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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Classic Film Review: Summer Magic (1963)

Summer Magic stars Hayley Mills as the daughter of a widow who is forced to sell most of their belongings and their house following a disastrous investment by her late husband. Nancy Carey (Mills) remembers this beautiful house they once saw in the country and has written, embellishing a little on their circumstances, to see if it's available. Osh Popham (Burl Ives), unofficially looking after the property while its owner is away, takes pity - without informing the owner. When the family arrive and settle in, Mrs Popham (Una Merkel) keeps threatening to tell the Careys the truth but good-hearted Osh keeps dodging around the issue. The cast is rounded out by Dorothy McGuire as Margaret Carey, Eddie Hodges as Gilly Carey, Michael J. Pollard as Digby Popham and Peter Brown as Tom Hamilton.

With songs by the Sherman brothers, I'm surprised this film isn't more popular. It's a classic Saturday afternoon family film with a mix of childish antics (such as the youngest boy's adventures with his dog) to the more grown-up preoccupations of love and rejection. The songs have slipped out of the popular consciousness for the most part, with only 'Ugly Bug Ball' being instantly recognisable. However, 'Flitterin'' is classic Sherman and it's pretty catchy, along with 'Beautiful Beulah' and 'Femininity'. It's noticeable that Mills is such a big star at this point that no one minds that her singing's below par - while Dorothy McGuire as her mother is dubbed!

With the arrival of a cousin halfway through, the film does feel a little bogged down with people. But, for the most part, it's sweet enough with various little plot lines to follow. Burl Ives is fantastic and Hayley Mills' performance is just what I expected. It's shaky in places but, ultimately, an enjoyable film, made all the better by Ives singing 'Ugly Bug Ball'. However, here's one you may not have heard...

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