Cast & Crew
Self-made millionaire research chemist Ken Jorgenson, a former lifeguard at the exclusive summer community on Pine Island, returns there twenty years later as a guest with his wife Helen and daughter Molly. Ken reserves rooms at the home of jaded alcoholic Bart Hunter, who has lost the fortune built by his father. Bart has turned his mansion into an inn and thinks that Ken, who is a Swedish immigrant's son, is coming to gloat about their respective reversal of fortunes. Although Bart wants to refuse the Jorgensons the reservation, his wife Sylvia insists that they are too much in debt to turn down paying customers. The Jorgensons arrive on the island by chartered yacht, a pretense insisted upon by Helen, who is obsessed with appearances and status. An acrimonious woman who no longer sleeps with Ken, Helen tries to repress teenaged Molly's budding sexuality and has burdened the family with her excessive bigotry, making it difficult for the family to settle anywhere. At dinner, the boorish Bart tries to titillate Helen by describing his gardens as an "aphrodisiac." To smooth over Helen's obvious indignation, Sylvia explains that the island has a history of summer romances. After dinner, the Hunters' son Johnny takes Molly on a moonlit tour of the gardens, where she explains how she took kissing lessons from a boy at her high school. When she kisses Johnny goodnight, the nosy groundskeeper, Todd Hasper, sees them and reports to Helen, who then blames Ken's Swedish genes for her daughter's interest in sex. Although Ken accuses Helen of suffocating Molly's "natural instincts," Helen scolds Molly and tells her that "wanting a man is cheap." Molly has a heart-to-heart talk with Ken, asking him why he married a woman who does not love either of them. Ken says they married out of loneliness and admits he once loved someone, but had nothing to offer her. He tells Molly that the sole reason for existence is to love and be loved. He is sorry that Helen does not know how to love and that he could not teach her. One rainy day, Bart's godmother, Mrs. Hamilton Hamble, complains to Sylvia about the leak in her water closet. When Sylvia says she has called the mainland for a plumber, Mrs. Hamble, acknowledging Bart's uselessness, asks Ken to go into the attic and check it. As he and Sylvia climb the attic stairs, Sylvia confesses that she has delayed calling a professional, because Bart fears the roof has a structural problem that might result in the building being condemned. After determining that the roof is sound, Ken asks why she has been avoiding him. Twenty years ago, they had been lovers, but Sylvia's mother had arranged her marriage with the then-wealthy Bart. Ken says he got married a week after seeing Sylvia's wedding picture in the newspaper. Both admit to living a "half-life" without love, which they have maintained for the sake of their children, and realize they are still in love with each other, but do not want to hurt others. When they go downstairs, Mrs. Hamble warns Sylvia that she could hear their entire conversation through the circulation vents in her room. Recalling how Bart was "plastered" at his own wedding, Mrs. Hamble notes that he has rarely been sober and suggests "straight talk." She lays out Sylvia's options: divorce, a well-planned and discreet affair, or an unplanned, careless affair that courts gossip. At two in the morning, Sylvia and Ken meet in the boathouse. Fearing they could lose their children, neither wants to risk divorce, and so they concede that at least they will have this summer together. When they part before sunrise, they do not realize that Todd has discovered their tryst. Soon after, Helen, pleased to receive damning reports about Ken from Todd, calls her scheming mother. Together they strategize how to trap Ken in the act of infidelity, so that Helen can divorce him and receive a big settlement. When Johnny and Molly go sailing one day, bad weather capsizes their boat, stranding them on an uninhabited island. After they are rescued, Helen calls a doctor to examine Molly for signs of lost virginity, despite the girl's protestation of innocence. Afterward, Molly runs away, causing Johnny to threaten Helen, who complains to the police. When a mainland policeman checks into Molly's disappearance and Helen's complaint, Ken, who has just returned from a short business trip, sides with Johnny. Vindictively, Helen blurts out that Ken and Sylvia are sleeping together. Seeing Johnny's pain and shock, Sylvia accuses Helen of trying to destroy the children, and Bart unsympathetically orders Helen to leave the island immediately. To Sylvia, Bart admits that he has known about her love for Ken for twenty years, but was "fascinated" by her "front" as wife and mother. Although he is willing to continue their marriage, she wants to end it. Molly is soon found, and after both couples divorce, Helen slanders Ken and Sylvia, and her accusations are repeated in the newspapers. Because of the scandal, the respective divorce settlements award the children to Helen and Bart, who both send their children to exclusive boarding schools. Embarrassed by the scandal and hating their parents, Johnny and Molly feel alone against the world and write to each other. Helen finds and reads Johnny's letters and warns Molly that there is "bad blood" in the son of a "drunkard and a harlot." Throwing the