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Robert Mulligan's Summer of '42 (1971)

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Hello Everyone,

I thought I should discuss about Robert Mulligan's Summer of '42 (1971). Its my favorite film along with Suspicion, and Marnie. As you know, its based on Herman Raucher's life during Summer of '42 in 1971. I think Mulligan's filmmaking is brilliant along with Legrand's brilliant score and wonderful performances by Jennifer O'Neill and Gary Grimes.


I only had one disagreement with the film - the ending of the film. When I watched the film, I had a hard time believing that Dorothy will leave Hermie. When I researched about the film, I noticed that Dorothy in the film and Dorothy in the real life are very different. I felt that Robert Mulligan made some changes in the film that made the film far more powerful than the real life incident.


Anyway, What do you think about this film, everyone?



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A first glance "Summer of 42" is merely another coming of age film wherein a teenager falls in love with an "older" woman and lives the summer dream of every adolescent boy, but first glances can be wrong. Gary Grimes delivers a strong performance, but the gem in this movie is Jennifer O'Neil. This stunningly beautiful woman delivers a remarkably haunting performance as the "suddenly" widowed young bride who dream walks into one night of sexual searching with a local teen. Her performance is so sensual yet innocent of any feelings of guilt her one night is a gentle embrace of life not sexual release or wantonness, a perfect performance from a actress we got to see far to little of.

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I agree about the strong performances especially from Jennifer O'Neill. But the changes that were made in the film make it hard to believe that the Dorothy in the film version will leave Hermie. In real life, the incident that happened during that night between the real Dorothy and the real Hermie was much more different than what we see in the film. This makes it more difficult to believe that the ending in the film will happen exactly like it happened in real life.

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Thank you, MissGoddess. I will also some new information on Hitchcock thread soon. So you will see me soon. By the way, Have you seen Summer of '42 before? if you haven't, then I highly recommend it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"SUMMER OF '42" is one of my favorite early 1970 films. I had such a crush on Jennifer O'Neill back then, which gets rekindled every time I see it. (Shhh! Don't tell my wife.)


I've never looked into the background of the story, although I will now. So without knowing what the facts are, all I can say is that most films that are based on real people or situations are altered in one way or another. Sometimes it's for dramatic purposes and often because of what the production code and censors of the day permitted.


I really doubt, even in the more progressive 1970's, any studio would have allowed the film to end not only with an adult woman having sex with a teenage boy but then staying with him.

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markfp2, please don't misunderstand me. What I was saying was that changes in events and changes in characters can push the story to a whole different direction. I learned this from Alfred Hitchcock. When he directed The Wrong Man (1956), he tried to stay as close as possible to the real incident. He stayed faithful to the real incidents. The only thing he changed was he "skipped" "some" evidences to heighten the tension.


But in Summer of '42, its much more different. There are differences in events and couple of differences in characters. Mulligan himself changed some events and some changes in the characters which pushed me to make an ending of my own. To me, It doesn't matter if the studio agrees or not. Everyone of us must make our own interpretation. That's what makes us unique.

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I know what you're saying, but my point was that, for various reasons, changes are almost always a necessity when a story is based on real people and incidents. You're correct that making changes can push things a different direction, but that's often the whole reason for making changes.


I stick by what I said though, given the circumstances of the early 1970's, there was just no way the film could have ended any differently. Maybe if it were made today, but certainly not back then.


Still, you've got me intrigued, and I've just ordered a copy of the book which I will read and then I'll rewatch the film. Perhaps, I'll understand your view better.


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I just want to point out that the film "Summer of '42" gave birth to the novel "Summer of '42". The film came first. Not the novel. Herman Raucher wrote the book to increase the publicity of the film. But the book goes somewhat faithful to the film.



I think you both got a little confused. With the help of Raucher, Robert Mulligan was making the film that was based on the real incident. That means they made the ending based on what happened.



But as "a viewer", I don't agree due to couple of changes. I feel that "the audience" doesn't have to necessarily agree with the way the film ends. This is because the ending in the film was based on upon "the real incidents that preceded." But if the "main" points of the real incidents are changed, then I believe that the ending won't be the same.



Everyone one of us viewers can make our own interpretation if the changes are made especially to real life incidents. In your heart, I am sure you all have disagreed with the way some films end.


Every one of us must have freedom to express our viewpoints. Whenever Hitchcock watched his film "Suspicion", he held mentally to his own original ending rather than film's ending. His point was you don't have to agree with an interpretation of the film.



The novel goes "somewhat" faithful to the film, because it was written to increase the publicity. The novel does explain "couple of" differences. But not all of them. If you want, then I can explain the real incidents.

