That Certain Summer
That Certain Summer is a 1972 American television movie directed by Lamont Johnson. The teleplay by Richard Levinson and William Link was the first to deal sympathetically with homosexuality. Produced by Universal Television, it was broadcast as an ABC Movie of the Week on November 1, 1972. A novelization of the film written by Burton Wohl was published by Bantam Books.
Divorced San Francisco contractor Doug Salter is looking forward to a summer visit from his fourteen-year-old son Nick, who lives in Los Angeles with his mother Janet. The boy does not know that his father is gay and committed to Gary McClain, his life partner of several years. Gary moves out temporarily in order to prevent Nick from suspecting the nature of their relationship. When Nick finds evidence of his father's secret life, the teen — filled with shame and disgust — runs away. Once reunited with his son, Doug attempts to explain his sexual orientation to him, with mixed results.
Looking back on the ground-breaking broadcast, Hal Holbrook recalls "I was an actor clearly not afraid of controversy . . . Anything that would make the audience think was worthwhile," although he turned down the role when it initially was offered to him. "I wasn't worried about whether the character was a gay person or not; the reason I turned it down, frankly, is I read the script and I didn't think much happened in it. I just thought it was kind of tame." After he discussed the script with Carol Rossen, who was to become his second wife, she responded, "You're going to get on the phone and call Hollywood and tell them you want to do this part before they give it to somebody else," and Holbrook did just that. He felt an emotional connection to the character in the film because at the time he had separated from his first wife and he hadn't told his two young children about the split. "It was very easy and natural for me to translate the emotional turmoil I personally was feeling into the turmoil [Doug] was feeling." The film remains important to him because it meant so much to so many people. "That's a good reason for being an actor, when you can do something decent that touches people's hearts and their minds, so you feel like you actually accomplished something," he says.
In an interview with the Dallas Voice, Martin Sheen reminisced, "I thought it was wonderful. There was a great deal of freedom in it because it wasn't about advocating a lifestyle or a sexuality. It was about two people who adored each other, and they weren't allowed to have a relationship that involved their sexuality." When asked if at the time he was concerned the role could affect his career, he responded, "I'd robbed banks and kidnapped children and raped women and murdered people, you know, in any number of shows. Now I was going to play a gay guy and that was like considered a career ender. Oh, for Christ’s sake! What kind of culture do we live in?"
- Hal Holbrook ..... Doug Salter
- Martin Sheen ..... Gary McClain
- Scott Jacoby ..... Nick Salter
- Hope Lange ..... Janet Salter
- Joe Don Baker ..... Phil Bonner
Principal production credits
- Producers ..... Richard Levinson, William Link
- Original Music ..... Gil Melle
- Cinematography ..... Vilis Lapenieks
- Art Direction ..... William D. DeCinces
Marilyn Beck of the New York Times called it "one of the finest pieces of drama you'll see this year on large or small screen." Judith Crist described it as "a giant step for television" in New York. TV Guide declared, "Television grows up," and in his review in the Los Angeles Times, Charles Champlin opined, "It is the best movie for TV I have yet seen . . . a film which would do honor to any size screen."
Awards and nominations
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Drama (Scott Jacoby, winner)
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program - Drama or Comedy (nominee)
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama - Original Teleplay (nominee)
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Hal Holbrook, nominee)
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Hope Lange, nominee)
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama - A Single Program (nominee)
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Mixing (nominee)
- Golden Globe for Best Movie Made for TV (winner)
- Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television (winner)
- American Cinema Editors Award for Best Edited Television Special (nominee)
- 1998 Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame Award (winner)