“What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Sit on the shore and watch?” An outstanding, overlooked coming-of-age drama, Last Summer, which was directed by Frank Perry (David and Lisa), involves four teenagers from relatively affluent families spending their summer vacation on Fire Island, New York. Spoiler alert! Beautiful and manipulative Sandy (Barbara Hershey) befriends horny, awkward buddies Peter (Richard Thomas) and Dan (Bruce Davison). The trio soon becomes inseparable as they rescue an injured seagull, hang out on the beach and go sailing but also start boozing, smoking pot and experimenting with sex. However, the dynamic changes dramatically with the arrival of pudgy, insecure Rhoda (Catherine Burns), who is subject to frequent taunts from the others. Symbolically, the seagull is both nurtured and finally destroyed by Sandy in the forest clearing after it turns on her. Perry’s then-wife Eleanor wrote the screenplay, which was based on a 1968 novel by Evan Hunter (AKA Ed McBain). A compelling portrayal of peer pressure and the loss of innocence, Last Summer was reportedly initially given an X rating until edits were made to the disturbing final scene. According to the film’s tag line, “Last summer was too beautiful to forget … And too painful to remember.” Perry also directed The Swimmer (1968), another overlooked classic starring Burt Lancaster. During a brief period, Hershey became the ultimate hippie chick – changing her name to “Barbara Seagull” (after feeling guilty for accidentally killing a seagull on the set of Last Summer), marrying David “Kung Fu” Carradine and giving birth to a child named “Free.”
Useless Trivia: Burns was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (losing out to Goldie Hawn for Cactus Flower) but then seems to have dropped off the radar. What the hell ever happened to Catherine Burns?