Theme from A Summer Place

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"Theme from A Summer Place" is a song with lyrics by Mack Discant and music by Max Steiner, written for the 1959 film A Summer Place, which starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. It was recorded for the film as an instrumental by Hugo Winterhalter. Originally known as the "Molly and Johnny Theme", this lush extended cue,[1] as orchestrated by Murray Cutter, is not the main title theme of the film, but an oft-heard secondary love theme for the characters played by Dee and Donahue.

Following its introduction in the film by the Warner Bros. studio orchestra, the theme was recorded by many artists in both instrumental and vocal versions, and has also appeared in a number of subsequent films and television programs. The best-known version of the theme is an instrumental version by Percy Faith and his Orchestra that was a Number One hit for nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1960.[2]

Percy Faith version[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place"
Theme from A Summer Place - Percy Faith.jpg
Single by Percy Faith
from the album A Summer Place
ReleasedSeptember, 1959[4]
RecordedSeptember 11, 1959
StudioColumbia 30th Street Studio, New York City[5]
GenreEasy listening
LabelColumbia Records
Songwriter(s)lyrics by Mack Discant and music by Max Steiner
Official audio
"Theme from "A Summer Place"" on YouTube

Percy Faith recorded the most popular version of the theme, an instrumental orchestral arrangement, at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City.[5] It was released in September 1959 as a single on Columbia Records, credited to "Percy Faith and his Orchestra", prior to the November 1959 release of the film A Summer Place.[2]

The single was not an immediate hit, but after it entered the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at #96 on January 11, 1960, it ascended to number one in just six more weeks, on February 22, 1960,[2] going on to set an at-the-time record of nine consecutive weeks at number one,[2] a record which would not be broken until 1977, when "You Light Up My Life" spent ten weeks at the top of the chart. (Perez Prado's "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" remained at number one for 10 weeks on the Best Sellers in Stores chart in 1955, and Elvis Presley's double-sided hit "Don't Be Cruel/ Hound Dog" remained at number one for 11 weeks on the Best Sellers in Stores and Jockeys charts in 1956, all prior to the August 4, 1958 creation of the Hot 100 chart; The Beatles' "Hey Jude" tied, but did not break, the nine-week record in 1968.)[6]

The single was also in front of five consecutive #2 singles, none of which ever reached the Hot 100's summit: Jimmy Jones' "Handy Man" (29 February), Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go" (7-21 March), Bobby Rydell's "Wild One" (28 March), Paul Anka's "Puppy Love" (4-11 April), The Brothers Four's "Greenfields" (sometimes spelled "Green Fields") (18 April),[7] with Elvis Presley's "Stuck on You" (25 April - 9 May) in front of "Greenfields" during its last three weeks at #2.

"Theme From A Summer Place" remains the longest-running number one instrumental in the history of the Hot 100. Billboard ranked Faith's version as the Number One song for 1960. The Faith version reached number 2 in the UK, and it was also a number 1 hit in Italy under the title "Scandalo Al Sole."

Faith won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1961 for his recording. This was the first movie theme and the first instrumental to win a Record of the Year Grammy.

Faith re-recorded the song twice: first, in 1969, as a female choral version, then, in 1976, as a disco version[6] titled "Summer Place '76."

As reported by Casey Kasem on the American Top 40 broadcast of September 25, 1976, "Theme from A Summer Place" is the biggest hit on the American charts by a Canadian artist.

In 2008 Faith's original version was ranked at number 18 on Billboard's top 100 songs during the first 50 years of the Hot 100 chart.[8] The Billboard Book of Number One Hits called it "the most successful instrumental single of the rock era."

Weekly charts[edit]

Other cover versions[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place" has been covered by a number of artists in addition to Percy Faith, in both non-vocal instrumental versions, and with one or more vocalists either singing the Discant lyrics or a wordless melody line. The theme has also been referenced, sampled, or otherwise adapted into several other songs.

Instrumental versions[edit]