letters into the fire, Molly accuses Helen of making the only thing she has "to live for" into something "dirty." Although strictly forbidden to see each other, Molly and Johnny arrange to meet secretly at a church during Christmas break. When they kiss in greeting, Molly is spotted by a gossipy friend and her mother, who reports back to Helen. Later, Helen slaps Molly, knocking over their Christmas tree, thus alienating her daughter. When Ken and Sylvia marry, they are disappointed that the children do not attend. Ken visits Molly at her dormitory, inviting her to visit their beachside house during spring break, pleading that they need each other. Helen tries to block the court order allowing Ken to see Molly one month a year, but her lawyer warns her that Ken would then be able to stop paying her alimony. When Molly comes to visit Ken at spring break, and Johnny arrives a few days later, the young people shun their parents and spend their time in beach hideaways. One night, they tell Ken and Sylvia they are going to see the movie King Kong , but instead, make love in an oceanside lookout. When they return near daybreak, Ken and Sylvia discuss ways to talk to them about the dangers of love, without destroying the beauty of it. The next morning, when Ken tries to caution Molly, she bristles at his meddling. Weeks later, Molly calls Johnny to say she is pregnant. He hitchhikes from school to be with her and they pawn her fur coat, a gift from Ken, for money to travel to Pine Island. Although Johnny expects his father to be "open-minded" enough to give them permission to marry, Bart, suffering from ulcers and alcoholism, says they are too young. After the Coast Guard takes Bart to a Boston naval hospital, he calls Helen and the police. Molly and Johnny ask a justice of the peace to marry them, but he refuses, because they cannot prove they are of age. Meanwhile, Helen calls Ken to say that Bart wants to bring charges against them in juvenile court until they "cool off." Having nowhere else to go, Molly and Johnny ask for help from Ken and Sylvia, who give their support. Later, newlyweds Molly and Johnny return to Pine Island to live.
Donald G. Sheely
Dale J. Nicholson
E. J. Carroll
William L. Kuehl
Leo K. Kuter
Harry Stradling Jr.
Harry Stradling Sr.
A Summer Place
Novelist Sloan Wilson had scored a best seller in l955 with The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, a look at a staid advertising man whose life is upset by the revelation that he fathered an illegitimate child during World War II. The book's 1956 film adaptation, starring Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones, was a big hit for 20th Century-Fox, so naturally Hollywood was interested in whatever Wilson produced next. They weren't disappointed. His 1958 novel, A Summer Place, became a best seller on the heels of controversy over its treatment of divorce, adultery and teenage sexuality.
Warner Bros. picked up the screen rights, a natural move since they already had several teen heartthrobs like Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter under contract. Wilson wrote the first-draft screenplay, but kept the novel's multi-year time span, which displeased Daves. Since he had started his career as a writer, Daves took on the screenplay, condensing the action to a single year.
A Summer Place marked Daves' transition from Westerns like Broken Arrow (1950) and 3:10 to Yuma (1957) to romances. In fact, with the success of A Summer Place, Warner's assigned him to more teen romances, including Parrish (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962), most of them starring Donahue. Those critically lambasted box-office winners destroyed Daves' reputation as a major director despite efforts by some French critics to re-evaluate his Westerns. Yet some critics have suggested his '60s soap operas are ripe for serious study, pointing out that the criticism of his work echoes that of the more acclaimed director Douglas Sirk, now revered for such films as Magnificent Obsession (1954) and Imitation of Life (1959). Although critics at the time viewed A Summer Place seriously, its camp elements today suggests that, like Sirk, Daves may have viewed the melodramatic plot more ironically than was apparent at the time it came out. In particular, some of the coy dialogue about sex (Dee asks Donahue, ""Have you been bad with girls?") and Constance Ford's over-the-top villainy as the mother, particularly when she slaps Dee so hard she falls down and pulls a Christmas tree on top of herself, seem more parody than serious drama.
Warners tried to interest Wood in the role of young Molly, but she turned them down, a move she would later say she regretted. Instead, the studio borrowed Dee from Universal. They didn't need to borrow Donahue from Universal. That studio had just let him go after a brief contract during which his most notable role was the racist boyfriend who beats up Susan Kohner in Imitation of Life when he learns she's black. To bolster the younger actors, the studio cast seasoned pros in the major adult roles, including Richard Egan as Dee's father and Dorothy McGuire as Donahue's mother. Multiple Oscar® nominee Arthur Kennedy played McGuire's alcoholic husband, while stage actress Constance Ford, later a fixture on the daytime drama Another World, got her first major film role as Egan's prudish, bigoted wife.
