In my current seven-day-a-week job, I barely even notice when Friday arrives—but when I was in early grade school, Fridays were almost unspeakably wonderful. Not only did Friday signal the beginning of a two-day period during which I wouldn’t have to attend the school I so detested (I detested all of them, until college), the last couple of hours of the day were taken up by film-watching. This being the early 80s and my school being Catholic, we watched actual films run through a projector. I vividly remember sitting on the carpet, leaning back on my hands, and having a feeling that in adult life is most often associated with happy hour. I enjoyed all the films we watched, but one film became perhaps the single most searingly memorable film-watching experience of my life.
It was All Summer in a Day, a 1982 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s 1954 short story. The story is set on Venus—a version of Venus that’s inhabitable by humans, but where it constantly rains except for one hour every seven years. In the story, a class of children prepare to enjoy their rare hour of sunlight; particularly excited is young Margot, who was born on Earth and remembers a world where the sun shone every day. Just as the sun comes out, though, the children shove Margot into a dark closet, where she remains tragically trapped while her classmates cavort in the sun.
S. Murdock Donaldson’s screenplay expands on the very short story, and makes it slightly less bleak. Though the essential fact of Margot missing the sun remains, in director Ed Kaplan’s film the burden of guilt falls heavily on one particular bully—rather than being equally shared by the entire class—and there’s a scene of atonement at the end, where the children present Margot with flowers they gathered in a sunny field.
The entire 25-minute film is now available on YouTube, and I just watched it for the first time since I sat in that school basement in Duluth almost 30 years ago. My first surprise was that the main character is a girl—I’d always remembered the character as having been a boy. Having been bullied myself, I think that I so strongly identified with the character that, in my mind, she became a boy like me. In the wake of Ray Bradbury’s recent death, I decided to contact the actress who starred in the film and ask her to share her memories.