The Pink of Perfection: Remembering Disney’s Summer Magic
As the weather begins to warm, bringing an end to winter’s frosty reign, I revel in the smell of impending summer. The aroma of tilled earth in a rainstorm, the gentle whiff of lilacs or jasmine, the songs of crickets and peepers filling the night. When this feeling of summer’s arrival washes over me, another item always comes to mind: Walt Disney Pictures film Summer Magic.
Based on the novel Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin, Summer Magic starred Disney favorite Hayley Mills. It tells story of the Carey brood, a New England family who are down on their luck. They must give up their Boston home and spend their summer in country house in Maine, a place they mysteriously rent for a song thanks to the kindly caretaker Osh Popham. There, the family has an enchanting summer fixing up the house, enjoying the country, and hoping that its owner Mr. Hamilton doesn’t return (apparently, the vacationing fellow is not aware that his house has been rented out). Everything ends with a surprise happy ending.
Mills plays Nancy Carey, the daughter who secures the family’s new living situation. Also in the cast is the always warm and wonderful Dorothy McGuire as Margaret Carey, Nancy’s Mom. Her brothers, Gilly and Peter are played by Eddie Hodges and Jimmy Mathers, respectively. Of course, the stand-out performance in the film is actor and folk singer Burl Ives playing the gentle Osh Popham. The cast also includes Michael J. Pollard, Una Merkel, and Deborah Walley (as the Carey’s obnoxiously snobby cousin Julia).
Summer Magic featured a score by Disney mainstays Richard and Robert Sherman, who wrote the score for such films as Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. For Summer Magic, the duo conjured some delightful songs including the downhome “On the Front Porch”, the slyly sarcastic “The Pink of Perfection”, and the film’s most-popular ditty, the joyous “Ugly Bug Ball.” Each song conjures a perfect sense of time and place, atmospherically painting the feelings that come with spending a summer in the country. In one word: nostalgia.
Though it is often forgotten or overlooked, Summer Magic really deserves to hold better regard amongst Disney film fans. It’s a sweet, simple story about imperfect people who have a magical summer. If you haven’t seen it lately, or if you have never had the pleasure, perhaps it is time that you investigate this live-action Disney musical that is bound to charm you with its quaint, homespun nature.