The 1971 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film “Summer of ’42” was written by screenwriter Herman Raucher who wrote the film script, based off his own memoirs, in the 1950’s during his tenure as a television writer, but, as he put it, “couldn’t give it away.”. However, this changed in the 1960’s when Raucher met director Robert Mulligan, best known for directing the 1962 American drama film “To Kill a Mockingbird”, based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel of the same name by author Harper Lee.
Raucher showed Mulligan the script, and Mulligan took it to Warner Bros.. There, Mulligan argued the film could be shot for the relatively low price of $1 million, and Warner approved it. However, they had so little faith in the film becoming a box-office success, though, they shied from paying Raucher outright for the script, instead promising him ten percent of the gross.
“Summer of ’42” became a blockbuster upon its release, grossing over $32 million, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 1971 and one of the most successful films in history, with an expense-to-profit ratio of 1:32. Even more so, it is estimated video rentals and purchases in the United States since the 1980’s have produced an additional $20.5 million. To add irony, Raucher said in May 2002 that his ten percent of the gross, in addition to royalties from book sales, “has paid bills ever since.”
Even better, “Summer of ’42” also received rave critical reviews and went on to be nominated for over a dozen awards, including Golden Globe Awards for “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and “Best Director”, and five Academy Award nominations for Best Original Music Score, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Writing-Story and Best Screenplay. Ultimately, the film won the 1972 44th Academy Awards Oscar for Original Dramatic Score, and the 1971 BAFTA Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, both to composer Michel Legrand.
Counted among its fans was director Stanley Kubrick, who had “Summer of ’42” play on a television in a scene in Kubrick’s 1980 British-American psychological horror film “The Shining”, based on author Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name. It goes without saying this is a great example of underestimating someone. Raucher has been reaping the benefits of that underestimation ever since.