Summer of ’42 (1971): Tenderly Rendered Coming of Age Tale

A surprise success in 1971–a real box-office sleeper–The Summer of ’42 is a tenderly rendered coming-of-age tale, including the loss of virginity of a high school boy to an older woman.

Director Robert Mulligan, then best known for helming the 1962  Oscar-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, narrates the film as the grown-up counterpart of Hermie (Gary Grimes), a teenager of the War Years who has a crush on the beautiful twentysomething Dorothy (Jennifer O’Neill).

With O’Neill’s soldier husband off to war, Hermie convinces himself that he can take her husband’s place in every way.

Dorothy is amused by Hermie’ attention and attraction, at first letting him do ordinary chores, like carrying her groceries, or letting him accompany her. But, initially, she doesn’t think of him in sexual terms. Things change, when O’Neill becomes a young widow, after her husband is killed in battle.

Herman Raucher based his nostalgic script on his own experience, using the real names of past acquaintances (including the Jennifer O’Neill counterpart) as character names in his screenplay.

Oscar Awards:

Michel LeGrand’s evocative musical score won the Oscar.

Summer of ’42 was later novelized by Raucher, then followed up on screen by the less effective Class of ’44.


Running time: 105 Minutes.

Released: April 30, 1971

DVD: February 5, 2002