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Summer of '42 is certainly a great movie. I agree with that. What you said "Its a movie" reminded me of something. "Its only a movie." - This was what Hitchcock once said to Bernard Herrmann when Herrmann was serious about the plot points. But Bernard Herrmann seriously replied - "But its your movie!"


Like Herrmann, I take certain films seriously. Summer of '42 is one of them. Herman Raucher wrote screenplay of the film based on his real life story, because of the loss of Dorothy and the death of his best friend Oscy.



My point is the ending in film is based upon real life. Due to the changes that were made in the film, No one can say that ending in the film will follow exactly like the real incident. The only conclusion we can reach is it is "uncertain." You picked the ending you wanted. I have my own ending.



The changes in the plot points that ended up in the film and in the novel became important in real life because of certain incidents that happened after the release of the film. Herman Raucher received dozen letters from women claiming that they are his Dorothy. But he noticed one particular letter. He realized this letter was from the real Dorothy because of the handwriting and certain events that only real Dorothy could have known. These events aren't in the film and in the novel.



Herman knew the real Dorothy's handwriting, because he kept her letter for 30 years safely in his hand with the hope that he will see her again someday. Some people may not take incidents like this seriously. But I do.



Even Jennifer O'Neill had a feeling of disagreement with what real Dorothy did to Herman Raucher. Since the film was based on a real life incident, I like to think the way Juror # 8 does in Twelve Angry Men. Due to the changes, there are several "possibilities." I have the right to share my opinions. It has nothing to do with right or wrong.

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I am not trying to force you to think that my way is correct. I am just saying that I have a strong disagreement with the way the film ends. But that's just me. I understand that the ending of the film satisfies you. That is good. I appreciate that feeling.


But I haven't received a chance to "explain the reasons" why I disagree with the ending of the film. The only thing I was able to say was "the changes that were made in the film." You were able to state your reasons and feelings why you like the ending of the film. I listened to your points even if I disagreed with it. But you don't know mine.


Anyway, the one thing that I want to point out from "my feeling" is that I do see the film's ending as it happened in real life. But I really can't see it as a continuation of the previous events that occured in the film.


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Simple. please leave room for other interpretations even if you disagree with it.


When you say words like unimportant, perfect and flawless, this completely prevents people from sharing their thoughts. This leaves no room to share their thoughts with you. That's why I couldn't share my feelings completely.


As you know, opinions has nothing to do with right or wrong. But always leave room to share the interpretations of others. Although I disagreed with your viewpoints, still I listened to it and appreciates it.

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I just didn't write the sentences. I just wrote keywords from your sentences for you to figure it out. Some People from certain country regions find it disrespectful if I happen to copy and paste the sentences and point out keywords from their sentences. That's why I left it like that.

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Summer of '42 is a very well-done and entertaining movie. It

certainly presents what I would guess is a pretty accurate

view of the time and place and what adolescents were like at

the time. That for me is its greatest merit. I wouldn't call it

a great movie, but it's certainly a good one. I always feel a

little sorry for any kid whose nickname is Hermie. Yikes.


Getting back to the real life story. In my view, Raucher needs

to stop whining. He had a rather unusual and unplanned encounter

with an older woman who had just received tragic news. The

event was likely as traumatic for her as it was for him. It's hard

to blame her for suddenly leaving and not wanting to get in touch

with him. Who can really blame her? It was a very human reaction

and I doubt there was any maliciousness involved on either side.


I've read that the same comment about it 'only being a movie' was made

to Ingrid Bergman, who was apparently deeply involved in her character.

Of course Hitch could have made it to more than one person. I don't want

to get into detail on the subject, but I found the comparison between

Dorothy and Gavin Elster to be pretty far-fetched, when one considers

the great differences between the two situations, even leaving aside the

fact that the first was from real life and the second was a movie.



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It wasn't an unplanned encounter. Dorothy invited Herman to come and see her at that night. I want to explain much more. I don't feel like it anymore. I explained only parts of it in other thread.

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At first, you said it was "an unplanned encounter." Now you are saying that "a friendly little dinner was planned." It is never mentioned in both film and in the book that "a friendly little dinner was planned" during that night. When you are jumping to a conclusion, please be accurate. When Hermie expresses his interest to see Dorothy during that night, Dorothy's reply was "Feel free to drop by." To me, the point is she gave him "complete freedom" to visit her during that night. There is no indication that "a friendly little dinner was planned." That's all I want to say.

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I guess I recalled it incorrectly. I haven't seen it in a number of years. So she

said he could drop by, maybe for a soda pop and some salt water taffy. The

"unplanned encounter" I meant was the unplanned sexual encounter. Between

her invite and Hermie showing up, she received the telegram telling her her hus-

band had been killed. That changed everything in their personal dynamic. I can

just imagine Oscy's reaction, 'Boy did you get lucky.'

