Jennifer O’Neill and ‘The Summer of ’42’.


In 1971 a 23 year-old unknown actress named Jennifer O’Neill made quite a splash, especially with teenaged boys, portraying the ‘older woman’ involved in an affair with a youth in a movie called Summer of ’42. The events in the picture are true, although the book of the same name was written after the movie by Herman Raucher. It was about his sexual experiences as a 14 year-old with a war widow named Dorothy during the summer of 1942 on Nantucket Island. Curiously, in all the time he knew her young Hermie never bothered to ask what her last name was. He became severely depressed after she ended their relationship upon receiving a telegram advising her of her husband’s death. He was killed in action with the USAAF over France. Raucher (Hermie in the movie) said she kept calling him by her husband’s name that last night while they were in bed. For some considerable time after the break-up Raucher dated every girl he could find named Dorothy.

Herman Raucher

After the movie and book were released Raucher received quite a few letters from women claiming to be Dorothy. And one of those letters was from the lady herself. By then Herman was married with children, so he opted not to have any further contact with her. In 2002, after the death of his wife of 42 years, he expressed during an interview that he wished he had remained in contact with Dorothy and that he hoped she might still be alive. He never heard from her again. The postmark of the 1971 letter was Canton, Ohio, but it contained no address details. In it Dorothy wrote how she worried about how she may have hurt the young Hermie and damaged his psyche.

Jennifer as Dorothy

The movie and her sensual portrayal of Dorothy put Jennifer on the map as an actress, despite her only appearing on-screen for a total of just 12 minutes. It was a hit almost everywhere, although it was promptly banned in Catholic Ireland because Hermie had purchased contraceptives at a drug store in one scene. Contraceptives, (surprise, surprise), were banned in Ireland at that time. It would eventually be released there (uncut) in 1979.

If the story of Summer of ’42 was sad, Jennifer’s own real-life story reads like a soap opera of the first water. She began life in 1948 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to a Puerto Rican father and an English mother. A B-17 bomber pilot during WW2, her father was shot down over Germany, captured, survived a POW camp, and married Jennifer’s mother on his return to London. His father was President of the Bank of Rio de Janeiro. The family moved to Connecticut when Jennifer was a young girl. At fourteen she attempted suicide with sleeping pills after her parents told her the family was re-locating to New York and she would have to give up her animals; her beloved horse and dog. She continued riding as much as possible prior to the move, but a horrendous fall put a stop to that. Her horse rolled on her, breaking the girl’s back and neck in three places.

Cover Girl

After surviving the sleeping pill overdose (she was in a coma for two weeks) and moving to New York City, the beautiful Jennifer soon gained a modelling contract and, equally quickly, lost her virginity to a 20 year-old college boyfriend. She was 15. Her new career took her to Paris intermittently, and at 17 she joined New York’s Neighbourhood Playhouse for aspiring actors, but dropped out soon afterwards to get married. It was the first of her nine marriages.

Marriage number one (to a man named Dean Rossiter) produced a daughter, Aimee, and lasted around six years, but it was not a happy union. Jennifer suffered from mental stress to the extent that she actually checked herself into a hospital for treatment that included electro-shock therapy. The couple divorced in 1971, Jennifer made Summer of ’42, following which she aborted a pregnancy to a Wall Street socialite. Then, a year later, she married husband number two, Joseph Roster. She wrote later of having experienced an orgasm for the first time in her life during this particular union, but the sex was not enough on its own to keep them together and the marriage ended in 1974. Between 1973 and 1975 she was involved in a relationship with actor Elliott Gould, even becoming briefly engaged to him after her marriage folded. They eventually went their separate ways.

With Elliott Gould, about a month

before their intended wedding that

never eventuated.

Husband number three came along in 1975. Nick De Noia was the original choreographer for the Chippendale dancers. They divorced after one year together and Nick was found shot to death a decade or so later. Jeff Barry joined the marriage queue in 1978. He was a successful songwriter who had penned several huge hits, among them ‘Leader of the Pack’, ‘I’m a Believer’, ‘I Honestly Love You’, ‘River Deep-Mountain High’, ‘Hanky Panky’  and the monster hit ‘Sugar, Sugar’ for The Archies. As a husband, however, he had even less success with Jennifer than some of his predecessors; her fourth venture down the aisle lasting barely a year.

