‘Marjorie Morningstar’ included scenes at a fictional Camp Tamarack

Marjorie Morningstar is a 1958 film based on a 1955 novel by Herman Wouk.

While the film only features about two minutes of actual footage at a kid’s summer camp – Camp Cayuga in Schroon Lake, N.Y., was used for the fictional Camp Tamarack – the central plot of the film unfolds while its main character is supposed to be working as a drama counselor at Tamarack.

Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) begins the film as a student at Hunter College in New York and is dating a young man her parents adore from her synagogue. But she disappoints them when she rebuffs her boyfriend’s marriage proposal and accepts her college friend Marsha Zalenko’s offer “to see what life is really like” at a “little girls camp right across the lake from a camp with big boys.”

After being at Camp Tamarack for a few weeks, Marsha finally convinces the chaste Marjorie to sneak out with her one night to visit South Wind, the adult resort across the lake. Once there, Marjorie meets entertainer Noel Airman (Gene Kelly) who sticks up for her when she gets caught by the resort’s owner as she’s waiting by the canoe for Marsha. It’s never really clear whether Marjorie or Marsha ever end up going back to Tamarack since we never see the camp again but we do see them working as cleaning ladies at South Wind.

From there, the film becomes a classic story of girl meets boy 14 years her senior her parents don’t approve of but falls in love anyway and can’t seem to shake him. The only other reference to Camp Tamarack comes at the end when the camp song is playing as the soundtrack for Marjorie’s return to South Wind. Though not a big hit in the box office (Natalie Wood’s IMDB bio refers to the film as a flop), it did inspire a remake attempt in 2004 starring Scarlett Johannson that was later abandoned.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

8 Comments

  1. It was fabulous seeing that particular section of the movie, as I was a camper at Cayuga during the filming. Great to see friends that I still meet every 4 to 6 weeks.

  2. I was there for the filming which was shot in the boys side of the camp and since it was supposed to be a girls camp, we were hidden away. The things I remember were how nice Ed Wynn was and how Robert Wagner (who was not in the film) followed Natalie around like a bad smell.
    Gary Mandel

  3. I was one of the little girls standing in front off Natalie. I drive my kids nuts with the movie. I don’t think any of them watch the whole movie. I bring out the movie when they had friends over and they had to watch it.haha

    1. Hi Rene, I am sure you do not remember me. , I occasional converse with your sister Sharron and we had lunch at Pitkins in Schroon Lake a little over a year ago. Donna also came with
      Gary (Gus) Mandel

  4. I have pictures of Robert Wagner in a car waiting for his girl friend Natalie and my my girl friend Marjorie kestenblatt from Rochester is at the table singig. Great memories

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