The studio gave the picture top production values, with cinematography by Harry Stradling, who had won an Oscar® for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and would win another for My Fair Lady (1964), and a score by their top composer, Max Steiner. The New England locations were shot on the Monterey Peninsula and the Clinton Walker House in Carmel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, became Egan and McGuire's beach home after their marriage. Unfortunately, the West Coast locations led to one major mistake in the film -- a scene in which the sun sets in the ocean, something that would never happen on the Atlantic coast.
Dee was already building a solid fan following thanks to appearances earlier that year in Gidget and Imitation of Life. With A Summer Place, however, she had her strongest dramatic role to date. Although she had grown up fast as a teen model and, as her son would reveal years later, a survivor of child sexual abuse, Dee was still a child when she made the film (17 according to her mother; 15 according to son Dodd Darren, who claimed his grandmother had added two years to Dee's age so she could go to work younger). This meant she still had to attend school for three hours a day while filming. During one of her most emotional scenes, in which her mother forces her to visit a doctor to determine if she is still a virgin, she had to interrupt shooting to take a French test.
Donahue had won his screen test for A Summer Place because Daves owed his agent, the famous Henry Willson, a favor. As agent to Rock Hudson and some of Warner's top contract players, Willson even got Daves to direct the test, with Donahue opposite Dee rather than some studio starlet. Though he had little film acting experience, Donahue had lots of experience with women, which almost cost him the role. The test required a kiss, something Donahue had never done on screen before. It took several takes for him to conquer his natural instinct to open his mouth. But conquer it he did, landing the role that would make him a star. Daves showcased him perfectly in the film, with a brilliantly lit first shot in which he turns to the camera revealing perfect (if vacant) blond good looks and a flattering V-neck sweater. In perfect Hollywood style, nobody recognized Donahue when he went into the film's preview in Pasadena, but teenaged girls and more than a few Hollywood executives mobbed him once the screening was over. Universal tried to hire him back, only to learn he had already signed with Warner Bros. One measure of his success in A Summer Place was the fact that sales of V-neck sweaters soared after the film came out.
The critics were not exactly the film's target audience. The New York Times dismissed it as "one of the most laboriously and garishly sex-scented movies in years. With a tedious bluntness of speech and imagery that few people should accept as adult realism, this raucously sensual drama spells out the clashes and intertwinings of two clans on a New England island. It tells -- trumpets, is better -- how two nice adolescents are almost crushed by four persons best described as delinquent adults. The whole thing leaves a rancid taste." Variety, while acknowledging the picture's box-office appeal, complained that Daves "has missed the mark by a mile....The film runs at least 20 minutes too long and has a tendency to use dialogue to 'preach' what should be implied, to be harsh where it should be sensitive, and it makes the most of Hollywood's newly-discovered freedom to display the voluminous vocabulary of sex." It also landed on the Harvard Lampoon's ten worst list and won Dee their Worst Supporting Actress Award.
Yet A Summer Place had undeniable appeal. Whether it was the scandal or the simplicity of Daves' adaptation, it clearly resonated with audiences. Egan's condemnation of his wife's bigotry earned a standing ovation during the premiere showing at New York's Radio City Music Hall. With its October 1959 release, A Summer Place didn't place on the top 20 box office lists for either 1959 or 1960, but its $4.7 million in rentals was higher than most of the films in the 1959 list. It also helped Dee land a place as one of the top ten box office stars of 1960.
No doubt, A Summer Place was helped tremendously by its hit theme song, the biggest success of Steiner's career. The Percy Faith recording held the number one slot on Billboard's Top 100 for nine weeks and won the Grammy for Record of the Year. The theme would become a hit again in 1965 in a vocal arrangement for the Letterman and even scored in a disco version, again by Faith, in 1976. The theme's status as an icon of young love in the late '50s is attested to by its inclusion in the soundtracks of later films like Diner (1982) and Ocean's Eleven (2001).
Producer-Director-Screenplay: Delmer Daves
Based on the novel by Sloan Wilson
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Art Direction: Leo K. Kuter
Score: Max Steiner
Principal Cast: 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), Eleanor Audley (Mrs. Harrington), Richard Deacon (Pawnbroker), Ann Doran (Mrs. Talbert), Bonnie Franklin (Girl in Dormitory).
by Frank Miller
A Summer Place
A Summer Place - Sandra Dee & Troy Donahue in a tale of teen angst - A SUMMER PLACE on DVD
Synopsis: Exclusive, private Pine Island is the home of Bart and Sylvia Hunter (Arthur Kennedy and Dorothy McGuire) and their run-down summer boarding hotel. Bart is shocked when a reservation comes in from Ken Jorgenson (Richard Egan), a millionaire who began as a lifeguard at the resort twenty years ago. Bart swallows his pride to welcome Ken and his wife Helen (Constance Ford) and daughter Molly (Sandra Dee). Trouble follows immediately. Ken's real reason to return is to see if his teenage romance with Sylvia still has sparks, and on the very first night they make plans to leave their spouses. While Brad drinks heavily, the ultra-repressive and frigid Helen loses control of the young Molly, who drifts naturally into the arms of the Hunters' handsome young son John (Troy Donahue).
