Movie Review of the 1963 Disney live-action classic Summer Magic, starring Burl Ives and Hayley Mills
Director: James Neilson.
Studio: Walt Disney Studios.
Plot: At the turn of the 20th century, the Carey family finds themselves penniless after their father dies. The family moves from Boston, Mass. to Beulah, Maine and a home daughter Nancy (Mills) remembers the family admiring while they were on vacation. Once they arrive at the home, they find it run-down, but with the help of post master Osh Popham (Ives), the family fixes up the home. Surrounding the bustle of fixing up the home, the Carey’s snobby orphan cousin Julia (Walley) comes to live with them, and Julia and Nancy fall for the same boy (Stacey).
-Summer Magic is based off the book “Mother Carey’s Chickens” by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin.
-The film is also a remake of the non-musical 1938 drama Mother Carey’s Chickens, starring Anne Shirley, Ruby Keeler, James Ellison, Walter Brennan, Fay Bainter, Virginia Weidler and Ralph Morgan.
-The movie was originally supposed to star Annette Funicello.
-The song “On the Front Porch” is songwriter Robert Sherman’s personal favorite song from his own work, according to Sherman’s 1998 book “Walt’s Time: Before and Beyond.”
-Walt Disney didn’t like the song “Ugly Bug Ball,” sung by Burl Ives. Sherman persuaded Disney to keep the song and it went on to be a popular song from the film, according to Sherman’s book.
-The youngest brother, Peter Carey, is played by Jimmy Mathers—brother to Jerry Mathers of Leave It to Beaver fame.
-Dorothy McGuire’s singing is dubbed by Marilyn Hooven.
Most of the songs are silly and forgettable but are still pretty catchy, lighthearted and enjoyable. Some of my favorites include:
“Femininity” – Nancy and Julia sing this song to Lallie Joy Popham (Wendy Turner) so that Nancy’s brother Gilly (Hodges) will notice her. The song tells Lallie Joy to “hide the real you,” “men adore good listeners” and “don’t laugh too loud”
“Pink of Perfection” – Gillie and Nancy sing a song making fun of Julia, saying she is a “dainty baboon,” has the “the charm of a moose” and has knock knees. The song captures the siblings’ disdain upon hearing their cousin is coming to stay with them.
“Ugly Bug Ball” - Sung by Osh and Peter. It’s not personally my favorite song in the film and is mainly footage of different bugs crawling, but it’s catchy and cute.
“Flitterin’”- Sung by Mills, Hodges and McGuire (dubbed). The family sings it when they get a player piano as they are packing to Maine. It’s a brief little tune, but it’s catchy. Really, I enjoy it because I sang this song in the four times I have moved in the last two years.
Summer Magic isn’t as well known as other Disney films such as Old Yeller or The Parent Trap, but it is a lot of fun and is a movie I grew up on. It’s very colorful with gorgeous sets and costumes. If you like Hayley Mills films, you can’t go wrong with this one. Burl Ives and Una Merkel are added treats in this movie in supporting roles. Even through it’s silly, with forgettable songs and a sometimes crazy plot, Summer Magic is one of my favorites.
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Comet Over Hollywood, named for the 1938 Kay Francis film Comet Over Broadway, offers anything from Hollywood beauty tips to rants about Katherine Hepburn. Jessica Pickens is a journalism student at Winthrop University who is interested in silent films to anything made before 1964. She writes for Winthrop’s student newspaper, The Johnsonian, and the Shelby Star in Shelby North Carolina. Visit her Facebook page.