Movies: Summer Magic

I'm reaching way back for this one, which was one of Disney's Hayley Mills features, this one from 1963 (well before I was born). But there was a summer in which the Disney Channel played this film repeatedly, and I watched it again and again, never failing to be charmed by the songs and the sweet, simple story.

For those who don't know it—and I've no idea how well known Summer Magic might be—it is set in the early 1900s ("Time: Rag" per the title card) and features the downfallen Carey family who, after the death of the patriarch, must leave their upscale Boston home for less expensive digs. Enterprising young Nancy Carey (Mills) has written to the postmaster of tiny Beulah, Maine, asking about an old yellow house the family had once seen during a visit. And the postmaster, played by lovable Burl Ives, writes Nancy to tell her they can rent the house for a mere pittance because the owner—Mr. Thomas Hamilton—lives abroad in China anyway.

Of course things get complicated when Cousin Julia arrives to stay, what with her spoiled and stuck-up airs, and when she and Nancy crush over the same young man, and then when an unsuspecting Mr. Hamilton turns up wondering who is living in his house.

The songs are by Disney staples the Sherman brothers, and while in retrospect "Femininity" is kind of awful (one hopes it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek), "The Ugly Bug Ball" is a favorite now of my own children, and I use "On the Front Porch" as a lullaby for my daughter. For that reason, and because Summer Magic did fill one of my own childhood summers with a kind of magic, this one will always be close to my heart.

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