Establishment film reviewers and church representatives condemned the late 50s cult of Teen Pix for celebrating gang violence and other forms of teenage irresponsibility. The fear was that movies like The Cool and the Crazy encouraged 'nice' kids to try drugs and go bad; over-reacting high school principals tried to compensate by enforcing lame dress codes.
The major studios soon stepped in to get a piece of the teens-in-trouble fad. Why go see a cheap B&W picture with unknown talent when Warners can give you Sandra Dee in Technicolor? Delmer Daves' writing reputation was built a decade earlier and his work outside of westerns was showing its age ... his fine 3:10 to Yuma and The Hanging Tree were written by others. His script for A Summer Place is obvious, awkward and wholly artless, and propped up with sensitive psychological lectures for the audience. Ken Jorgenson spouts off against his wife's obnoxious prudery as if he'd just discovered it, eighteen years into their marriage. Helen practically foams at the mouth as she imagines her daughter's 'kissing and mauling' at the hands of the impossibly clean-cut Troy Donahue.
Parts of the show are now unintentionally funny. Director Daves allows Arthur Kennedy to grossly overact the alcoholic snob Bart, while the normally benign Beulah Bondi hangs around dispensing unwanted advice to poor tortured Dorothy McGuire.
All of the exaggerated nonsense -- the bras and girdles thrown overboard, Helen Jorgenson's rabid attitude -- suddenly melts when Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee take a stroll on the Maine shoreline (actually Carmel, California) to the smooth melody of Max Steiner's 'summer love' romance theme. John and Molly kiss immediately. She may look like a blonde creampuff but she's no Shirley Temple. When these two exchange 'the look', A Summer Place grabs the interest and sympathy of every petting-age young person in the audience.
1959 was still the era of issues like, 'how far should a good girl go?' Unprotected hearts were mowed down just as cruelly as in any other era, but the psychology of the late 50s applied all kinds of mottos to define Good Girl behavior: The most horrible fate imaginable seemed to be being branded as a Bad Girl. Unlucky girls that got into trouble soon learned how cruel the Double Standard could be.
A reasonable argument can be made that A Summer Place is actually less responsible than its sleazy cousins down in the trenches of Allied Artists and A.I.P.. Delmer Daves' glamorized fantasy (from a novel by Sloan Wilson, the author of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit) eliminates any trace of the harsh economic realities that unwed mothers must face. Molly Jorgenson arrives at a private island in a chartered yacht. Her father is so wealthy that we never even hear him mention work; his home is a Frank Lloyd Wright dream fortress perched on a dazzling beach. Ken accuses Helen of prejudice for not wanting to live near unpleasant minorities, and then sets himself up in a millionaire's roost far away from the madding crowd.
Helen's tyranny is so overstated that A Summer Place could easily become a story of justified murder. When we first meet Molly she's rebelling against wearing the rigid underwear chosen by her perverse mother to 'de-sex' her. On the other hand, Molly is allowed to wear adult makeup that sets off her doe eyes and peaches 'n' cream complexion; the real Helen Jorgenson would never allow this (and Molly would surely be just as cute). We instead get dozens of drop-dead soft focus close-ups of Sandra Dee guaranteed to make any teenage girl demand a full Max Factor makeover.
The example of the 'bad' parents (one alcoholic snob, one frigid harpy) is used to excuse John and Molly from any wrongdoing. Purposely getting pregnant might seem a proper revenge against a mother like Helen. At any rate, A Summer Place surely encourages every kid feeling the weight of parental pressure to conclude that it's all the fault of rotten Mom and Dad. Angry John and pouting Molly reject their 'Good' parents while demanding that the world recognize their right to love.
A Summer Place indulges John and Molly's illusion of isolation. "We're all alone," Molly whispers, even though they can flee to the understanding and forgiving Ken and Sylvia at any time. The extreme of their suffering is being forced to sell Molly's mink coat so they can flee to get married. Scenes in which Molly sees a doctor and Ken pawns the coat were filmed but dropped; in the average teens-get-preggers saga they would be key material. A Summer Place spares the young lovers from the consequences of their irresponsibility. We last see John and Molly inheriting the fixer-upper family mansion. They forget about college educations and instead become proud owners of a bed & breakfast stopover for the exclusive set. I recommend they fire the handyman Todd right away ... he's the rat who finked on them in the first place.
