The emotional and sexual awakening of teenagers is a dramatic staple. Robert Mulligan’s Summer of ’42 has a large amount of charm and tenderness; it also has little dramatic economy and much eye-exhausting photography which translates to forced and artificial emphasis on a strungout story.
Script tells of that long-ago summer, way out on Long Island, when Gary Grimes had his first sexual-romantic experience with war-widowed Jennifer O’Neill. His two pals (Jerry Houser and Oliver Conant), begin and end the film not yet matured. For Houser, the easy charms of Christopher Norris still suffice, but the younger Conant literally disappears from the plot when the prospects of action instead of talk presents itself.
The three boys come across well, particularly Grimes. Houser’s character is more coarse, even obnoxious at times, and he plays it well to help set off Grimes’ more introspective nature. O’Neill is wooden and stilted, though her lines are few so the handicap does not unduly mar the film.
1971: Best Original Score.
Nominations: Best Story & Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing