12 Classic Summer Movies

Summer is here, but it's too hot. Stay indoors and catch up on classic summer movies. Here's a list to get you started.
Sandra Dee in Gidget


Gidget (1959) - A kid finds a new beach hangout for the summer. It's Sandra Dee! She learns to surf and meets some cute guys in this classic coming-of-age story beach romp. Watch a Gidget clip here.

Life With Father (1947) - William Powell plays the bombastic father to four boys whose summer vacation at home is filled with surprises. Watch the preview here.
Life With Father

The Seven Year Itch (1955) - That iconic summer film about a guy who might lose his inhibitions when his wife and son go away for the summer. There's a blonde wearing a famous, lightweight halter top dress in this film. Now, what is her name...

Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch

The Long, Hot Summer (1958) - Hired hand Paul Newman sets his heart on capturing his boss' daughter in this film adaptation of William Faulkner's dramatic short stories of Southern life. Love that theme song - dreamy and soothing. The trailer is here.

Rear Window

Rear Window (1954) - Films exclusively set in summer usually contain wide, expansive shots of the great outdoors. In this Hitchcock murder mystery, however, the claustrophobic indoor setting will have you sweating along the hero. Trailer here.

A Summer Place (1959) -If you're in the mood for a summer drama, this Sandra Dee-Troy Donahue vehicle about star-crossed lovers on vacation is your dish. The couple discovers there is more behind their parents' reluctance to their dating than mere propriety. Trailer here.

Summertime (1955) - Single and lonely Katharine Hepburn vacations in Venice. With Rozzano Brazzi around the corner, she might not be alone for long. Beautiful location shots.  Watch a clip of their meetcute here.


On An Island With You
Any Esther Williams picture, no matter the season, will have balmy weather since our million dollar mermaid must have a spectacular body of water in which to show off her champion swimming skills. One of my favorites is On An Island With You (1948), since the deliciously gorgeous Peter Lawford  gets goo-goo eyes for our star. Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Charisse  share more than one fabulous dance number, like this one [click here].

Nice Girl?
Nice Girl?(1941) - Deanna Durbin gets the hots for her father's summer house guest, Franchot Tone, and ruins her reputation in this musical comedy. It also features Robert Stack as the cooky, often-shirtless boyfriend. Durbin sings a few tunes, including "Beneath the Lights of Home."

Oklahoma! (1955)- "It's summer and we're running out of ice," laments Gordan McCrae's cowboy Curly in this dramatic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical of unrequited love, loneliness, humor and song all wrapped in a western. See trailer here.

Summer Stock

Summer Stock (1950) - When the heat rises, New York performer Gene Kelly puts on a show in Judy Garland's barn. Of course the barn is as big and as glamorous as a sound stage so that you can have performances like this one [click here].

Two Weeks With Love
Two Weeks With Love (1950) -  Young Jane Powell has eyes for Ricardo Montalban during the family's two week vacation in the Catskills. Watch for a cute subplot featuring Debbie Reynolds (as little sister Melba) and Carleton Carpenter.

Now go outside and get some fresh air!

What are your favorite, classic summer-themed films?

Icebox Moment #1: Bullying in Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Sometimes you notice a movie's plot hole long after you've seen the film. Alfred Hitchcock called this the Icebox Syndrome, because you think of it after you've gone home and are looking in the fridge.

Most of us have seen Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) lots of times and believe we know every part of it intimately, even its quirks. Well, recently this icebox moment occurred to me. When Esther apologizes for slapping John around, he accepts her apology but - and here's the kicker -  he never asks her why she hits him in the first place.

The audience knows why since we're there when little sister Tootie claims the boy next door hit her. Esther runs over to 5133 Kensington Avenue and gives the guy what for. After discovering that her sociopathic sister has lied, she asks John's forgiveness (without explanation) and he gives it. They then chat about nothing and he plants a great big smooch on the woman who just assaulted him, asking her, "if you're not busy tomorrow night, could you beat me up again?"

What is going on in this character's head? How does he rationalize her behavior? She's clearly angry, but does he consider the slaps gestures of romantic interest? If smacking and such turns him on, he'll fit right in with this crazy family.

What's your icebox moment in a film?

Jerry Lewis' autobio, Dean & Me (or the Playboy and the Pierrot)

Comedian Jerry Lewis pours out his brotherly love for crooner Dean Martin in a 352-paged letter. Lewis' memoir Dean and Me follows  the comic duo's first meeting; how they teamed up; advanced through stage, radio, film and television; broke up; and reunited (sort of).