When Molly and John's father and mother become husband and wife, A Summer Place takes on a weird quasi-incestuous feel. That added emotional confusion makes the 'perfect' Molly and John seem all that more attractive ... and dangerous as role models. In this show, 'getting in trouble' guarantees true love, lots of attention and a quick ticket to the best things in life. I don't think the average unwed mother has it quite so cushy.
Director Daves drenches A Summer Place in pretty scenery, handsome crane shots and beautiful close-ups. Sandra Dee, in 1959 parlance, is truly dreamy. Dee and the underrated Richard Egan put in the best work. Egan looks radiantly happy to be reunited with his daughter while McGuire remains in the background. Poor Constance Ford is stuck playing the Wicked Witch of the West. Troy Donahue made a big splash in this picture. Delmer Daves took a career nosedive by starring the inexpressive actor in a pair of subsequent romantic soaps.
Warner DVD's disc of A Summer Place is a sparkling and colorful enhanced transfer of good film elements. Only a few shots seem grainy and we get to see exactly why the camera loved Miss Dee. Max Steiner's memorable score sounds great, and his main theme has definitely transcended its original context. Many people between 50 and 65 or so will have a galvanic reaction to the tune's first appearance, when Dee and Donahue take their little walk by the shore. The song perfectly evokes the feeling of young love at the end of the 1950s.
The only extra is a trailer that sells the film as Peyton Place, only with a much more permissive attitude. I mean, the word 'place' in both titles can't be a coincidence, can it?
For more information about A Summer Place, visit Warner Video. To order A Summer Place, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
A Summer Place - Sandra Dee & Troy Donahue in a tale of teen angst - A SUMMER PLACE on DVD
Sandra Dee, 1944-2005
She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin.
Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide.
Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart.
Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years.
The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977).
Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia.
by Michael T. Toole
Sandra Dee, 1944-2005
TCM Remembers - Pauline Kael/Troy Donahue
Pauline Kael, who died September 3rd at the age of 82, was one of the handful of film critics who made a noticable impact on the way we view movies. Her mix of personal feelings with more abstract aesthetics inspired numerous other critics (sometimes called "Paulettes") and in a few cases even made big hits of movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She claimed to never see a movie more than once or to change her mind about it later. Several collections of her work are available, most with mildly risque titles like I Lost It at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Going Steady.
Kael was born June 19, 1919 in Petaluma, California but moved with her family to San Francisco during her teens. There she majored in philosophy at University of California at Berkeley though she didn't graduate (the school later gave her an honorary degree). That's when she started to develop a serious interest in movies. In addition to the usual writer's assortment of jobs (seamstress, cook, retail clerk) she started writing about film in 1953; her first review was of Charlie Chaplin's Limelight which she disliked. She wrote for several small publications and did a radio show on the groundbreaking network KPFA before finally landing a job at the high-profile McCall's only to be fired shortly after she panned The Sound of Music (1965) (which she called The Sound of Money). During this period she was also managing and programming Berkeley Cinema Guild Theatres (one of the country's earliest repertoire cinemas despite being basically small rooms above a laundry), and was briefly married to avant-garde filmmaker James Broughton.
The turning point came in 1965 when I Lost It at the Movies not only attracted major critical attention but became a strong seller in book stores. Two years later legendary editor William Shawn hired Kael as film critic for The New Yorker, completing her jump into the limelight. Kael never shied away from controversy as two other events proved. In the early Sixties she engaged in an infamous and surprisingly bitter debate with critic Andrew Sarris among others about the merits of auteurism, the French-born philosophy that believes the director is the chief creative person behind any film. Kael's anti-intellectual streak came forward but since auteurism wasn't meant to be a genuinely rigorous theory (such attempts came later in the 70s) this was a sort of Brer Rabbit vs. tar baby fight that Kael could never win. The other notorious controversy occured in 1971 with her essay "Raising Kane" which was intended to show that screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz deserved as much if not more credit for Citizen Kane (1941) than Orson Welles. While Mankiewicz's contribution had clearly been underappreciated, most of Kael's conclusions and even some of her factual basis have been disproven though she never bothered to revise the essay.
In 1979, Kael made a detour to Hollywood by the urging of Warren Beatty. She was meant to be an "executive consultant" at Paramount but actually making movies is quite a different matter than writing about them so Kael lasted only five months. She went back to The New Yorker, eventually retiring in 1991 partly as a result of Parkinson's Syndrome. She still kept up with movies though, loving such smaller films as Vanya on 42nd Street and actors like Jim Carrey (who "has practically kept movies alive the past few years" she said in 1998).
