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WWII in the Movies: The Homefront
Remind Me

The Class of '44

The nostalgic coming-of-age comic drama Summer of '42 (1971), an autobiographical remembrance written by Herman Raucher, was a sensation. The author penned a novelization of his original screenplay that was released before the film and became a national bestseller and its success helped make the movie the sixth-highest grossing film of 1971. A sequel was inevitable.

Class of '44 (1973), based on Raucher's college experiences, reunites stars Gary Grimes and Jerry Houser as best friends Hermie and Oscy, now college roommates, with Oliver Conant returning as Benjie (the third of the "Terrible Three" featured in Summer) for a few scenes before enlisting in Marines to fight overseas. Deborah Winters co-stars as Hermie's girlfriend Julie, an eccentric co-ed whose energetic spirit and rebellious nature contrast with the studious, serious Hermie. The episodic script follows the boys through fraternity hazing (William Atherton, most famous for his roles in 1984's Ghostbusters and 1988's Die Hard, presides over their humiliations as the fraternity president), football tryouts, cheating on exams and other college experiences as they grow up and, inevitably, apart.

Though set in Brooklyn and New Haven, some of the film was shot in Toronto in the summer 1972. Producer Richard A. Roth and director Robert Mulligan were initially set to return but by the time the film went into production neither were involved. Paul Bogart stepped in as both director and producer with studio veteran Harry Keller as executive producer. Bogart, best known for his TV work (where he won five Emmy Awards during his career), was able to bring some of his own experience to the film. Though in his early 50s when he directed the film, he was in his early 20s in 1944, only a couple of years older that the characters, and he made a point of getting the period detail right.

Gary Grimes also starred in the westerns The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972) and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973), playing the rebellious son of John Wayne, before retiring from the screen and changing careers. "I got to the point where the work wasn't up to the quality that I wanted," he explained in a 2001 interview. "I was offered a TV series back then but turned it down. I'm very happy in my decision." He has since worked out of the public spotlight for a charitable organization.

"Paul Bogart, TV Director, Dies at 92," Douglas Martin. The New York Times, April 17, 2012.
"Ask AP: Gary Grimes." American Profile, March 3, 2011.
AFI Catalog of Feature Films

by Sean Axmaker



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