  • In 1960, Billy Vaughn included an instrumental orchestral arrangement of the theme as the title cut to his album Theme From A Summer Place released on Dot Records, which peaked at number one on the Billboard LP chart.
  • In 1961, Mantovani recorded an orchestral rendition of the theme for his album Mantovani Plays Music From 'Exodus' and Other Great Themes; the album reached the Top Ten on the UK charts.
  • In 1961 pianist George Greeley recorded a version for the soundtrack album of the film Parrish, which also featured other Max Steiner themes.
  • In 1961, Mexican rock band Los Nómadas recorded an instrumental version of the theme with a "teen pop" arrangement by Bill Aken (credited as Zane Ashton). The record made the top 40 charts in Mexico.[citation needed]
  • In 1961, American instrumentalist Chet Atkins recorded the song for his album Chet Atkins' Workshop.
  • In 1962, American rock and roll duo Santo & Johnny recorded a guitar-based arrangement of the theme for their album Come On In.
  • In 1962, the British instrumental band The Tornados included a guitar-based version on their British EP release More Sounds of the Tornados and on their U.S. LP The Original Telstar: The Sounds of the Tornadoes.
  • In 1966, The Mystic Moods Orchestra recorded an instrumental version on their U.S. album, Nighttide.
  • In 1968, the Jamaican group The Crystallites recorded a rocksteady instrumental version featuring organist Ike Bennett. The song was released as a single under the artist name of "Ike B and the Crystalites", with the song entitled "Illya Kuryakin", although (as an instrumental) it has no overt connection with the spy character Illya Kuryakin from the 1960s TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. apart from this title.
  • In 1969, the American instrumental rock band The Ventures included a cover of the theme on their album Hawaii Five-O, which reached number 11 on the Billboard LP chart and was later certified gold.
  • Brad Swanson's album The Whispering Organ Sounds of Brad Swanson (Thunderbird Records) included the song.

Vocal versions[edit]

Most vocal versions of the theme have featured the Discant lyrics. However, some featured wordless vocals by singers who voiced the melody line.


  • In 1966, vocal surf singer and producer Dean Torrence referenced a portion of the melody line of "Theme from A Summer Place" near the end of his song "Like a Summer Rain", which was self-released as a single credited to Jan and Dean.
  • In 2006, American R&B and hip hop singer Eamon sampled "Theme from A Summer Place" for his song "Elevator". The melody illustrates the song's description of "elevator music" as an aphrodisiac.
  • In 2006, Danish musician and producer Kenneth Bager created an electronic remake of the theme called "Fragment Four (Love Won't Leave Me Alone)" that was included on Bager's debut album Fragments from a Space Cadet. The remake combined a rhythmic dance version of the original "Theme from A Summer Place" melody with new lyrics consisting of repetitions of the words "Love won't leave me alone when you're gone", sung by vocalist Nikolaj Grandjean. The track also included electric violin solos by Jean-Luc Ponty.

In popular culture[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place" is frequently used as period background or soundtrack music in films and television programs set between 1959 and the mid-1960s. The theme has also become a ubiquitous representation of "peaceful music" and has been employed frequently in films, television shows and other popular culture to suggest peacefulness or in situations where inoffensive music is common (e.g. as stereotypical "elevator music"). It is also used for intentionally stereotypical comic effect when a show cuts away from a scene deemed to be too violent to display and shows peaceful images instead.[15]

More recently, the song's peaceful and relaxed theme has taken on a darker significance as it has been used ironically to convey an eerie sense of false security in horror productions, such as the TV miniseries Rose Red (2002), and the films Final Destination 3 (2006), Dark Shadows (2012) and Beautiful Creatures (2013).

In film[edit]

  • The Crowded Sky (1960) uses the theme (and also employs actor Troy Donahue from the film A Summer Place).
  • Claudelle Inglish (1961) uses the theme (and also employs actors Arthur Kennedy and Constance Ford from the film A Summer Place).
  • Susan Slade (1961) (which, like A Summer Place, was directed by Delmer Daves, scored by Max Steiner, features actor Troy Donahue, and deals with teenage pregnancy) re-used the theme in its score.
  • The Omega Man (1971) uses the theme (uncredited) as its pre-credits opening theme, just before the character "Neville" shoots up a building with a mutant in it.
  • National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) uses the Percy Faith version during the toga party, and bedroom scene between Pinto and Clorette, although the song does not appear on the soundtrack album.
  • My American Cousin (1985), which is set in the late 1950s, uses the theme.
  • Back to the Beach (1987), a parody of 1960s beach party movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, uses the theme.
  • Batman (1989) uses the original version in the scene where The Joker attempts to seduce Vicki Vale in the museum.
  • Cobb (1994), a biopic of baseball player Ty Cobb set in 1960, uses the theme.
  • Con Air (1997) uses the theme in a scene where the character "Pinball's" body falls out of the sky and onto a couple's Volvo.
  • A Civil Action (1998) uses the theme as the lawyers await a verdict in a hallway.
  • Mickey Blue Eyes (1999) contains the theme.
  • Ocean's Eleven (2001) uses the theme during a restaurant scene.
  • Rose Red (2002) common background music
  • Bad Boys II (2003) uses the theme in the scene of Marcus with his therapist.
  • Final Destination 3 (2006) contains the theme.
  • Surf's Up (2007) uses the theme in a brief cutaway scene depicting the domestic situation of two penguin boys and their mother.
  • Bandslam (2009) uses the theme during a shopping mall scene.
  • An Education (2009), which is set in 1962, contains the theme being played during the character "Jenny's" 17th birthday party.
  • Dark Shadows (2012) uses the Percy Faith version in the scene where the character "Angelique" is first seen driving a car.
  • Beautiful Creatures (2013) uses the theme during a dining room scene.
  • Legend (2015) uses the Percy Faith version in the scene where Regginald "Reggie" Kray stabs Jack "The Hat" McVitie.
  • The Shape of Water (2017) which is set in 1962, contains the Andy Williams vocal theme version, being played at a Cadillac dealership.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) uses the Andy Williams vocal theme version during a scene of the title character moving in slow motion.