By Lang Thompson
Troy Donahue 1936-2001
Troy Donahue died September 2nd at the age of 65. He was a fixture in movies during the 1950s, playing an assortment of heartthrobs and borderline tough guys. Donahue was actually Merle Johnson Jr, born in New York City on Jan 27, 1936. He went to Columbia University and started acting in small theatrical roles which eventually led to film appearances, the earliest ones uncredited. His first was Man Afraid (1957) but Donahue also made brief TV appearances at the time on shows like Wagon Train. He signed with Warner Brothers in 1959 and immediately jumped to stardom in films like A Summer Place and Imitation of Life (both 1959). He was busy in a variety of films during this periods - notably Parrish (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962) - but also starred in the TV series Surfside 6 (1960) and Hawaiian Eye (1962 and predating Hawaii Five-O by several years). Donahue's career declined as the Sixties became more turbulent but he still made notable appearances in The Godfather Part II (1974), playing a character with Donahue's own real name, and Monte Hellman's Cockfighter (1974). Most of Donahue's later films were direct-to-video efforts like Nudity Required and Omega Cop but trash aesthete John Waters, a huge fan, used him for Cry-Baby (1990).
By Lang Thompson
TCM REMEMBERS CARROLL O'CONNOR 1924-2001
Carroll O'Connor - who died June 21st at the age of 76 - will be best remembered for portraying Archie Bunker on TV's All in the Family but his career actually was much more extensive. Born in New York on August 2nd, 1924, O'Connor served in the merchant marine during World War II before attending the University of Montana where he worked on the school newspaper. Before graduating, he followed his brother to another college in Ireland (he would later get a Masters in speech from Montana). It was in Ireland that O'Connor started acting in several local productions. He returned to the U.S. for his Broadway debut in 1958 and shortly after started to appear on numerous TV shows like The Untouchables and Naked City. His first film was Parrish (1961) though he eventually acted in over a dozen films during the Sixties including Cleopatra (1963), Marlowe (1969), Hawaii (1966) and Point Blank (1967). O'Connor even auditioned for the part of the Skipper in the TV series, Gilligan's Island, but it was his role as Archie Bunker in a 1971 sitcom that made him a star. All in the Family was an American version of the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part that met some initial resistance (ABC rejected the first two pilots) but quickly captivated American audiences and became the country's top-rated TV show. Archie became such an icon that his chair is now preserved in the Smithsonian. The series lasted until 1979 and brought O'Connor four Emmys, even leading to a four-year spinoff Archie Bunker's Place starring O'Connor. (It also produced one of TV's oddest spinoffs in1994's 704 Hauser about a multi-racial family living in Archie Bunker's old house. It had no cast members from the earlier series and only lasted six episodes.) In 1988, O'Connor took the role of a Southern sheriff in a TV series based on the movie In the Heat of the Night and found himself in another hit, this one lasting until 1995. He also occasionally played Helen Hunt's father on Mad About You. By all accounts, O'Connor was nothing like Archie Bunker; in fact, O'Connor was an active anti-drug crusader, partly the result of his son's drug-related suicide.
By Lang Thompson
TCM REMEMBERS JACK LEMMON 1925-2001
Whether playing a cross-dressing jazz bassist or a bickering roommate, Lemmon has kept his fans in stitches for fifty years. But beneath that comedian's facade, the actor had a very serious side, which occasionally surfaced in such films as Days of Wine and Roses (1962) or Costa-Gavras' political thriller Missing (1982). Lemmon was truly a one-of-a-kind actor and his track record for acclaimed performances is truly remarkable: 8 Oscar nominations (he won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, 8 British Academy Award nominations, 4 Emmy Award nominations, numerous Golden Globe nominations, a two-time Best Actor winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the list goes on and on.
Lemmon entered the world in a completely novel fashion; he was born prematurely in an elevator in Boston in 1925. The son of a doughnut manufacturer, Lemmon later attended Harvard University but was bitten by the acting bug and left the prestigious college for Broadway. Between theatrical gigs, he played piano accompaniment to silent films shown at the Knickerbocker Music Hall in New York. Later, Lemmon claimed that he learned more about comic technique by watching these Chaplin, Keaton and Harold Lloyd two-reelers than acting school could have ever taught him.
From Broadway and early TV appearances to Hollywood, Lemmon moved West to make his screen debut in It Should Happen to You (1954), opposite Judy Holliday in a variation of her 'dumb blonde' persona that had won her an Oscar for Born Yesterday (1952). In It Should Happen to You, Holliday plays a struggling actress who soon wins fast fame as the product of promotion. Lemmon plays her levelheaded boyfriend but finds himself on the sidelines when the suave and sophisticated Peter Lawford appears on the scene. It Should Happen to You, directed by George Cukor, was a popular success and Lemmon and Holliday were quickly teamed again in Phffft! (1954), another lightweight romantic comedy. A year later, Lemmon hit the major leagues when he supported Hollywood heavyweights Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell in Mister Roberts (1955). As Ensign Pulver, a deckhand who avoids work whenever possible, Lemmon won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar®.