Jeff Barry

Perhaps number five would have better luck. Sadly, no. John Lederer, her manager at the time, gave Jennifer a son (Reis) during the four years they were together. In exchange, he went through all of her  money. The lot. Far worse even than that, he was subsequently convicted of sexually molesting little Aimee three or four times a week for the entire four years! In October 1982 Jennifer ‘accidentally’ shot herself in the stomach with Lederer’s .38 revolver – while she was trying to determine if it was loaded or not, she said. The marriage ended in 1983. It was part-way through this abominable union that she made the movie Scanners (1981). As if things we not stressful enough, she had to put up with running abuse from her co-star, radical Catholic actor by the name of Patrick McGoohan. He openly called her a whore and a slut on the set in front of cast and crew because he had learned she had been married five times!

Patrick McGoohan in ‘Scanners’

As Kim Obrist in ‘Scanners’

The old age about climbing back on the horse if you get thrown off might have been penned specifically for Jennifer O’Neill because, in 1984, she buttered up again. Lederer had spent all her money, but she was soon earning plenty more (she was the face and spokeswoman for Cover Girl Cosmetics for thirty years!). Hubby number six was her limo driver, Richard Alan, a man she had met on a blind date. They produced a son, Cooper, but her luck in the marriage stakes had not changed. Good old Richard had a nasty habit of frequenting prostitutes and Jenn found out about it in 1987. Exit Mr. Alan.

Surely, the whole institution of marriage had at last worn out its welcome. Not so. At the age of 44 the ‘never say die’ model/actress wed Neil L. Bonin during a cross-country trip to Texas in 1992, with five-year-old Cooper standing in as best man. Bonin was eleven years her junior and marriage number seven only survived for five months until May 1993. Apparently, luckless Jenn had been fraudulently induced into the union. Seven months later she up and married Dick Alan – again! Evidently, she either caught him between hookers or he had become more adept at hiding them. All was wedded bliss – until it wasn’t! The couple parted company (presumably for good this time) in 1996. That same year this most resilient of ladies saddled up with husband number nine, and (touch wood), this time she finally hit pay dirt. Mervin Louque, a music producer, has remained married to her for the past 20 years. Hallelujah!

In 1999 Jennifer O’Neill penned her autobiography ‘Surviving Myself’, in which she openly discusses her nine trips down the aisle, her four children, nine miscarriages, her solitary abortion – and becoming a born-again Christian back in 1986. Her movie career never really progressed as it should have after Summer of ’42, probably because she was too busy tracking down a decent guy to marry. Well, it appears, she has at last succeeded. If persistence counts for anything we can only admire her tenacity. As for the poignant ‘Summer of ’42’, it will more than likely remain in the minds of young adolescent males as the stuff that dreams are made of, long after Jennifer is no more.


  1. Far beyond her physical beauty, I applaud Jennifer for never giving up on finding her true Soulmate. While I have never met her, if she is anything like Dorothy in “Summer of 42”, which is once again on TV today, the beauty of her soul must reflect a distance far beyond her incredible physical beauty. Thanks for the great memories, Jennifer. Wish I had gotten the opportunity to meet you myself.

  2. What is amazing is that during the shooting of Summer of ’42, and according to her own admission, she did not experience orgasm by that time (she experienced it for the first time only a year later during her marriage to Joseph Roster). Yet in spite of that, she acted in the sex scene in the most sensual way imaginable. Based on the facts of her life, we can, with high confidence, state that she was on the borderline personality disorder spectrum. 80% of borderlines are women. There are 3 subtypes of this disorder: petulent, impulsive, and self-destructive. The disorder has the highest rate of suicides of all mental disorders, at 8%. The two main characteristics of this condition are unstable view of one’s identity and inability to be alone i.e. a lot of infatuations and equally strong resentments in relationships. Obviously, she was on a milder side of the BPD self-destructive spectrum and she managed to get herself on a self-healing path in her late 30s with increased insight and aptitude for introspection. One of the known celebrities who has this condition is Selena Gomes who underwent dialectical behavior psychotherapy treatment in recent years. I made this diagnosis on the basis of Jennifer’s attempted suicide at the age of 14, hypersensitive personality traits, propensity for depression, a lot of unstable relationships (which converted to a stable one with increased awareness and wisdom of the old age).

