The Summer of ’42 in Second Life

Summer of ’42
Hi Inara! I hope you’re well. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Summer of 42, but I’ve created a new region based on the story. I hope you can make it by one day.

– Justice Vought

So came the invitation from Justice Vought, owner of Oxygen (see: Getting some :oxygen: in Second Life) and also the engaging Once Upon A Time, celebrating Second Life’s most famous residents, the Greenies, and Chocolate Factory, a homage to both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder (1971), and 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp.  Given this heritage, I hopped over to take a look as soon as time allowed.

For those unfamiliar with the 1971 film, it is a coming of age story written by screenwriter Herman Raucher, recalling the time when, as a teenager, he spent a summer vacation on Nantucket Island in 1942 and falls for a newly-married woman, Dorothy, whose husband has gone to England to fight in the war.

Summer of ’42

The film is noted for its haunting soundtrack by Michel Legrand and bitter-sweet story. It started as a means for Raucher to honour his childhood friend, Oscar Seltzer (“Oscy” in the film), who had been killed whilst serving as a medic during the Korean War. However, circumstance turned the story into a tale of the first adult experience of Raucher’s life.

The story uses a number of Nantucket locations – the town, the beach, the house where Dorothy shares for a short time with her husband before he departs for the war – and where Raucher most frequently sees her and has his final encounter with her (they would not have any contact for some thirty years after the – for Raucher – life-changing summer).

Summer of ’42

These aspects of the film are all engagingly interpreted by Justice within :Oxgyen: Summer of ’42, a homestead region directly adjoining :Oxygen: (you can cross between them via a wooden bridge, with the north side of :Oxygen: forming a backdrop to the landing point). Here, on the waterfront, stand the figures of two young boys – perhaps Hermie and Oscy from the film, possibly awaiting the arrival of their mutual friend Benjie.

From here, it is a short walk around to main street, with its post office, garage and movie theatre – which is showing Summer of ’42 alongside a film from the period of the film’s setting: Casablanca, and several other movies besides; some of which were actually made after 1942, such as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), whilst others serve as neat little Easter eggs for Juctice’s work.

The street looks out over a wind-blown landscape with a smattering of trees, their backs bent against the wind that clearly passes over the setting. It’s a largely barren but photogenic view, dominated by a low hill on which a single wooden house stands, representing the house in which Dorothy lived and in and around which Hermie has his encounters with her. The house in turn looks down over a sweep of beach – perhaps the beach on which Oscy, Benjie and Hermie first saw Dorothy and her husband before the latter’s departure. The beach is again a photogenic setting.

Summer of ’42

However, it is inside the house that treasure is to be found, containing as it does touches that most directly draw on the the film’s poignant final scenes between Hermie and Dorothy.

These occur shortly after Dorothy has learned her husband has been killed in action and is dealing with her grief as Hermie arrives. These scenes are represented through the perfect use of props within the house – the record player, the table with ashtray and curling smoke, the mantelshelf photograph of a young US Army Air Corps pilot and another of his wife, sharing the space with a box brownie camera that may have been used to take one of them.

Summer of ’42

Most of all, there is the envelope, doubtless containing the telegram informing Dorothy of her husband’s death, complete with his service dog tags. Here, as can be found elsewhere on the island, are pointers to the film – a poster on the wall, and the soundtrack lying among a pile of records. A further nice touch is the book on the table with the letter, offering a reminder that as well as producing the film’s screenplay, Raucher also turned the story into a novel.

There are a few anachronisms to be found in the region – vehicles manufactured after 1942,  references to films films of the 70s, etc. However, these do not ruin the atmosphere of the setting; some of them can be put down to the availability of period props, whilst others – as noted – offer nice little Easters eggs for the things that have influenced Justice in his region builds, and the builds themselves.

Summer of ’42

And of course, the bridge to :Oxygen: means that the keen explorer can extend their visit by touring there as well. However, I’ll save that for another time.

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3 thoughts on “The Summer of ’42 in Second Life

    1. I very nearly appended Legrand’s theme song from the film to the article because there is so much of his work I love to listen to, and I personally think that the theme of Summer of ’42 is as hauntingly melodic as the iconic Windmills of Your Mind from the original Thomas Crown Affair (sorry, Sting with his version from the remake can go row a boat).

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