Thursday, July 06, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Summer Magic (1963) at the Walt Disney Family Museum

When we went on last month's road trip, we left very early in the morning for two reasons: First, to get across Los Angeles before the morning commute traffic, and secondly, to make it to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco in time for a screening of Hayley Mills in SUMMER MAGIC (1963).

We arrived an hour before the screening, with plenty of time to eat lunch in the museum cafe. It couldn't have worked out any better!

I'll be sharing photos of the rest of this wonderful museum at a future date. For now, here's a photo tour of the great Disney posters on display in the corridors outside the theater (click photos to enlarge). My comments on the movie follow below.

And here's the small but attractive museum theater, viewed as I entered. Love the seats done in "Mickey Mouse" colors!

I had seen SUMMER MAGIC on the WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY as a child, but hadn't managed to see it since, despite owning a DVD which my children enjoyed! It certainly worked out perfectly for my first viewing in so many years to take place in this setting. I'd looked forward to seeing the museum for a long time, and having the chance to also see a movie there was quite special.

SUMMER MAGIC is loosely based on the book MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS (1940) by Kate Douglas Wiggin. MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS was filmed in 1938 with a cast which included Ruby Keeler and Anne Shirley.

The SUMMER MAGIC screenplay was written by Sally Benson, whose own stories provided the basis for MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). A scene where a girl protests going to a dance with her brother will sound very familiar to fans of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS!

Dorothy McGuire plays Margaret Carey, the widowed mother of the piece. With this film McGuire completed her trilogy of Disney films, which began with OLD YELLER (1957), followed by SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1960) with Hayley's father, John Mills. The scenes where she mothers her youngest son in this film reminded me very much of her relationship with Kevin Corcoran in the two earlier films.

Mrs. Carey is in "reduced circumstances" and moves to the country with her daughter Nancy (Hayley Mills) and sons Peter (Jimmy Mathers) and Gilly (Eddie Hodges), where they are soon joined by orphaned cousin Julia (Deborah Walley).

Thanks to the kindness -- and trickery -- of Osh Popham (Burl Ives), the family affordably rents a large yellow house. The property is owned by wealthy and handsome young Tom Hamilton (Peter Brown), an absentee owner who's unaware the family has moved in. Tom returning to town causes a number of funny scenes.

The film doesn't measure up to two of Mills' previous Disney films, POLLYANNA (1960) or THE PARENT TRAP (1961), but it's significantly better than IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962).

The movie doesn't have a particularly memorable plot, meandering through a series of vignettes and musical sequences, punctuated with some genuinely funny bits. At 110 minutes the film's saggy storyline could have been tightened up quite a bit, but the good cast nonetheless puts it over and provides a pleasant time. I enjoyed it, and it provided a relaxing time "at the movies" after several hours on the road.

A musical sequence with Ives singing "On the Front Porch" is a highlight. The score by Richard and Robert Sherman includes "Ugly Bug Ball" and "Flitterin'"; Disneyland fans will recognize the latter song's melody, which is part of the Main Street U.S.A. "musical loop."

It was a delight to see Una Merkel in the cast as Ives' wife; she was also in THE PARENT TRAP. The cast also includes James Stacy, O.Z. Whitehead, Michael J. Pollard, Wendy Turner, and Hilda Plowright.

SUMMER MAGIC was directed by James Neilson and filmed by William E. Snyder.

SUMMER MAGIC is available on DVD and via Amazon Instant Video rental.

Coming soon: Photos of the Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco movie locations, Highway 395, and more!


Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Thanks for sharing pictures of all those posters! What a fun place that must be :-)

8:52 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Delighted! We had a wonderful time, spent several hours at the museum. Highly recommended.

Best wishes,

10:11 AM  

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