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Film / Summer of '42

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"And nothing, from that first day I saw her, and no one 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."

Summer of '42 is a 1971 comedy-drama film directed by Robert Mulligan and written by Herman Raucher. A Coming-of-Age Story based on Raucher's own experiences as a teenager during World War II, it is perhaps best known for providing the role of Jennifer O'Neill's career and for including that music.

Hermie (Gary Grimes) is a teenaged boy spending the summer of 1942 on an unnamed island that's a lot like Nantucket. Hermie and his friends — Oscy (Jerry Houser), the jock, and Benjie (Oliver Conant), the shy nerd — aren't too concerned with the war, but they are very concerned with sex and girls. When Benjie reveals that his parents own a textbook about sex, it is a major event in the the lives of the boys. Oscy starts putting the moves on a pretty blonde he meets at the movie theater. Hermie also met a girl at the movie theater, but his attention is elsewhere: on Dorothy (O'Neill), a woman at least ten years older than he is, who has a cottage on the beach. At the beginning of the movie Hermie sees Dorothy bidding goodbye to her husband, a paratrooper who has gone off to fight in the war.


In 1973, the movie was followed by a forgotten sequel, Class of '44. It featured the return of Hermie, Oscy, and Benjie (all played by the same actors) but with no appearance by Dorothy (maintaining consistency with the original, in which Narrator Adult Hermie says he never saw her again).


  • Bittersweet Ending: Hermie goes back to Dorothy's house the day after they spent the night together, only to find a note informing him that she's left for good. In voiceover narration, the adult Hermie mentions that he never saw her again or learned what became of her, and notes that his experiences of that summer spelled the end of his childhood innocence. Still, he did get laid.
  • Comforting the Widow: Hermie comes to visit Dorothy's cottage one evening, only to find her weeping after having received a telegram notifying her that her husband was killed in action over France. Sex follows.
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  • Creator Cameo: Director Robert Mulligan also provides narration.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Miriam, with regard to Oscy.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Dorothy is guilty of statutory rape. Even in 1942, the age of consent in Massachusetts (the story presumably taking place on Nantucket Island) was sixteen whereas Hermie is fifteen. This is considered perfectly fine, but can you imagine if they had made a movie about a twentysomething widower sleeping with a willing fifteen-year-old girl?
    • In Real Life, Raucher heard back from the woman after the movie and book came outnote  and found out she'd been worried that their night together might have traumatized him. But she was glad that he "turned out okay".
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When Hermie returns to Dorothy's cottage, he finds the "We regret to inform you" telegram, and an empty bottle of liquor.
  • During the War: Set on the American homefront during World War II, obviously. Other than killing off Dorothy's husband, the war has little impact on the storyline. Our teenage male protagonists are, of course, too young for military service.
  • Hands Play In Theater: Hermie at the theater does the arm-over-shoulder maneuver and grabs what he supposes to be Aggie's bosom. He's later disappointed to find out it was only her arm. At the very same time Oscy gets the "Stop it!" reaction with Miriam.
  • Hollywood New England / No Communities Were Harmed: While Raucher's real-life experiences took place on Nantucket, the island is left unnamed in the film and called Packett Island in the novelization. In any case, the movie was shot around Mendocino, California, which is not on an island but offers plenty of coastal Scenery Porn regardless.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Not definitively stated, but certainly implied during a scene where Dorothy, clad in a midriff-baring halter top and short shorts, asks poor Hermie for help in loading some boxes in her attic.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Oscy and Miriam slip away behind some dunes on the beach and wind up doing this.
  • Mrs. Robinson: 15-year-old Hermie winds up losing his virginity to a woman who is at least ten years older than he is.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: Robert Mulligan providing the voice of the adult Hermie.
  • Novelization: Written by Raucher and published concurrently with the film's release, it became a bestseller in its own right.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Hermie employs some of this to obtain some condoms from a pharmacist. When asked what he wants them for, he says they're actually for his (nonexistent) older brother and that he assumes they're for filling with water and dropping on people from a roof.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    Oscy: Sometimes life is just one big pain in the ass.
  • Primal Scene / Take Our Word for It: When Hermie and Aggie go to check on Oscy and Miriam at the beach.
  • Quest for Sex
  • Ruptured Appendix: Toward the end of the film Oscy relates that Miriam suffered this and had to be taken off the island.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Narrator Adult Hermie notes in the closing narration that he said goodbye to "Hermie" forever that summer.
  • Shout-Out: Hermie, Oscy, and their dates watch Now, Voyager at the local movie theater.
  • Stacy's Mom: Hermie and both his buddies gawk at gorgeous Dorothy.
  • That Nostalgia Show: Herman Raucher's almost-autobiographical look back at his own summer vacation of 29 years previous.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: A suitably retraux version plays on a phonograph at Dorothy's place when Hermie shows up toward the end.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Provided by Dorothy as she undresses for sex with Hermie.
  • Trojan Gauntlet: Not easy to get when you are a 15-year-old boy in 1942. Hermie finally gets a pack but not before he's grilled by the pharmacist.
  • The Voice: Hermie's mom, heard a couple of times through the walls, never seen. Her voice is provided by Maureen Stapleton, incidentally.

"Life is made up of small comings and goings, and for everything we take with us, there is something we leave behind. In the summer of '42, we raided the Coast Guard station four times. We saw five movies, and had nine days of rain. Benjy broke his watch, Oscy gave up the harmonica, and in a very special way, I lost Hermie... forever."

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