In television[edit]

  • The 1970 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus entitled "Intermission" (Series 1, Episode 13) often used this music when announcing that there will be varying sizes of intermission.
  • In a 1982 episode of Police Squad!, a mime tries to act out the contents of a ransom note, and Officer Nordberg guesses it to mean "Theme From a Summer Place".
  • The 1993 episode of Roseanne entitled "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today" uses the theme.
  • The 1993 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" (Season 5, Episode 1) contains an ironic cover of the theme "sung" (as in, repeatedly singing the name to the tune of the song) by elderly Springfield citizen, Jasper Beardly.
  • The 1995 episode of Freakazoid! entitled "Relax-O-Vision" (Season 1, Episode 9) features a titular gag in which potentially frightening action sequences are replaced by peaceful stock footage accompanied by the theme. The theme is also used in a running gag in an earlier episode when a network censor announces that no harm occurred in the previous scene.
  • The 1997 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer entitled "Inca Mummy Girl" (Season 2, Episode 4), Oz references his fantasy girl would involve "A feather boa and the Theme from a Summer Place"
  • The 1999 episode of Histeria entitled "Americana" had the theme play in the "Plymouth Acres" segment.
  • The 2000 PBS documentary special "The Great Campaign of 1960" uses the song.
  • The 2002 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer entitled "Him" (Season 7, Episode 6) uses the theme.
  • The 2002 horror miniseries Rose Red uses the theme.
  • The 2002 episode of The Sopranos entitled “ "For All Debts Public and Prívate” (Season 4, Episode 1) uses the theme while Tony Soprano and Bobby Bakala get breakfast.
  • The 2008 episode of Mad Men entitled "The New Girl" (Season 2, Episode 5) uses the theme while Don Draper and Bobbie Barrett drive out to the beach.
  • The 2009 episode of 30 Rock entitled "The Bubble" (Season 3, Episode 15) uses the theme.
  • In the 2010 Disney Chanel series Fish Hooks the tune can be heard every time a camera close up is made to Steve Jackson. It goes with cheers and sounds of stars shining.
  • The tune can be heard in the 2016 HBO miniseries The Night Of (Episode 5, "The Season of the Witch").

In literature[edit]

In Haruki Murakami's short story "Men Without Women" in the 2014 collection of the same name, the first person narrator with an otherwise sophisticated taste for music remembers having sex to the Percy Faith version with a former lover about whose suicide he has been informed.

In other media[edit]

  • The 1976 BBC radio comedy series The Burkiss Way always uses this song for introducing its once-a-show spoof intermissions.
  • In the BBC VT 1985 Christmas tape, the song is used during the establishing shots of London in the "Revenge from Outer Space" short film.[16]
  • The 1989 video game Willow samples parts of its song when Willow enters a town in the game.
  • A slight variation of this song can be heard in the Shy Guy Beach and Cheep-Cheep Island tracks in the video game Mario Kart: Super Circuit.
  • An instrumental version of the song can be heard in the video game Kinect Sports: Season Two[17] during the tutorials.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hirschhorn, Clive. The Warner Bros. Story, Octopus Books, London, 1979, p. 343.
  2. ^ a b c d Bronson, Fred (1 October 2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). New York: Billboard Books. p. 75. ISBN 978-0823076772.
  3. ^ "Percy Faith And His Orchestra - The Theme From "A Summer Place"". Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  4. ^ Billboard Sep. 28, 1959 p 42
  5. ^ a b Simons, David (2004). Studio Stories - How the Great New York Records Were Made. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781617745164. Cf. especially, p.23-24 with an article on "The Church"
  6. ^ a b Bronson, p. 939.
  7. ^ Casey Kasem, "American Top 40", 29 April 1978
  8. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary – The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (20-11)". Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  9. ^ CHUM Hit Parade, March 28, 1960
  10. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 21 July 1960
  11. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1960-03-09. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  12. ^ "Hot 100 turns 60". Billboard. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  13. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1960-03-09. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  14. ^ Sketch Show, Audio Sponge Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  15. ^ Relax-O-Vision, TV Tropes
  16. ^ "BBC VT christmas 1". YouTube. 2008-03-28. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  17. ^ "Kinect Sports: Season Two (Video Game 2011) Soundtracks". IMDb. 2022-06-17. Retrieved 2022-06-17.