A Summer Place (film)

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A Summer Place
A Summer Place.jpg
Movie Poster
Directed by Delmer Daves
Screenplay by Delmer Daves
Based on The novel of the same name by
Sloan Wilson
Starring Richard Egan
Dorothy McGuire
Troy Donahue
Sandra Dee
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • November 18, 1959 (1959-11-18) (United States)
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.8 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]

A Summer Place is a 1959 romantic drama film based on the novel of the same name by Sloan Wilson. Delmer Daves directed the movie, which stars Richard Egan, Dorothy McGuire, Troy Donahue, and Sandra Dee. The film is now remembered mainly for one of its musical themes.[2]


The story examines the adult lives of two couples, starting with a pair of onetime teenage sweethearts and lovers, Ken (Richard Egan) and Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire), who had come from two different social strata. Ken was a self-supporting college student, working one summer as a lifeguard at Pine Island, an exclusive resort in Maine, while Sylvia's nouveau riche family stayed as guests of the owners. Ken and Sylvia later married other people, who were wrong for them. Ken's frigid wife, Helen (Constance Ford), has shut him out romantically, while Sylvia's husband, Bart (Arthur Kennedy), a former Naval officer during World War II, has become an alcoholic, gradually causing the loss of the family fortune. Ken has devoted himself to his career as a research chemist, while Sylvia has devoted herself to motherhood and charity work.

The saving grace of each marriage consists of their children, Sylvia's son, Johnny (Troy Donahue), and Ken's daughter, Molly (Sandra Dee).

Ken and Sylvia meet again on Pine Island after 20 years. Ken has become wealthy through his work, and Bart has turned his family's mansion (their sole remaining asset) into an inn, which has begun to fail and to deteriorate. Johnny and Molly meet and fall in love, and Ken and Sylvia rekindle their old romance.

Helen disapproves of Molly's friendship with Johnny, so she forbids Molly to see him again, but she disobeys her and sees Johnny anyway. Helen later discovers Ken and Sylvia's affair when Molly runs away.

Ken and Sylvia eventually divorce Helen and Bart, and they marry each other. Bart gains custody of Johnny and sends him to a boarding school, and Helen gains custody of Molly and likewise sends her to a boarding school. Johnny and Molly reunite at Christmas, but Helen finds out. Eventually Johnny, Molly, Ken, and Sylvia gather as a family at the home of the older couple.

Bart goes to the Chelsea Naval Hospital, near Boston, for treatment of his alcoholism, but not until Johnny and Molly visit him to seek his permission to marry, for Molly has become pregnant.

The movie ends with Molly and Johnny, happily married, at Pine Island.



Sloan Wilson wrote the first screenplay himself, which covered the 22-year span of the novel. Delmer Daves decided to write a new draft, focusing the action on one year. Daves was quoted during filming was saying:

I have two kids who are just about the same age of these two in A Summer Place and I know how difficult communication between generations can be. And while this may sound corny, it can be assisted by love and understanding. Amid some rather tempestuous social activities, this is what we are trying to demonstrate. That there are two affairs may sound sensational but that's not the point. We have received the approval of the Johnstone office because the intent of the picture is a moral one. Frankness and impatience will help pull the cork on a situation blocked by intolerance. What we are trying to do is dramatise that pulling of the cork.[3]

The movie was shot around the Monterey Peninsula.[3]

Release and reception[edit]

The movie became popular after its release, but had a mixed critical reception.[citation needed] The 1960 hit "Theme from A Summer Place" (composed by Max Steiner), was arranged and recorded by Percy Faith and performed by his Orchestra, enriched and improved on a secondary musical theme of the film; it remains a classic of its era, reaching Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for nine consecutive weeks. An early instrumental version of the song was recorded by the group Los Nómadas but only gained "Top 40" recognition in Mexico, despite Zane Ashton's (also known as Bill Aken) distinctly "teen-pop" flavored arrangement. A vocal version, with lyrics by Mack Discant, was a hit for The Lettermen in 1965. Singer Dean Torrence referenced the song's melody in Jan and Dean's "Like a Summer Rain" in 1966. Recently, Kenneth Brager has done an electronic remake of it entitled "Love Won't Leave Me Alone".

In popular culture[edit]

The movie was part of a plot point in the Barry Levinson movie Diner (1982). The theme plays in the opening minutes of "The Omega Man" (1971) as Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) drives his late model car around the deserted streets of Los Angeles. The theme of the movie was used at the end of the ABC-TV miniseries, Rose Red. The theme was also used during a scene between Tom Hulce (Pinto) and Sarah Holcomb (Clorette DePasto) during the toga party segment of National Lampoon's Animal House.

The theme is played as "our old song" in "Back to the Beach (1987),[4] in the museum scene in "Batman" (1989), in The La Trattoria restaurant in "Mickey Blue Eyes" (1999), the restaurant scene in "Oceans Eleven" (2001), the shopping mall in "Bandslam" (2009), and the dining room scene in "Beautiful Creatures" (2013).


  1. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  2. ^ A Summer Place (1959) at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ a b ' A SUMMER PLACE' ON THE CALIFORNIA COAST By PAINE KNICKERBOCKERSAN FRANCISCO.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Apr 1959: X7.
  4. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092608/soundtrack?ref_=tt_trv_snd

External links[edit]