Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Summer Place (1959)** 1/2

Richard Egan plays a former lifeguard who returns to the Maine island summer resort, where he'd worked years in his younger days, as a millionaire with his bigoted wife Helen (Constance Ford) and comely teenage daughter Molly (Sandra Dee). The resort has fallen on hard times financially and is currently run by Bart Hunter (Arthur Kennedy), the drunken son of the man who'd built it. He now lives there year round with his wife Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire), who'd had a passionate affair with lifeguard Ken in her youth, and their hunk son Johnny (Troy Donahue). *

Overly glossy soap opera which could do nothing to overcome the basic shallowness of the characters being portrayed. ** One is between Egan and McGuire; the other is with Dee and Donahue. ... The wealthy Egan and family come back to the small New England town where he was an impoverished lifeguard 20 years earlier and where he carried on a lusty affair with McGuire. ... Meanwhile, Egan's daughter, Dee, is carrying on with Donahue, and mother Ford looms over Dee's shoulder worrying about whether she is

Though there is an attempt to make these situations seem highly dramatic, the performances are little more than stereotypes, a result of the wretched dialog. This film was surprisingly frank about sex and illicit romantic affairs, much more so than PEYTON PLACE had been just two years earlier. New York Times article, Daves was quoted as saying that the "two affairs [in the film] May sound sensational, but...we have received the approval of the Johnston Office because the intent of the picture is a moral one." Variety review, the film "makes the most of Hollywood's newly-discovered freedom to display the voluminous vocabulary of sex....A couple of years ago, A Summer Place wouldn't have been made." The Hollywood Reporter review stated, "It is an absorbing study of sex as it affects most of our lives, though no civilized person will find in it anything that is cheap or nasty...." On the other hand, the New York Times review reported that Wilson's "novel emerges as one of the most laboriously and garishly sex-scented movies in years," and the Los Angeles Mirror review described A Summer Place as "so preoccupied with sex, you would think it has just been invented."

The film was a box office hit, pandering as it did to both old and young, also did well at the box office, . An orchestral rendition of the love theme from Max Steiner's score, as recorded by Percy Faith and sung by The Letterman placed number one on popular music charts for many weeks and was awarded a Grammy for the 1960 Record of the Year

Since the film was released, the music has become iconic, often used briefly in films or television programs to signal love at first sight or young love. The music and scenes from the film have appeared in numerous later films, among them, Diner (1982) and Ocean's Eleven (2001).

* Classic Film Guide
** TV Guide

Did You Know???

  • Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the role of Molly, which was played by Sandra Dee, was "meant for" Natalie Wood. According to a modern source, Wood later regretted turning down the part.
  • According to a November 2002 Hollywood Reporter news item, Edmonds Entertainment and Storyopolis were planning a remake of A Summer Place, to be written by Nicholas DiBella and to star Mandy Moore. The producers of the respective companies were Tracey and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and Fonda Snyder. As of May 2005, this project has not been realize
  • The house where Ken (Richard Egan) and Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire) lived toward the end of the film is an actual private residence that was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1948. It still stands today on Scenic Road in Carmel-by-the-Sea and is a prime feature in local tours.
  • Initial considerations for the role of Helen Jorgenson included Teresa Wright and Olivia de Havilland.
  • Richard Egan's (Ken) impassioned speech to his wife about her disgraceful bigotry was so powerful that an entire packed audience at Radio City Music Hall gave it an immediate standing ovation.

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