  3. Wasn’t her husband’s name Pete Walker? Making her last name Walker in 1942. Or maybe I’m mistaken. Anyway I have seen the movie a number of times over the last 40 years and appreciated it more and more each time.

    • In the film he is named Pete Walker, but the boy (Herman Raucher) later admitted that all the time he knew Dorothy he neglected to ask her surname. The name Pete Walker may, therefore, be fictional.

  4. My gosh this post generated a lot of heartfelt comments. Knew of film’s stellar reputation, but haven’t seen it! Think worth mentioning directed by the great Robert Mulligan. Undoubtedly best known for directing “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 1962.

    Had no idea O’Neill had such an unsettled personal life but did know of another unmentioned trauma when it was happening. Jennifer was the lead co-star of a tv series called ‘Cover Up” from 1984-85. Her male co-star was an actor named Jon-Erik Hexum, who on October 12, 1984 shot himself with a 357 Magnum revolver fooling around with the prop handgun between takes playing “Russian Roulette”. Apparently Mr Hexum was unaware of the power of a blank shot discharge & died six day later from the paper cartridge having entered his brain.

    At the time this happened O’Neill was renting a co-workers house at 222 Hilgard Avenue in Westwood. Recall show publicly photo taken in the house with O’Neill’s collection of crystal animals behind her.

    • I believe I wrote about Mr. Hexum in one of my posts, Matt. I can never comprehend fully how some individuals are content to play bravado games and put their lives at risk. He was just one of several entertainers to lose their lives fooling about with guns. Jennifer certainly was stunning but troubled. I hope her lifestyle has settled down at last.

  5. I had just flown in from Korea, after spending 13 months at an isolated Korean Air Force Base.

    I went to see this movie the same day I got back to the States. I went with with an old flame, and was so tired that I went to sleep with my arm around her shoulder.

    Every time I hear the theme song I think about this!

  6. I normally hate sex scenes but the one in ’42 was touching. She was seeking comfort in her grief, never mind he was just 16!

    • Based on a real life encounter, there is a certain poignancy about this film, hence the cult following, Sonja. I enjoyed it. It made you wonder about what may have followed.

  7. I happened by chance to visit Mendocino California when it was being filmed there. Saw no action but store windows were styled for 40’s.

  8. I was that age when the movie came out. The theme song still ignites a certain twinge and seeing her face and figure still takes my breath.

    • There was something about Jennifer that stirred the imagination of young boys and men. It probably had a lot to do with the theme of this movie, but she was certainly a very appealing young woman.

  9. I think Michel Legrand wrote the theme song. I saw the movie at the theater (where all movies should be seen) when I was eighteen. I went with a group of close friends. For some as of yet unexplained reason, I blacked out during the sex scene. My only memory of the film is of the beach and the ocean. I remember thinking, when I’m older. I’d love to buy some property there. I also blacked put a year later while watching Last Tango In Paris, for an entirely known reason which I shan’t describe here. Hint: I was on a date, with an eager boyfriend. As Dory Previn once said, “I guess two in a row tends to constitute a hang-up, but there it is. ” Whatever became of Gary Grimes?

    • Ha! I must admit that I only ever spotted ‘Last Tango in Paris’on TV, and I lasted about 40 minutes. I found it incredibly boring. A whole lot of nothing. As for Gary Grimes, I have not the faintest idea what became of him, Max. Sorry, can’t help you, mate.

  10. Alan, Hermie is now 90 and lives in Connecticut, I have his address. The real Dorothy would be 96 my guess. Whether she has passed or not would not prevent the story from being told, it is a matter of records and data trails and connecting the dots. BUT it would be very time consuming and expensive and would require someone who has the desire to do this. If I could afford this I could and would do this.

    • Thankyou for getting back to me, Doug. I, too, would love to have the time and money to pursue this, but as you may know, I am a pensioner who lives in Fremantle, Western Australia, the equivilant of the dark side of the moon compared to Connecticut or Ohio. It would be wonderful if someone reading these messages, someone with the time, money and desire to follow up, would put his or her hand up. We can only hope, I guess.