I'm late to the party since this book was published six years ago, but what an exciting read! The tone of it is alternately wistful, belligerent, cocksure, and regretful.
“Whatever we do, I‘m the kid and you‘re the big brother. I‘m the busboy, you‘re the captain. You‘re the organ-grinder, I‘m the monkey. You‘re the playboy, I‘m the putz. Follow?” 
That’s Lewis planning with Martin for their first official nightclub act together in the mid-1940s. The big brother-kid brother formula  is what lifted these two performers to prominence in show business. Lewis makes it clear that their relationship off-stage  had this same dynamic.

An only child, with showbiz parents who were rarely in his daily life,  lonely Lewis, basically "adopted"  an older sibling when he lied to his mob-connected employer - who was looking for a song and comedy act at Atlantic City's 500 CafĂ© - that he and Martin could perform a spot to please the customers. Martin was not in on this arrangement; he merely thought he'd been hired to sing as always. Once he found out the actual arrangement, he went along with it. The two had that same relationship from then on - Jerry initiating a deal for the two of them, and a sanguine Martin going along for the ride.

After a decade of this agreement, Martin finally had enough of not controlling his own life. Lewis  blames the new life in Hollywood, not being around each other as frequently as they had in the nightclub circuit. Lewis also blames a new batch of friends for instigating Martin’s famous strike for independence. Perhaps so. Or perhaps Martin was just ready to do something else and didn't know how to say it except in loud, hurtful tones (telling Lewis near the end of their professional partnership that the little guy was nothing but a dollar sign to him).

The memoir runs back and forth through the timeline [the 1940s through to Martin’s death in the 1990s], sharing  poignant and hilarious anecdotes -   how Lewis admired the man nine years his senior to the point of wearing Martin’s brand of aftershave (with hilarious results); how Jerry and Dean almost missed a  nightclub show because they couldn't refuse playing golf with notorious mobster Willie Moretti; how they were routinely (and happily) mobbed by fans; how disgusted they were with each other during filming of their last movie together, Pardners. Lewis also includes a couple of brief and completely gratuitous stories about Marylin Monroe.

Yet with all the detail, there's much held back.  Martin's upbringing is a murky remembrance of generics about strict Italian parents in a small factory town in Ohio who taught their children never to be vulnerable or trust anyone. This would explain the dark-haired singer's penchant for rarely showing his feelings.  Because Martin was so tight-lipped, Lewis can in some spots produce only his assumptions.

Lewis’ own parents make an appearance in the book about twice - once to explain why they were not around during his childhood (they traveled the vaudeville circuits) and once when Lewis the elder screamed into his son’s oxygen tent at the hospital about how Jerry’s incapacitated state is hurting Jerry’s mother.

Martin's and Lewis’ respective wives remain shadowy figures as well, mere outlines. This is a shame because you want to know how these ladies met and chose two very quirky and talented guys (the book begins after they are both married with children). It's also rather repugnant that the wives are pushed in the background of the book while their famous husbands boast of their very public infidelities with a practiced shrug. Of all of Lewis' faults, this was not one that I expected, certainly not one I thought he'd brag about having. Thankfully he doesn't go into much detail on this score, and only lists the names of two (very famous) liaison partners.

Jerry Lewis ( and co-author James Kaplan) tells his side of the Martin and Lewis story with great sincerity and vulnerability. Just when you think, " He's just playing up his Pierrot routine again to get  the reader's sympathy," he sucker punches you with another story of longing, regret, lost opportunities, and lost friendship and you feel like a heel for doubting him. Although Lewis has played the sad clown all of his adult life, this time it is not a gimmick, it’s real.  

Dietrich Biography Winner [Contest is Closed]

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Marlene Dietrich biography giveaway. The winner, Diana B., has been notified and the book has been shipped.

For more information on the actress,

Debbie Reynolds: The Auction - Get Your Red, Hot Catalogs!

Yours truly still has not received the catalog for Debbie Reynolds' Costumes Auction (June 18, 2011). However,  if you -unlike me-  had the good sense not to shell out the $39.50, you still can view the catalog.

That's right! Profiles in History - the auction handler-  has now (now!)  made the catalog available in PDF at no charge. Free. Gratis. Complimentary.

Yes! They've rewarded my early participation with a slap in the face. That sound you hear is of Java grinding her teeth and beating the moths away from her wallet.


Go on to the auction without me; I'll be sitting at my mailbox.

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