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According to an April 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, Gidget was originally to be produced by Euterpe Productions, an independent production unit headed by Joe Pasternak and Sam Katz. At that time, Frederick Kohner, the author of the novel, was to write the screenplay. As noted in studio publicity materials contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, the character of "Gidget" was based on Kohner's teenage daughter, Kathy.
Sandra Dee was borrowed from Universal-International to appear as Gidget. Gidget was the first starring role for Dee, who became one of the most popular teenaged actresses of the late 1950s and early 1960s. According to modern sources, Miklos Dora appeared in the film as Darren's surfing double.
Columbia made two other films based on the character of Gidget: the 1961 production Gidget Goes Hawaiian, directed by Paul Wendkos and starring Deborah Walley in the title role, and the 1963 production Gidget Goes to Rome, also directed by Wendkos and starring Cindy Carol in the title role (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Although James Darren starred in both films, he did not reprise his character of "Moondoggie." Several television movies and two series were also based on the Gidget charcter. Among the best known is the ABC series Gidget, which ran from September 15, 1965 -September 1, 1966 and starred Sally Field as Gidget.
According to a June 17, 2006 Los Angeles Times article about Kathy Kohner, she remained a life-long surfer, staying active in the sport even into her mid-sixties. The article also noted, however, that for many years some surfers had resented her, feeling that the popularity of the film and television character she inspired brought too much attention to surfing, which many felt had been changed from a serious sport into a popular craze. The article continued that many surfing historians felt that popularity of Gidget was only one of several factors in the late 1950s and early 1960s that led to the larger interest in the sport.