Everything about director Randal Kleiser's visually brilliant Adam and Eve story, The Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, is breathtakingly cinematic: the shipwreck, the soft breeze tropical island, the undersea photography—the tanned young lad and lass stranded in paradise. This beautiful movie is an immersion in sensual innocence.
Mr. Kleiser also directed the summer musical smash Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, whose chemistry matched the picture's fun, pop melodies for old-fashioned matinee escapism. Like The Blue Lagoon, Grease was the word in early summer.
Sandra Dee, the movie star Olivia sang about in Grease, had two summer-themed hits, the Max Steiner scored A Summer Place and the irresistible Gidget, both released in 1959. The latter is the seminal southern California surfing movie with an adolescent beach charm that still works. The former featured blue-eyed Richard Egan and Dorothy Maguire as his long-lost love with teens Dee and Troy Donahue (another Grease lyric) during a coastal vacation at one of Frank Lloyd Wright's stunning houses in Maine.
Another New England seaboard romance, Summer of '42, is a slice of true-story nostalgia that plays on a teenaged boy's fantasy to make love to an older woman. Who could forget Hermie's (Gary Grimes) longing for drop-dead gorgeous Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill)—or Michel Legrand's stirring theme?
Music is a good reason to watch writer and director Joshua Logan's exotic South Pacific, based on a book by James Michener. If the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs—"Younger than Springtime," "A Wonderful Guy," "Some Enchanted Evening"—or John Kerr's Navy lieutenant in love with Liat the island girl don't enrapture the senses, check the pulse. Mr. Logan also directed Picnic, the 1955 adaptation of William Inge's play, starring Kim Novak and William Holden as hot to trot lovers itching to ride out of town while an unmarried schoolteacher (Rosalind Russell) puts the moves on Holden.
That same year, screen legend Katharine Hepburn was the lonely spinster in David Lean's jewel, Summertime, which put her opposite handsome Rossano Brazzi in a vibrant, heartbreaking picture of passion in Venice, Italy. It is one of Miss Hepburn's best performances. The final scene sneaks up and packs a wallop.
Italy figures prominently, if improbably, in summer of '79 sleeper, Breaking Away, which gained notice for young Dennis Quaid and earned an Oscar nomination for Barbara Barrie—both shine in this middle class mini-epic—but it really belongs to Dennis Christopher. He plays Dave Stoller, one part of an Indiana foursome, who romanticizes all things Italian until it literally hurts. Breaking Away, full of little victories, feels good to watch every time.
On another up note, Walt Disney's 1960 classic adventure Swiss Family Robinson, marvelously brought to DVD a few years back, unites John Mills, Dorothy McGuire and James MacArthur as a shipwrecked family fighting pirates and wild animals while bonding over the construction of an ingenious deserted island treehouse.
A replica of that treehouse used to be at Disneyland (it's still at Disney World) and the Swiss Family Robinson's DVD extras capture Walt Disney himself at the Adventureland attraction. The last attraction Walt Disney personally supervised, the 14-minute Pirates of the Caribbean, which opened in 1967, spawned what may be this summer's biggest hit. An overlay is being added to the famous boat ride next week—and don't be surprised to read about the new movie-themed version here next time.
• Scott Holleran's Disneyland Column
• Disneyland from A to Z
• Olivia Newton-John: 'Grease' Goddess
• DVD: The Blue Lagoon
• DVD: Grease
• VHS: A Summer Place
• DVD: Gidget
• DVD: Summer of '42
• DVD: South Pacific
• DVD: Picnic
• DVD: Summertime
• DVD: Breaking Away
• DVD: Swiss Family Robinson