Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Magic ( 1963 )

Kate Douglas Wiggin's popular 1911 novel "Mother Carey's Chickens" was an ideal bit of literary property for Walt Disney Studios. It featured genteel characters, old-fashioned humor, a sweet story line, and a healthy dose of gaps in the plot ideal for musical intervals.

The story centered around a widowed mother ( Dorothy McGuire ) from Boston who moves her brood out of the city and into a long-vacant farmhouse in Maine. With the generous help of the local general store owner/postman/justice-of-the-peace Osh Popham ( Burl Ives ), they renovate the house unbeknownst to its owner, Tom Hamilton ( Peter Brown ), who is away in China. When Mr. Hamilton returns, he certainly is surprised to find his house being occupied by a family ( and rent free, at that! ).....but he soon comes to be smitten with the eldest daughter and everything turns out honky-dory. 

When Walt Disney decided to film the story in 1963 as Summer Magic, he gathered together some of his favorite leading players ( Hayley Mills, Dorothy McGuire, and Deborah Walley ) and a crackerjack pair of homespun character actors ( Burl Ives and Una Merkel ), dressed them up in colorful Bill Thomas period costumes, and surrounded them with bright and cheerful Carroll Clark sets. But he felt the story still needed some extra pizzazz, and so he asked the Sherman Brothers to pen some nostalgic-sounding tunes.... they came up with seven songs ( you could always trust the Sherman brothers to give more than what was needed ). What resulted was a pleasing, albeit fluffy, version of "Mother Carey's Chickens".
Summer Magic is a leisurely paced film that meanders along like sleepy folk heading home from an evening picnic. It captures that gentle lazy spirit of summer but not in so entertaining a way as Disney's own Pollyanna ( 1960 ) or MGM's Two Weeks with Love ( 1950 ). 

While the songs are fabulous ( especially noteworthy are "On the Front Porch", "The Ugly-Bug Ball", and "Femininity" ), the clever little touches of humor that are present in most Disney films was lacking, and both Hayley Mills and Deborah Walley's talents were wasted in parts that could have had more punch. The few scenes they played together were fun - especially the summer party croquet sequence - but there simply weren't enough of them. Screenwriter Sally Benson is at fault here, which is unusual considering she was the talented writer behind Meet Me in St. Louis ( 1944 ), Junior Miss ( 1946 ), and Come to the Stable ( 1949 ). 
Still, Hayley is a delight to watch and, even with the absence of the traditional Disney sparkle, sitting back with Summer Magic makes a pleasant way to spend a hot summer evening. Also cast in the film were Eddie Hodges, Michael J. Pollard, James Stacey, Peter Brown, and Jimmy Mathers ( younger brother to Jerry "Beaver" Mathers ). 


  1. The cast, songs, and atmosphere put it over. Also, for some, the touch of nostalgia associated with a long ago first viewing makes this a perennial favourite.

    1. It's a favorite in our family, too. Every time summer comes around, my sister and I get to urge to watch Hayley and the Yellow House.

  2. I absolutely adore Summer Magic... I believe it's one of the golden era of Disney movies at it's absolute finest!

    Your review here is nicely done. Especially love your line... "Summer Magic is a leisurely paced film that meanders along like sleepy folk heading home from an evening picnic. It captures that gentle lazy spirit of summer..." That is absolutely true! The music, actors, settings, and sweet story... all encompasses that endearing, homey Disney feel!

    Thank you for sharing this movie on this lovely Summer day!

    Blessings! Net :)

    1. Disney had such a way with capturing small-town America on film ( much like Frank Capra did in the 1930s ) but unfortunately, the studio stopped making those kind of movies in the 1970s. I miss them! They were wholesome, nostalgic, and just plain fun to watch.

  3. Thanks for sharing content and such nice information for me. I hope you will share some more content about. Summer magic please keeps sharing!

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