A self-made businessman rekindles a romance with a former flame while their two teenage children begin a romance of their own with drastic consequences for both couples.
Richard Egan ... Ken Jorgenson
Dorothy McGuire ... Sylvia Hunter
Sandra Dee ... Molly Jorgenson
Arthur Kennedy ... Bart Hunter
Troy Donahue ... Johnny Hunter
Constance Ford ... Helen Jorgenson
Beulah Bondi ... Mrs. Emily Hamilton Hamble
Jack Richardson ... Claude Andrews
Martin Eric ... Todd Harper, Handyman at Pine Island Inn
Gorgeous-looking soap opera, with Sandra Dee swaying, swooning and suffering her way through role as young woman determined to do the deed with stodgy, windbreaker-wearing Troy Donahue. Their parents disapprove of course, that is until her father and his mother have an affair of their own! Surprisingly absorbing plot really lays on the melodrama, but so what? It's a roller-coaster ride of teen angst, romantic emotions gone too far, all blissfully filmed in beautiful color. Probably Donahue's best performance, although Dee continues her fight against a thick layer of phoniness that always seems to seep into her work (she's just not a natural, the way Connie Stevens or Tuesday Weld were). The picture is famously scored with Max Steiner's music which forever lives on oldies radio-stations, and will forever live in your head once you've heard it.
The plot, which is somewhat convoluted, is basically this: Twenty years before the beginning of the movie, Ken (Egan), a struggling college student, takes a summer job as a lifeguard at a resort island off the coast of Maine. While there, he meets and falls in love with Sylvia (McGuire), the daughter of a family staying on the island. Because he has no money, and no social standing, her parents decide against the match, and the two are forced to separate, each going off to an unhappy marriage. Ken weds Helen, the epitome of a frigid wife (played to perfection by Ford), so much so that you wonder how on earth she let him touch her long enough to create their daughter, Molly (Dee). Sylvia has fared little better, marrying Bart Hunter (Arthur Kennedy), a likable lush. They have a son, Johnny (a painfully wooden Troy Donahue), who, it turns out, is about the same age as Molly. Twenty years have brought a sort of reversal of fortunes to the two families, as Ken is now a self made millionaire, while Bart's family has so little money that they are forced to stay on the island year round. Ken has decided that a vacation is long overdue, and writes to Sylvia to see if his family can stay with hers on the island for the summer. Sylvia and Bart agree to this. Molly and Johnny develop an instant affection for each other, much to the chagrin of Molly's mother, while Ken and Sylvia's reunion rekindles their romance, with tragic consequences for all.
While the issues of teen sexuality and adultery are hardly shocking to today's audiences, this was pretty daring in 1959, and the film handles them in a forthright way, only occasionally lapsing into melodrama or preaching. The focus on virginity seems especially old fashioned to a modern audience, and gives the film an unintended humorous aspect.
Among the leads, the acting is uniformly strong except for Troy Donahue, whose performance is stilted and unsatisfying. Richard Egan manages to infuse enough warmth into his character that you are willing to forgive his sermonizing. Particularly touching is his portrayal of a father whose love and concern for his daughter knows no limits. Arthur Kennedy does a good job of making his drunken character human and sympathetic. Constance Ford zealously plays Helen with such menace and malice that you really enjoy the zingers thrown at her (Sylvia's "You seem to have an infinite capacity for hurt.", the doctor's "Mrs. Jorgenson, you're being less than no help at all," and Bart's response to Helen's "Don't tell me you're on their side!" with "Let's just say I'm not on yours."). Sandra Dee's doe-eyed innocence works beautifully in her portrayal of a young woman learning a few of life's lessons before she should. And Dorothy McGuire is charming as Sylvia, giving us a character we can't help liking even when she falls from grace.
The film accurately portrays the attitudes of its time, which may make it less accessible to viewers who weren't around then. In spite of that, you find yourself caring about these characters, and their predicaments.
All, in this is a highly enjoyable film, and well worth watching, especially if you're yearning to return to "a simpler time."
This movie ranks as one of my all time favorites. Released in 1959, A Summer Place is a story of former lovers from the past that re-kindle their lost love. Unfortunately, now married to different people & unhappy, they find time at night to pick up where they left off. At the same time, the kids from their marriages fall in love (Troy Donahue & Sandra Dee) while at Pine Island, Maine....where the story takes place. While the marriages unravel, Molly & Johnny fall in love even deeper...but because of their parents unraveling marriages, they are both forbidden to see each other. As always, love finds a way to conquer all. At the time this movie was released, there were some subjects that arose....i.e.: Teen pregnancy, Adultery, deceit,...well, you get the idea. In my opinion, Delmer Davies (he wrote, produced & directed) dealt with these "touchy" subjects & translated them to the screen with gentleness & respect so that everyone watching would not be offended. What stands out is the music composed by Max Steiner for this movie. Percy Faith recorded it & released on Columbia Records in 1960 & became a monster hit! As of this writing, this movie has not been released on DVD.....yet, so if you can find the VHS of this movie, Get it! If you love Romantic movies, A Summer Place won't disappoint you. By the way, Sandra Dee is an absolute "Babe" in this movie. Enjoy!
# 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.