    • I visited Nantucket back in the 80’s (as an adult 🙂 and found it very quaint. Back in 1942/1943, I have to imagine that it was even less populated and busy. If she sold that house in 1942 – 1943, how many were sold on that island then. I’m wondering that it probably couldn’t have been more than a dozen or so. That might be a good place to look for clues. How many of the houses sold then, were by the family of a recently deceased WWII soldier? That could likely get a name and maybe forwarding address. After that, how many of them went on to get married and move to Canton OH? Even if it was 25-30 that year, that amount of sales could all be investigated. I’m under the impression that house sales data is publicly available. I wonder if anyone here get s to the island regularly or lives there? Just some thoughts.

      • That is an intriguing idea, Mike. Hopefully, someone reading your comments (who happens to reside in the US in these COVID-restricted times) might have the time and inclination to investigate the story from the angle you suggest. The lady in question is probably no longer with us, but it would be great to put a face and name to her. Thankyou for your most fascinating comments.

  11. Thank you for sharing. I personally spoke with Herman Raucher several years ago and he seemed unmotivated in finding her, to my surprise. It would also be strange if she did not reveal herself to someone before leaving this world. But, somewhere there is a paper trail connecting her to a army airman who died over France in 1942. And somewhere there are records of that marriage , as well as records of her likely Canton OH marriage In 1943 she would have been listed under her airman husband’s name. You would heed to hit the old records in the Canton Library history city directories 1942 thru 1971 on the 2 women you suspect, Finding her is a matter of connecting old government records. Living in Canto puts you in the gates.

      • Sorry Alan Royle, I meant to say if the man from Canton could post the last names of the 2 women he suspects of being the real Dorothy, I could check it against a database I found. It would be just a starting point. Also I might note that Herman Raucher told me that there have been some professional investigators that tried to find her and could not. IMO they didn’t have the funding or the will to find her. The key to finding her would be finding a listing of all army airman who died in the second half of 1942 with a mailing address on Nantucket given that Dorothy was sent a Western Union notice to that address (the Army would have had that address listed there). The Army would also have received a forwarding mailing address after she left the island. My experience in researching my dad in world war II is that there is lots of information out there, but it is tedious finding it.

        • The biggest problem, of course, is that all that happened well over 70 years ago. Dorothy, should she still be living, would be well into her nineties. The window is rapidly closing. It may already be closed. It also sounds as if Mr Raucher has given up the ghost too. It is an intriguing tale, however. Thankyou for contacting me, Doug. Much appreciated.

  12. I think I may know who this woman may have been. I worked with a woman by the name of Dorothy in Canton, Ohio. She was a war widow but had remarried and had one child. She was quiet and somewhat secretive. She was attractive but mysterious as well. I often thought of her but who knows, maybe she was not the one, but the only thing I do know was that she was not a grandmother in 1983, so perhaps it was not her. There was another Dorothy who was a math teacher for North Canton, Ohio schools. She was a beautiful and kind woman, she too had been a war widow because she told us about some of her husband’s adventures but she had a slight stroke and I had her for Math in 1972 and she was unable to speak that well. It was like bell’s palsy or something similar. She was about 5′ 7″ tall maybe taller but I do remember her as always being very well dressed. I do not know if she had grandchildren in 1971-1972 because I do not recall her mentioning them. But I believe she had been to Europe. Also, she resembled the Dorothy in the movie somewhat as she had beautiful eyes and high cheekbones, but taller perhaps. Who knows.

    • Thank you for sharing those thoughts with me. You may well be right about either woman, although the war created an awful lot of widows and, no doubt, many of them were both beautiful and kind. I doubt if we will ever know her true identity at this late stage, but who knows? Thanks again.

  13. One of the most interesting (and odd) things about the Summer of 42 movie is (to me)
    that no one who was involved with the movie or anyone else for that matter , ever made the effort to find the real Dorothy from the movie. Any good researcher could have been hired to do so.

    • I don’t think the boy ever learned her surname, but surely someone in the town would have known it. I agree with you, it should not have been too difficult to locate her if an effort had been made. Pity.

  14. Probably the best decision in the making of “Summer of 42” was choosing Jennifer ( Who stole every young guy’s heart & Never gave it back ) Over Barbra Streisand ,Who is Fantastic in every way , But couldn’t have done what the Sweet, Beautiful, All- American girl Jennifer O’Neill did , in only 12 minutes with Dorothy ……..

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