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How do you know that she "may have" invited Hermie for a soda pop and salt water taffy? Are you implying that she thought he was just a small boy? "If" that's what you are implying, then here is something for you.


Let me take the film so that we both can "visualize" it. In the film, we "see" that she was more than happy when she says "Feel free to drop by." Now let me explain about the age subject.


In the interview, Herman Raucher himself admitted that Dorothy treated him like "an adult." But first, we will look into the film about this subject.



Here is an example from the film. In the film, when Hermie says that he is a sophomore, Dorothy admits that she thought he was older. As you know, Sophomores are around the age of 15/16. It must be noted that Hermie never revealed to Dorothy how old he was. So we can "start" with age 17/18. Someone more closer to her age. To be more "exact", Dorothy never said to Hermie that I thought you were "a little more older." She said that she thought he was "older." We also hear from Herman through the interview that Dorothy treated him like an adult.



In interview, Herman admits that he didn't know how old Dorothy was. For all he knew, the real Dorothy could have been 20. So her appearance did look like she just completed her teenage years. Through the interview, Herman also reveals that the real Dorothy and her husband Pete were newlyweds.



Just like the film, Hermie was slightly taller than Dorothy in real life. So the height also counts.

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The thing about the soda pop and salt water taffy was said in jest. I don't know

what comestibles Dorothy was going to serve Hermie, if any. And people of all ages

like salt water taffy, so there was no implication about his age.


The difficulty is that the real life and the movie one get in each other's way. We

know Raucher was 14 at the time of the event, Hermie maybe a few years older

in the film. And we don't know Dorothy's age. She could have been 20, she could

have been 25. I always thought he was slightly awkward in Dorothy's presence,

and when she invited him over to her place, it was an innocent gesture of a woman

who would appreciate some company to pass the time. And while he had feelings

for her, I doubt he would have acted upon them in that situation. Everything chang-

ed when the telegram came.





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Yes, I agree that Herman Raucher was 14 in real life. In the film, Hermie is 15 because of studio's insistence to make him slightly older. So we can say Hermie was 14/15. To me, the point is Dorothy treated him like an adult and she herself admitted that she thought he was older. Herman said that Dorothy treated him like an adult when he was at the age of 74. We don't know if Dorothy invited Hermie just for "time pass" during that night. There are other possibilities. We know that Hermie was the "only friend and only help" Dorothy had during the summer of 1942. Unlike the film, Hermie helped Dorothy a lot more in real life.


Back to the subject. Let's focus on the real incident. If you are focusing on the real incident, I have to point out that night incident was terrifying. Thanks to Hermie, Dorothy was "alive" after that night. Unlike the film, the real life incident was a situation where Dorothy could have killed herself. Hermie was completely worried about her life. Hermie stood there and gave everything the real Dorothy needed to let her survive that night. Hermie ended up losing his virginity, and he ended up putting himself in a traumatic position just to save her. In the book, it is revealed that he was thinking about asking her to marry him before leaving her. But he couldn't ask her during that situation. My point is he didn't have to help her during that situation. He could have left her house after saying some kind words. But he didn't leave, because he loved her and he wanted her to be in a safe condition.


In the next morning, We know that Hermie wanted to see her. He wanted to talk about their relationship. In the book, he thought she was probably feeling better than last night and she was probably making her coffee. But when Oscy was talking, Hermie began to have huge worries about Dorothy inside. He started to think what if she started drinking again. What if she killed herself. That's why he immediately moved to her house to find out if she was doing alright. He deeply cared about her life.



The rest we know what happened. In Dorothy's 1971/1972 letter, she herself admitted that she was worried about what she may have done to him and his psyche. But she didn't bother to find out at least her dear friend was doing fine between 1942 and 1971. She didn't even bother to find out if that night incident destroyed him or not. She didn't even send him a letter just to let him know that she was alive and happy. I think that would have relieved the shock that stayed in his heart.



Bilgewasser, I also have to agree that the difficulty is that the real life and the movie one get in each other's way. Unlike the real life relationship, the film establishes a strong bonding between Dorothy and Hermie. In the film, the night incident is far more different. For Example, the kissing scene was added to the film. The film ended up giving a different message about that night. But due to the strong performances & Great Direction, I find the scenes in the film to be extremely powerful. Due to several changes that were made in the film, I have a hard time believing that Dorothy in the film version will abandon Hermie.


if you want, then I can give you a detailed description about the differences between real life and the film (especially that night scene).

