do the same. So he copies information from a medical book that Benjie says "belongs to the house" where he spends the summer. Oscy also attempts to set up a date for the "terrible trio" at the movies, but that almost falls apart when Benjie and the third girl don't want to go. I don't want to give away what happens next, but it's pretty funny.
But the heart of the movie revolves, as many reviewers have said, around Hermie's love for Dorothy, and how he comes to manhood unexpectedly when Dorothy finds out that her husband has been killed in action. It's a beautiful, discreet and bittersweet sequence, and will leave the viewer with indelible memories of a haunting, timeless experience.
I like Summer of '42 because it is sweet and gentle, hilarious at times, and always very touching. Michel Legrand's Oscar-winning score is simple yet evocative, and Herman Raucher's screenplay was later adapted by the writer into a best selling novel. I recommend this film to young and old alike as a fine example of what a coming-of-age movie should be like.
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on October 21, 1999
I saw this movie for the first time with my fiancee (now my wife) when it was released in 1972 and thoroughly enjoyed it then. I've watched it many times since and bought a VHS copy and am currently awaiting a DVD release. Unfortunately, my kids (raised with the more fast-paced films of the 80's & 90's) think the movie's a bore but I continue to enjoy it. The '40's era atmosphere of the film is perfectly accompanied by the beautiful soundtrack and is enhanced by the atmospheric cinematography and acting of all those involved. The blend of comedy and drama remind us all of what we went through as teens, regardless of the era. I was confused by Dorothy's rationale for the love-scene at the time I first saw the movie but I've come to understand it over the years as I've matured. The climactic love-scene, while controversial at the time of release, still strikes me as one of the most touching, sensitive and poignant scenes ever filmed.
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on January 18, 2000
This film (as you will read in other reviews here) is simply one of the deepest, hardest hitting and artistic films of its kind. The emotional rollercoaster and coming of age experience has yet to be conveyed better than in Summer of '42.
Artistically filmed using an intentionally soft image, this film captures the times and atmosphere of a small summer island in 1940's America in an unbelievably effective manner. I saw this film when i was 19 years old and had never experienced such a film before. Jennifer O'Neil is undoubtebly at the peak of her allure.
The Fun, Frolic, Confusion, Desire, Strife, Simplicity, Complexity and Tragedy of one's loss of youth are all painted here in this Classic American film. Accept no substitutes, because although many have tried, no one has yet to reproduce what this film has got. You must see it to appreciate it.
The recently released DVD is worth the price. Picture quality is excellent with perfect color and resolution. Letterbox format. However, the obsolete Dolby Soundtrack is a disappointment, as there are no surround channels and audio separation is limited. DVD extras include cast bios and the original theatrical trailer. All-in-all a worthwhile DVD upgrade to any VHS version.
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on January 29, 2000
Emotional, poignant, sad, funny...this movie has all the ingredients of an unforgettable tale.
Every male adult can surely identify with Hermie as he grapples with the rapid and difficult changes in his young life as he navigates the thin line separating adolescence from adulthood. We see his easygoing, innocent and fun-filled existence suddenly bloom into one involving an awakening and burgeoning awareness of his sexuality. And we have Dorothy, a young and beautiful woman awaiting her husband's return from war only to learn of his death.
Combine these two kindred spirits - a boy waking up to his sexual urges and a sad, lonely woman who has just lost a husband - and we have the centerpiece of a great and sensitive story. Theirs is a journey of innocence and awakening, quite similar to that in Bobby Goldsboro's 'Summer'. Then factor in Michel Legrand's brilliant musical score and we have a giant movie classic.
Summer of '42 aptly defines what a good movie should be.
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on July 18, 2005
Easily one of the most beautiful and sensitively acted and directed movies I have ever seen, made all the more hauntingly beautiful being set against the backdrop of World War II.

I was 18 in 1971 and as I stood on the tarmac at RAF Kai Tak in Hong Kong, watching an American C-130 taking troops back to Vietnam, the idea that most of us were still virgins was very much on my mind.

At that time, I could certainly identify with Hermie and the boys, in regarding virginity as something that you needed to 'get rid of'. Thankfully, when I did lose my virginity several years later, it was under very beautiful circumstances, and like Hermie, with a woman I loved. In that moment I almost felt sorry for the guys who had lost theirs in meaningless couplings with women they felt nothing for.

Sorry to babble, but I just wanted to convey why this very special movie means so much to me, as it obviously does to the many fine reviewers who have written such wonderful and intelligent reviews.

I have always loved the work of Michel Legrand and he was the perfect choice for this exquisite soundtrack.

I hope young males especially will appreciate this movie and the underlying message that losing your virginity in a shallow, mechanical way is truly meaningless. You have achieved nothing. Don't rush it or feel peer pressure, because as Hermie found, this is how beautiful it really can be.

