SUMMER HOLIDAY (1948) C 92m dir: Rouben Mamoulian
w/Mickey Rooney, Gloria De Haven, Walter Huston, Frank Morgan, Jackie "Butch" Jenkins, Marilyn Maxwell, Agnes Moorehead, Selena Royle, Michael Kirby, Shirley Johns, Hal Hackett, Ann Francis, John Alexander, Virginia Brissac, Howard Freeman, Alice MacKenzie, Ruth Brady
From The Movie Guide: "This fine musical version of Eugene O'Neill's 'Ah, Wilderness!' stars Mickey Rooney as a boy struggling with the pitfalls of adolescence. In early 1900s New England we meet the Miller clan: Nat (Walter Huston), a newspaper editor and staunch upholder of Yankee tradition; his wife (Selena Royle), ever the doting mother; Richard (Rooney), their oldest son; and Tommy ('Butch' Jenkins), their youngest. Also living in their comfortable household are an old maid cousin (Agnes Moorehead) and a bachelor uncle (Frank Morgan). Richard is extraordinarily bright and has big ideas about changing the world. He adores neighbor Muriel McComber (Gloria DeHaven), but has been forbidden to see her by her conservative father. Peeved at his inability to see the girl he loves, Richard goes off on a drunk, meets a dance-hall girl, spends every cent he has, and gets kicked out of the bar. Naturally, he catches hell from his dad, but by the end he and Muriel are finally allowed to be together.
"A sweet movie with good work by all the actors, SUMMER HOLIDAY benefits immeasurably from director Mamoulian's inventiveness and the handsome cinematography [by Charles Schoenbaum] and production values. Even if 'The Stanley Steamer' is an obvious attempt to cash in on the appeal of 'The Trolley Song' from the very similar MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, the songs are quite appealing and eminently suitable. An earlier version of the O'Neill play appeared in 1935 as AH, WILDERNESS, with Rooney playing the role of the younger brother."
From Tom Milne's book examining the career of the director, Rouben Mamoulian: "The advantage that Mamoulian has over O'Neill is that he can show the world of nostalgia instead of merely suggesting it: the radiantly green lawns which are inseparable from summer and young love not as they were but as they are remembered; the rows of ideally clean, bright and hopeful faces at the Graduation Day ceremony; the little street tidy and expectant with its rows of flags awaiting Independence Day. Oddly enough the film is least successful in one brief sequence where it attempts to re-create too faithfully in a series of tableaux vivants based on famous paintings by Grant Wood ('Daughters of the American Revolution'), Thomas Benton and John Curry; most successful when creating a pure Utopia of endless summer days, green grass, flowing meadows and simple pleasures in an untroubled land of peace and plenty. Central to this vision is the superb Independence Day picnic sequence which effortlessly conjures up the paradise imagined by Kubla Khan as the setting for his stately pleasure dome:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
"The sequence begins with a rush of excitement as everyone heads for the picnic ground. Close-up of a trumpeter sweating profusely in his tight scarlet and gold uniform, getting redder and redder as he strains to hit a high note; track back to take in the whole tableau of the bandstand; then a whole series of brief, apparently random shots, linked by dissolves and fast pans, which somehow dovetail into a perfectly choreographed dance. The beer wagons arriving with supplies; men cheering on a drinking contest, ladies indulging in a game of croquet; tables laden with food; small boys darting in hopefully; a violinist and three girls on a grassy slope; a circle of dancers run in, are instantly metamorphosed into a square dance, then circle off as a crocodile in overhead shot while a dissolve returns to the drinking contest and its end in the collapse of all three surviving competitors. Cut to Mrs. Miller in the hall welcoming her family back one by one in various states of inebriation and exhilaration. 'Have you had a nice day? she asks. 'No,' says Richard gloomily.
"One of the complaints laid against Summer Holiday is that it robs O'Neill's play of much of its warmth and human feeling by allowing Mickey Rooney to play the part of Richard Miller, the rebellious and impossibly arty adolescent, chiefly for farce. Actually, his cheerfully strident interpretation of the role as a minimal variant on Andy Hardy works remarkably well, despite the anachronism of his enthusiasms for Swinburne, Omar Khayyam and Carlyle's French Revolution, and despite the fact that he seems hardly likely to develop into the writer-poet envisaged by O'Neill. The yearning arrogance of adolescence, after all, doesn't change all that much from generation to generation; and with so much built-in sentiment present in the settings, songs and dances, his stridency is probably useful as a door-stop to prevent the film from succumbing to the ever-present danger attendant upon nostalgia: sentimentality.
"The criticism, in any case, seems to miss the point of the film. Unlike Meet Me in St. Louis, Summer Holiday is not simply a tender evocation of family life from a gentler, more leisurely age. It is an attempt to pin down that moment which comes in everyone's life when one sees things from a new perspective: you realize that your schooldays were probably the happiest days of your life even though you hated every moment of them; or that you loved your family even though you couldn't wait to leave home; or that the world is a marvelous place even if it seems to have no use for you. Despite his momentary pleasures (the splendid 'Stanley Steamer' song, when he is allowed to drive his father's steam-powered car, with the entire family --- even Aunt Lily --- joining in), Richard wanders through the film with his eyes, memory and sensibilities closed, so intent on the private fantasy he is building about life that he sees nothing, understands nothing. He is narcissistic in his relationship with Muriel; he is patronizing in his treatment of both the town and everybody he meets; he is unbelievably pompous in the revolutionary inanities of his graduation day speech. Finally, however, his ego takes a severe beating in the marvelous sequence of his encounter with the saloon girl Belle, several inches taller than he is, who becomes redder and redder and more and more alarming as he becomes drunker and drunker and more deeply embroiled in sins which are out of his depth.
"Then comes the splendid moment of illumination. Father and son have just had one of those man-to-man talks about the facts of life and loose women, with Mickey Rooney watching in distress as Walter Huston agitatedly crushes his clay sculpture of Abraham Lincoln out of all recognition while trying to find the right words about what happened with Belle that night in the saloon; Rooney finally puts him out of his misery by announcing that he has learned his lesson and that what he really wants to do is marry Muriel. It is evening. Uncle Sid and Aunt Lily sit romantically at peace with the world in a swing-chair out in the moonlit garden. Nat, watching from the window, says to his wife, 'We seem to be completely surrounded by love,' and as Richard comes down on his way out to see Muriel, he recalls the days of his own courtship. Suddenly touched, Richard darts forward and kisses them both. Pleased but startled, Nat watches him go out: 'First time he's done that in years. I don't believe in kissing between father and son ... but that meant something.' Outside, as Richard pauses in the street, the moment is sealed by a magnificent crane shot up past him, past Lily and Sid, past Nat and his wife as they stand on their balcony looking down over (as Nat puts it) 'Love's young dream.'
"Beautifully shot by Charles Schoenbaum in warm, soft colours, Summer Holiday equals Love Me Tonight in the mastery with which rhymed dialogue, songs and leisurely action are swept up by Mamoulian's cutting into one dynamic overall rhythm. It is with some surprise that one realises in examining the film in detail that, despite some admirable steps created by Charles Walters, there are really no formal dance numbers in the film at all. Mamoulian needs neither dances nor dancers to create choreography; but when he finally did use them, ten years later in Silk Stockings, the result was arguably his greatest film."