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The problem with what happened in real life is that we only have

Raucher's version, told from his perspective. We really don't know

Dorothy's side of the story. Maybe she was suicidal that night or

maybe Raucher thought she was. I think she felt guilty about what

had happened that night and left suddenly. That's an understandable

reaction. I don't think she did it maliciously. Maybe as a 14 year old

boy he was fantasizing a bit about their relationship and was hurt

when she left without saying goodbye. I can understand a 14 year

old boy feeling that way, but not a middle-aged man. I can't remember

if they even knew one another's addresses. Except for the difference

in age, this was like one of those summer romances that pretty

much end when the summer does and doesn't continue on.






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In my opinion, I don't think there is any point in seeing the real Dorothy's side of the story during that night considering that she was heavily drinking. Let me take this in a "General" viewpoint. One of the biggest differences between the film and the real incident was the real Dorothy was "heavily drinking." As we both know, her heavy drinking resulted from the shocking news about her husband's death. So she was not only heavily drunk, but also she was in a horrible shocking condition. In that condition, she could have killed herself. That's why Herman was heavily concerned about her. His mission was to help Dorothy survive that night. But the real Dorothy knew it was Hermie. When Hermie came in to her house at that night, she said "Hi, Hermie. I don't look very nice. Do I?" While dancing with Hermie, she tried to imagine him as her husband.


The real Dorothy ended up using him for her own satisfaction. But considering her horrible condition, "we both" can understand her just like Hermie understood her horrible situation. Just like the film, the real Dorothy also said "Good Night, Hermie." to Hermie before he left her house.



Hermie wanted to make sure that she was doing alright. That's why he came in the morning to see her. Unlike Hermie, she didn't bother to understand Hermie and his psychological condition after that.



As we both know, Hermie was the only friend and the only help Dorothy had during the Summer of 1942. In real life before that night incident, Herman points out that the real Dorothy was interested in "everything" Hermie was doing. Through her 1971 letter, Dorothy revealed that she was worried that she may have psychologically damaged him. But if she "truly" felt guilty about what she did to her dear friend, then she would have at least send Hermie a letter just to make sure that he was doing alright.



I find Dorothy's act as a malicious act, because of couple of things she did. After she left Hermie, she didn't contact Hermie. After she left Hermie, she immediately sold her house to new people. She got immediately remarried and didn't bother to find out about her dear friend whom she may have psychologically damaged. She didn't even bother to find out if he was alive after that incident. That's like pushing Hermie to destruction since she was well aware of what she may have done to him.



Hermie waited with the hope that he will see her. He never did. We both know that what real Dorothy did to Hermie did affect him psychologically. He was in a shock, depressed about not hearing from Dorothy, and he had strange reaction where he tried to any girl whom he could find whose name was Dorothy. He went through several horrible incidents after that. At the age of 16, his sister's fiancee died in World War 2. He lost his father at the age of 20. On his 24th birthday, he lost his friend Oscy. Since Oscy's death, he never was able to celebrate a birthday again.



Hermie wanted to contact Dorothy. But he didn't know where she lived. Dorothy knew Herman's address. That's how she contacted him in 1971/1972. This happened only after the release of the film. In her 1971 letter, she revealed that she was "happily" remarried and she also wrote that she was a grandmother. But she didn't reveal her address in her 1971 letter. She didn't want to tell him who she was. After her 1971 letter, she never contacted him again. She never revealed her address in 1971 letter. Herman wanted to contact her. But he didn't know the address. The only thing he knew was that the postmark was Canton, Ohio.



After she left Hermie, she had time to find her new husband. She had children and grandchildren. But she didn't bother to contact her helping friend who was responsible for keeping her alive during that night. I blame the real dorothy, because of what she did to him after that night. It was her responsibility to make sure that her friend Hermie was safe and sound just like Hermie kept her safe and sound. When she abandoned him, I felt that she became truly guilty of all of her actions.


I will explain some other things later.

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Unfortunately we will likely never know Dorothy's side of the story.

As empathetic as Raucher might have been, it's not likely that he

knew everything that she felt and experienced. Only she knew that.

That she was drinking heavily after learning that awful news I can

understand. That she was actually suicidal, who knows? Raucher

felt she was, but perhaps he was mistaken. I was thinking of the

guilt she might have felt when she sobered up and realized what she

had done. Even though she was drunk and wasn't really responsible,

she still likely felt guilty. She had his address in 1971, but did she also

have his, actually his parent's, address in 1942? I can't remember that

point. Perhaps the better thing would have been to stick around and

say goodbye to Raucher, but maybe she just wasn't up to doing that,

so she left. As I said before, I find her reactions to be rather human,

and I find it hard to fault her. It was a very difficult situation all around.



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