I'm still crazy about Jennifer...
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on February 5, 2002
This movie was filmed in my hometown--Fort Bragg/Mendocino, California--during the summer of 1971 as I was about to enter my senior year of high school. At the time, 60's idealism was fast transforming into the cynicism that was the 70's, and movies in particular seemed to embrace this mood. But not this one. This is a rather poignant film about one lads journey into adulthood, set amid the beauty of the Mendocino Coast (although is supposed to be an island) and the early troubled days of the Second World War. I related to this film on several levels, being about the same age as the protagonists at the time, the son of a WWII veteran, and concerned I would be sent to war (Vietnam was still a reality). And I was in love with Jennifer O’Neill, too! I was lucky enough to witness some of the scenes as they were being filmed, the funny losing-ones-virginity-on-the-beach scene comes immediately to mind. Is this a great movie? No, Gary Grimes and Jerry Hauser were just mediocre young actors and pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth after this movie. But it is a good movie, driven by a wonderful script and superb cinematography. And an Oscar-winning soundtrack. I’ll definitely buy it, and so should you. A four-star film.
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on March 3, 2002
I saw this movie in 1972 - in India. I don't think there was a boy my age who didn't have a crush on Jennifer O'Neill after seeing the movie, which is remarkable because she didn't appear in anything notable after this. This was my coming-of-age movie - along with Love Story (Ali McGraw) and The Graduate (Katherine Ross). What stuck in my mind was the haunting score (which won an Academy Award), the New England coast (which I now learn was the Mendocino coast - ...) and the hilarious theater and rubber scenes (lol). I bought the DVD as soon it was released and it didn't disappoint - the transfer is excellent. The memories came flooding back. I understand it better now - just as Dorothy's letter said it would. I plan to watch it again when I feel nostalgic.
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on August 26, 2004
Robert Mulligan's Summer of `42 poignantly tells the story of Hermie and his friends as they fritter away the summer days looking for love and sex in a beachfront town. I've watched a lot of teen movies in my life (Last American Virgin, Breakfast Club, Can't buy me love, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and none of them had the moved me emotionally like this film did.

Hermie spends his days hanging out with friends and occasionally helping out Dorothy, an older woman whose husband has gone to war. In between the comical teenage hi-jinx (the scene at the movie theatre and the scene where he buys condoms are very funny) Hermie's friendship with Dorothy grows closer. Hermie is in puppy love with Dorothy and maybe it would have remained just that if not for the stunning plot twist near the end of the film. Things come to an unexpected head on the night he goes over to visit her and learns that her husband has died. This leads to one of the most powerful sex scenes ever filmed. Through a set of amazing shots set just to music, Mulligan shows how the sex between Hermie and Dorothy is about emotional vulnerability and wanting to be close to someone. In the tasteful sequence you can feel Hermie's uneasiness about sleeping with Dorothy. When standing on the porch to leave Dorothy's house she says a simple goodnight that speaks volumes. Hermie returns to visit Dorothy the next day and finds a note in the door. Reading it he realizes things in his life are forever changed.

Gary Grimes and Jennifer O' Neill give great performances; the chemistry these two actors share makes the film work. The other actors give great performances too, they portray the teens as awkward and curious; the way they talk sounds like teenagers and not like they just got through reading a thesaurus. The set design takes you to the simpler time of 1942 as Mulligan's camerawork tells the story by building tension in just the right scenes. The Oscar-winning score is in the right places and sets just the right mood. If you like teen movies, you must buy this film. It will change the way you see the genre of Teen films.
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on March 10, 2006
I saw this movie in 1971 and it's just great to see it again. The look and feel of a country at war and 3 young guys just coping with being almost men is just right. Jennifer O'Neil is perfect --- who wouldn't carry her groceries?
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on December 17, 2002
I saw this movie for the first time at age 14. I remember going back to the theater six consecutive days - coming out of the show each time with a sense of aching longing in my heart. Just as the middle-aged Hermie says in the movie, it took me longer those days to understand what I had felt. Looking back, it was to me, as it had been to Hermie, a new experience of growing emotions within me, the feelings that were crossing from the boyhood to adulthood.
I recently picked up the DVD, and saw this movie perhaps for the first time in about 20 years. I was astounded to observe that I once again became a 14 year-old. Dorothy, played brilliantly by Jennifer O'Neill, was again an older, wiser woman whom I adored, even though, at age 22 then, and my current age, she could have been my daughter. The rush of emotions returned, that same aching feeling of longing. Among those feelings were the words, "I miss you Dorothy.I wish I could see you again and thank you. I really missed you when I could not find you in the morning. My dearest Dorothy...." Quite amazing, since this is "just" a movie. And yet, my emotional reactions are so genuine, so deeply real. Such is the power, magic of "Summer of '42." This is one of those movies that have the ability to reach deep into your heart, and lets you live your Self that you thought you had long lived past. At least, that is what "Summer of '42" does to me. I cherish this movie.
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