Onscreen, Lemmon's characters often found that they were the wrong men for their jobs. In Cowboy (1958), Lemmon plays a city slicker venturing out on the wild frontier. His romantic visions of the West are soon changed by the hard-living, hard-drinking reality. Cowboy is based on the autobiography of Frank Harris, and, like the author, Lemmon found himself adapting to the rough and tumble lifestyle on the trail.
Lemmon brought a new comic persona to Hollywood films. He combined elements of screwball and slapstick comedy with his own self-deprecating humor to create satiric portraits of the contemporary American male. The sometimes cynical comic sense of director Billy Wilder provided Lemmon with the perfect complement. Together they made seven films, but it was their first, Some Like It Hot (1959), that captured the sheer comic genius of their collaborations together.
From sexual antics to social critique, Lemmon and Wilder sharpened their comic knives on the hypocrisies they saw in American culture. The Apartment (1960) focused on a working stiff who lends his home to his supervisors for their extramarital affairs. Problems arise when Lemmon falls for his boss's paramour - it gets even more complicated when she tries to kill herself in his pad! Though The Apartment was a comic success, with each passing year the film's serious side seems even more dark and derisive. Illicit love and the corruption of big business might not seem to be the stuff of hit comedies, but Wilder and Lemmon found humor in the most unlikeliest of places. Director and comic star went on to make five more films: Irma la Douce (1963), The Fortune Cookie (1966), Avanti! (1972), The Front Page (1974) and Buddy Buddy (1981).
Billy Wilder and Lemmon's lifelong comic foil Walter Matthau (nine collaborations with Lemmon in 32 years, including their most popular film, The Odd Couple, 1968) brought some of the comedian's finest funny moments to the screen. But there was a serious side too. Lemmon waived his salary to act in Save the Tiger (1973), the 'great American tragedy' of a businessman at the end of his rope. Lemmon won his second Academy Award for the film. In Missing (1982), directed by the uncompromising Costa-Gavras, Lemmon played a patriotic father searching for his kidnapped son in Latin America. The closer he gets to his goal, the clearer it becomes that a government conspiracy is behind his son's disappearance. Missing was inspired by a true story - the production was condemned by the Reagan administration and awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival.
Very few actors today can match Lemmon's range on the screen. He has acted in everything from lightweight sex farces (How to Murder Your Wife, 1965) to musicals (My Sister Eileen, 1955) to social dramas (Days of Wine and Roses, 1962) to political thrillers (The China Syndrome, 1979). Turner Classic Movies cherishes the memory of this remarkable talent.
By Cino Niles & Jeff Stafford
ANTHONY QUINN, 1915-2001
Not many actors can boast that they've inspired a Bob Dylan song but Anthony Quinn - who passed away June 3rd at the age of 86 - was one of the select few. But that's just one of many incidents in a life that can only be described as colorful. If a novelist had invented a character like Quinn, she would be accused of unbelievable invention. But in Quinn's case, it's all true.
Quinn was born April 21, 1915 in Mexico. His parents were involved in Pancho Villa's revolutionary struggle and must have made a striking couple since the father was half Irish and mother Mexican Indian. The couple were married on a train of rebel soldiers. After Quinn's birth, the family soon moved to East Los Angeles (after a quick Texas detour) where Quinn grew up in the shadow of Hollywood. (A branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library now occupies the site of Quinn's childhood home; in 1981 it was renamed in his honor.) At the age of 11 he won a sculpture award and shortly after began studying architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Wright in fact who suggested the possibility of acting to Quinn and even paid for an operation to cure a speech impediment. Along the way, Quinn also dabbled in professional boxing (he quit after his 17th match, the first he lost) and street-corner preaching. He continued to sculpt and paint for the rest of his life while also becoming a noted art collector.
Quinn's acting debut was in 1936 initially in a handful of barely noticable spots as an extra until he landed a speaking role in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman, supposedly on the recommendation of the film's star, Gary Cooper. One unanticipated result was that Quinn married DeMille's daughter the following year; they appeared together in Phil Karlson's Black Gold (1947) and had five children. Quinn also appeared on stage in 1936 playing opposite Mae West. Quinn continued in film parts that gathered acclaim: Crazy Horse in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), a gambler in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), a soldier in Guadalcanal Diary (1943).
