I have just watched Summer Magic again,it has been many years since I first saw the film. I enjoyed the film when it first came out and I still enjoyed it again today. It was one of those enjoyable films with a story and sheer entertainment, no swearing and a delight to watch. Great names like Burl Ives, Hayley Mills, Peter Brown etc, well do I need to go on, they all made the film. I was much younger when the first came out and my friend and I thought how wonderful it would be to walk down some stairs and have the lovely Peter Brown waiting for you. As I said I was younger then, but when I saw Summer Magic again today, I still had not changed my mind about Peter Brown waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me! I would recommend this film to everyone to watch.
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Summer MagicReviewed bysheila-hall60Vote: 9/10
I was searching for decent movies for my 3yr. old granddaughter,when I came upon this,and I am so glad that I did. I remembered it and it was such a delight seeing it again when I watched with her. She loved it,and especially the Burl Ives part singing"Ugly Bug Ball". Who wouldn't love that? The whole movie,is fun,entertaining and totally "non-objectionable",which would take a miracle to say that about a film made today! I would not let small children watch and learn the monstrous behavior of the hateful,smart-mouth brats that are in today's films! I thank God so much that old classics like this are available on VHS/DVD so I do not have "settle" for the worthless, valueless, garbage that makes up most of the majority of today's films. Turner Classic Movies makes up the majority of my own film-watching,and I am delighted to see via Forums how many young folks feel the same way,about the offerings of TV/films today. Anyone looking for a delightful film that the whole family can sit down and watch together without having to worry about embarrassing/offensive scenes or language,here is a perfect choice. Wonderful family values lessons as well. How easy is it to find those in a film made today?
Good or bad, happy or sad, come what may this will always be the most magical of the movies I saw in a theater as a child. Already charmed by its Disney-Norman Rockwell-Hallmark look at the Ragtime Age; this 12 year old boy was simply bowled over 30 minutes into the film by his first glimpse of Deborah Walley. Walley was already a teen queen from her "Gidget" film but had escaped my too-young-to-notice teen actresses consciousness until that day at the theater.
In her period costume this vision was the original "Pretty in Pink" and the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. And might explain my lifelong preference for redheads.
At its core "Summer Magic" is a Disney fairy tale cloaked in a "too-good-to-be-true" production design. If the term expressionist nostalgia ever applied to a film it is this one. Disney simply took basic plot elements form the novel and film "Mother Carey's Chickens" (1938), threw in a bunch of "Cinderella" elements, and had Dorothy McGuire softly reprise her performance in "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn".
If you can't find something here with which to connect, whether it is wistful identification or distanced examination of the film language elements, then you are probably already pretty much used up. Liking this film now is just having the willingness to exercise a little self-knowing whimsy.
Cinderella-wise you have a fairy prince, a glass slipper, a wicked step-sister, a wardrobe transformation scene, cute animals, a coach, songs, and a ball.
The songs are along the lines of those seen recently in "Enchanted" but without the elaborate special effects. A couple of these, "Pink of Perfection" and "Femininity", have been popping in and out of my head ever since 1963. Those two and "Ugly Bug Ball" have held up surprisingly well. "Flitterin" and "Beautiful Beulah" are decent if not especially memorable.
"On the Front Porch" was weak then and hasn't improved with age; it should have been trimmed from the film as that is the film's weakest (insert "boring" here) scene. The sequence should be of interest to film students as it is the only time the director has real difficulty keeping the cast focused; definitely a post-production challenge for the editor who did some damage control but could not salvage anything worth keeping.
Viewing the film today I found Wendy Turner (as Lallie Joy Popham-Virginia Weidler's role in the 1938 film) a revelation. Turner's is the most authentic performance; which is interesting because she was originally cast as the youngest of the three girls simply because she was slightly shorter than the 5' 2" Walley, not much was expected of this novice. Her ability to take acting for the camera direction must have been a pleasant surprise for James Neilson. She gets to do an ugly duckling wardrobe transformation sequence worthy of "Cinderella".
As often happened with Disney, elements were included to insure that it appealed to the widest demographic. So you have a shaggy sheep dog (where have I seen that before?), you have a couple of handsome young television actors (Peter Brown and James Stacy), you have a Moochie Corcoran hammy kid, you have the comedy relief of acting veterans Una Merkel and Burl Ives to appeal to parents, and you have liberal use of Disney's stock nature footage.
Although I was too dazzled by Walley to pay much attention to Hayley Mills this was probably her best performance for Disney, it was certainly the most difficult part she was given. Her acting was more polished than it had been in "Pollyanna" and the out-of-place English accent taught us young Disney viewers all about the concept of suspension of disbelief.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.