erik lundegaard


Thursday January 11, 2024

Herman Raucher (1928-2023)

I came across this obit recently in The New York Times:

You get similar thoughts doing a Google news search. Everyone knows Raucher from “Summer of '42”:

Everyone, that is, but IMDb:

Cue face palm.

What is this monstrously titled “Heironymous Merkin” movie? The Times' obit explains:

He then collaborated with [Anthony] Newley on the script for “Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?” (1968), which was a notorious failure. Mr. Newley, who was also the star and director, plays a singing star simultaneously making and showing a movie about his self-indulgent life.

And here's what IMDb's own numbers say about current interest in the two movies:

Movie Rating Votes  User Reviews
Summer of '42 7.2 8,933 124
Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? 4.9 410 28

Let us now leave IMDb to appreciate the life and work.

I don't think I ever saw all of “Summer of '42”—just bits on television. I remember the Mad magazine satire, but there was no soups-to-nuts watching of it. I was 8 when it came out. Jennifer O'Neill dazzled, of course, even at 8, and I have a dim memory that this is when I learned about apostrophed years. Something about being confused by the title until my father told me that the apostrophe meant Ninteen forty-two. I definitely didn't know it was autobiographical—based on young Herman's experiences as a teen with a war widow in Nantucket—until today.

“'42” was such a huge hit—the fourth-biggest movie of 1971, ahead of “Dirty Harry” and “Diamonds are Forever”—that Raucher wound up doing hazy, nostalgic stuff for the rest of the decade: the Jennifer O'Neill-less sequel, “Class of '44”; a TV movie “Remember When” with Jack Warden, about the war years; “The Other Side of Midnight,” about a WWII-era love affair between lantern-jawed John Beck and French actress Marie-France Pisier. IMDb gives Raucher an uncredited credit for helping write “The Great Santini,” but Wiki quotes him saying that was never him; he tried to adapt it for a TV show but he didn't work on the movie. 

Before Hollywood, he was a “Mad Men”-era adman, writing copy for Disney, while also working on plays and TV scripts for “Alcoa Hour” and “Studio One.” One of his plays was apparently adapted into an early 1960s Elvis movie? That's odd. He adapted his own work into “Sweet November” with Anthony Newley. That led to “Heironymous Merkin.” After that, he wrote the seminal “Watermelon Man” but clashed with director Melvin Van Peebles. That's when Robert Mulligan took to his “Summer of '42” script that had been kicking around for 10 years. 

Godspeed. Say hi to Chris. Ignore IMDb on the way out.

Posted at 02:01 PM on Thursday January 11, 2024 in category Movies