But it was the 1950s when Quinn broke out. Viva Zapata!(1952) provided him a wonderful role which he used to win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Oddly enough, in Viva Zapata! Quinn worked with Marlon Brando who he had replaced in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. (Director Elia Kazan tried to start a rivalry between the two actors but they were great admirers of each other.) Quinn again won Best Supporting Actor playing painter Paul Gauguin Lust for Life (1956) which at the time was the shortest on-screen time to win an acting Oscar. The following year came was a Best Actor nomination for George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind (1957). As he did throughout his career, Quinn rarely hesitated to take work whereever he found it, which resulted in dozens of potboilers like Seven Cities of Gold (1955) but also a few cult favorites like Budd Boetticher's The Magnificent Matador (1955). It was a trip to Italy that brought Quinn one of his most acclaimed roles: a simple-minded circus strongman in Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954). Quinn directed his only film in 1958, The Buccaneer, a commercial failure he later attributed to producer Cecil DeMille's interference. Towards the end of that decade he appeared in Nicholas Ray's The Savage Innocents (1959) as an Eskimo, inspiring Bob Dylan to write "Quinn the Eskimo" (a Top Ten hit for Manfred Mann in 1968). In 1965, his relationship with an Italian costumer created a minor scandal when it was revealed that the couple had two children. Quinn divorced DeMille's daughter and married the costumer.
He continued the same mix of classics and best-forgotten quickies throughout the 1960s and '70s. A key role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) only confirmed his talents while he again earned a Best Actor nomination for the unforgettable lead role in Zorba the Greek (1964). The gritty crime drama Across 110th Street (1972) is one of the best American movies of its decade, enhanced by Quinn's turn as an embattled police captain. Quinn was a pope in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), an Islamic leader in The Message (1976), a thinly disguised Aristotle Onassis in The Greek Tycoon (1978) and an assortment of gangsters, con men, military leaders and what have you. The rest of his career might be summed up by the year 1991 when he gathered critical acclaim for his appearance in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, was nominated for a Razzie as Worst Actor in Mobsters, co-starred with Bo Derek in Ghosts Can't Do It, worked beside John Candy and Macaulay Culkin in Chris Columbus' Only the Lonely and made a film so obscure it appears to have never appeared on video. Quinn married his third wife in 1997; they had one son. He had just completed the title role in Avenging Angelo (with Sylvester Stallone) at the time of his death.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Pauline Kael/Troy Donahue
Have you been bad, Johnny? Have you been bad with other girls?- Molly Jorgenson
Delmer Daves's credit reads "Written, Produced and Directed by Delmer Daves." In the film, "Ken" and "Sylvia" mention that their beachfront house was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house, which is known as the Clinton Walker House, still stands, and has become a tourist landmark outside Carmel, CA. The film that "Molly" and "Johnny" pretend to see is the 1933 RKO production, King Kong (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). A February 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the role of Molly, which was played by Sandra Dee, was "meant for" Natalie Wood. According to a modern source, Wood later regretted turning down the part. An April 1959 New York Times article reported that Sloan Wilson, the author of the book on which the film was based, wrote the first screenplay, incorporating the twenty-seven-year span covered in his novel, but Daves was not pleased with it and so wrote his own screenplay for the film. The New York Times article also reported that a seventeen-mile-drive on the Monterey Peninsula was used to portray the Eastern seaboard. Warner Bros. studio notes contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library stated that portions of the film were shot on location at Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey and Pebble Beach, CA.
In the April 1959 New York Times article, Daves was quoted as saying that the "two affairs [in the film] May sound sensational, but...we have received the approval of the Johnston Office because the intent of the picture is a moral one." According to the Variety review, the film "makes the most of Hollywood's newly-discovered freedom to display the voluminous vocabulary of sex....A couple of years ago, A Summer Place wouldn't have been made." The Hollywood Reporter review stated, "It is an absorbing study of sex as it affects most of our lives, though no civilized person will find in it anything that is cheap or nasty...." On the other hand, the New York Times review reported that Wilson's "novel emerges as one of the most laboriously and garishly sex-scented movies in years," and the Los Angeles Mirror review described A Summer Place as "so preoccupied with sex, you would think it has just been invented."
The film was a box office hit. An orchestral rendition of the love theme from Max Steiner's score, as recorded by Percy Faith and sung by The Letterman placed number one on popular music charts for many weeks and was awarded a Grammy for the 1960 Record of the Year. Since the film was released, the music has become iconic, often used briefly in films or television programs to signal love at first sight or young love. The music and scenes from the film have appeared in numerous later films, among them, Diner (1982) and Ocean's Eleven (2001).
According to a November 2002 Hollywood Reporter news item, Edmonds Entertainment and Storyopolis were planning a remake of A Summer Place, to be written by Nicholas DiBella and to star Mandy Moore. The producers of the respective companies were Tracey and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and Fonda Snyder. As of May 2005, this project has not been realized.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States on Video July 18, 1990
Troy Donahue appears in his first featured role.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States on Video July 18, 1990