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A Summer Story is a British drama film released in 1988. Directed by Piers Haggard, with a script written by Penelope Mortimer. It stars James Wilby, Imogen Stubbs, and Susannah York.[2] In 1904, a young gentleman visiting a rural area has an intense love affair with a village girl. Eighteen years later, he is passing that way again. The film is based on the John Galsworthy story The Apple Tree.

A Summer Story
Directed byPiers Haggard
Produced byDanton Rissner
Written byJohn Galsworthy
Penelope Mortimer
Screenplay byPenelope Mortimer
StarringJames Wilby
Imogen Stubbs
Susannah York
Kenneth Colley
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyKenneth MacMillan
Edited byRalph Sheldon
Distributed byAtlantic Entertainment Group[1]
Release date
  • 11 August 1988 (1988-08-11) (New York City New York)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


In the summer of 1904 Frank Ashton, an educated young man from London, is on a walking holiday in Devon with a friend. When he falls and twists his ankle, Ashton is helped at a nearby farmhouse and stays there for a few days to recover, while his friend goes on. Ashton quickly falls for the village girl who looks after him, Megan David, and she falls in love with him, to the great distress of her cousin Joe Narracombe, who wants her for himself. Ashton and Megan spend several nights together, and after that he takes the train to a seaside town to cash a cheque at a bank, promising to return the next morning and take Megan away with him and marry her.

On arrival in the town, Ashton finds a branch of his bank, but it will not cash his cheque, insisting on first contacting his branch in London. While he is delayed, Ashton meets an old school friend, staying at a local hotel with his three sisters, of whom the oldest is Stella Halliday. Thanks to the bank's delays, he misses the train he needed to catch to make his rendezvous with Megan. During the day that follows, he spends more time with his friend and his sisters, and while Stella flirts with him he begins to have second thoughts about marrying Megan.

Megan then travels to the seaside town looking for Ashton, carrying her luggage for running away. He sees her on the beach and follows her into the town, but when she turns and catches a glimpse of him, he hides.

Eighteen years later, Ashton is married to Stella and they are motoring through Devon. They have no children. Ashton visits the farm where he seduced Megan and is recognized. He learns that Megan was heart-broken about losing him and also that she died soon after giving birth to a son, who she named "Francis", or Frank. He is taken to see Megan's grave, which is at the spot where they had first met. She had asked to be buried there, to wait for his return. In motoring away with Stella, Ashton passes his son, young Frank, who gives him a friendly wave.



In 1946 Jesse Jasky Jr announced he would make a film of the story from a script by De Witt Bodeen at RKO but none resulted.[3]

In 1969 Kenneth Hyman said he wanted to make his directorial debut with a film version of the story, which would be made for under $800,000. However no movie resulted.[4]

In 1971 Peter Bogdanovich said he had wanted to make a film of the story "since he was about 16".[5] He wanted to change the setting to Maine. "I feel more comfortable in an American setting," he said.[6]

Mortimer wrote the film script in the 1960s, when she was working as a screenwriter. "I took the money and ran and totally forgot about it," she said years later. "I couldn't remember a thing about it."[7]

Mortimer said "the last apple got written out [of the script] a week before shooting - it was the wrong time of year."[7]

Mortimer called the character of Frank Ashton "very much a Galsworth character, someone with the guilt of not living up to his own expectations. Such a bastard but with the best gentlemanly motives... such a yuppie. I'm sure there are still plenty of young men with their BMWs who act much the same way."[7]

Mortimer said the character of Megan was "a bit of a hoyden... pretty amoral really but with a lot of guts. And Imogen Stubbs... is sensational."[7]

Some changes were made to the original story including adding a sheep shearing party ("I thought something has to happen," says Mortimer) and having Megan and Frank make love resulting in Megan having a baby ("I don't know what Galsworthy would have thought," said Mortimer. "I was terribly anxious that the couple should never have it off. But oh no they had to have all those muscles writhing in the moonlight.")[7]

Despite being set on Dartmoor, the rural scenes were mostly filmed on Exmoor, specifically at Lyncombe Farm.[8]

Other scenes were filmed in Exeter, Dartmouth and Sidmouth.


  1. ^ a b A Summer Story company credits at The New York Times
  2. ^ A Summer Story at
  3. ^ RKO IN FILM DEAL WITH LASKY FIRM: Studio to Distribute Three of Latter's Productions in Next 18 Months- New York Times 17 Oct 1946: 35.
  4. ^ Kenneth Hyman Looks Back on Life of Studio Boss Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 3 Aug 1969: n1.
  5. ^ Director Bogdanovich Knows What's Up, Doc! Los Angeles Times 21 Nov 1971: x1.
  6. ^ Busy as a Bogdanovich New York Times 27 Feb 1972: D11
  7. ^ a b c d e Digging up history Brace, Marrianne. The Observer 23 Oct 1988: 37.
  8. ^ [1] at

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