Gidget


1h 35m 1959
Gidget

Brief Synopsis

A young girl dreams of winning acceptance from a gang of surfers.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Release Date
Apr 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 22 Apr 1959
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Gidget by Frederick Kohner (New York, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (ColumbiaColor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Francie Lawrence, a tomboy nearing her seventeenth birthday, is chided by her girl friends for her lack of interest in the opposite sex. To insure that Francie does not become a "social outcast," her friends take her to the beach on a "manhunt." When Francie decides she would rather go swimming than flirt with the surfers, however, her friends leave in disgust. While paddling out to sea, Francie becomes caught in a bed of kelp, prompting Moondoggie, one of the surfers, to free her and give her a ride back to shore on his surfboard. Thrilled by the sensation of riding a wave, she decides to become a surfer, even though the boys deride the diminutive Francie as a "gidget," a girl midget. At home, Francie begs her doting father Russell for $21.50 to buy a used surfboard, and Russell gives her the money as an early birthday present. Francie hurries back to the beach to buy her board and there meets Kahoona, an unemployed surf bum idolized by all the younger surfers. When Francie questions Kahoona's lack of ambition, he explains that after flying fighter planes during the Korean War, he became disenchanted by the rules and regulations of society and opted for the life of a surf bum. Later, Moondoggie tells Kahoona that he wants to follow him in his search for the endless wave rather than return to college, the path favored by his father, a successful businessman. That night, Francie asks her mother if there is something wrong with her because she is not interested in dating, prompting her mother to assure Francie that "one day the magic will strike." At the beach the next day, Kahoona dubs Francie their mascot. For her initiation right, the surfers order her to dive repeatedly into the kelp bed. When she becomes twisted in the kelp and fails to surface, Moondoggie rescues her once again. Woozy from the incident, Francie is confined to bed and diagnosed with tonsillitis. In a fever-induced dream, she sees Moondoggie, and upon awakening, tells her mother that she "has found the one." Although told that she must stay in bed for two weeks, Francie uses the time to refine her surfing techniques by jumping up and down on the mattress. One month after returning to the beach, Francie becomes a full-fledged surfer when she rides a wave in with the rest of the gang. Moondoggie hugs her in congratulations, but when his girl friend appears, he loses all interest in Francie. Upon learning that a luau will be held at the beach to cap the end of summer, Francie longs to attend, even though the others think that she is too young for the wild party. To attract Moondoggie's attention, Francie offers to pay Hot Shot, one of the surfers, to take her to the luau, explaining that she wants to make someone jealous. Hot Shot agrees on the condition that he not be required to pick her up and that Francie wins Kahoona's permission to attend. When Francie bribes Kahoona by promising to bring him some steaks, he jovially accepts her offer, but his mood quickly changes after he enters his hut and finds that his beloved pet bird has died. Sensing Kahoona's loneliness, Francie asks if he longs to return to the time before he became a surf bum. On the night of the luau, Francie's father is shocked that her date is not going to pick her up and forbids her to go. Running out of the house in defiance, Francie drives to the beach café where she is to meet Hot Shot and is surprised to find Moondoggie waiting for her. Moondoggie explains that Hot Shot had a previous engagement and turned the job over to him. Upon reaching the luau, Moondoggie asks whom Francie is trying to make jealous, and she lies that it is Kahoona. At midnight, the end of Moondoggie's "shift," Francie, upset, abruptly leaves and Kahoona asks her for a ride to the beach shack he has borrowed for the night. Although Moondoggie protests, Francie drives off with Kahoona and asks to spend the night with him. Soon after they leave, Francie's parents come to the luau and learn that their daughter has driven off with an older man. At the beach house, Francie, pretending to be sophisticated, tries to seduce Kahoona, and he plays along with her bluff until he finds himself attracted to her and orders her to leave. As Francie runs out the back door to her car, Moondoggie arrives at the front door and punches Kahoona. Just then the police, summoned by a nosy neighbor, arrive and break up the fight. Kahoona then tells Moondoggie to return to college and warns him that he lacks the affinity for the life of a vagabond. Soon after leaving the shack, Francie's car has a flat tire and the police pick her up for questioning. At the police station, Francie's parents are frantic with worry when the officers bring her in. The next day at home, when Francie frets that she will never be a real woman, her mother comforts her with the homily that "a real woman brings out the best in a man." Frustrated by his daughter's antics, Russell insists that Francie go out on a date with Jeffrey Mathews, the son of a business colleague. When Jeffrey comes to pick her up, Francie is shocked to discover that Jeffrey Mathews is Moondoggie's real name. Moondoggie drives to the beach to take one last look before returning to college, and there they find Kahoona tearing down his hut. When Francie finds a newly issued pilot's license with Kahoona's photo bearing the name Burt Vail, she realizes that he has decided to return to a life of responsibility. Later, after kissing Francie, Moondoggie gives her his fraternity pin.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Release Date
Apr 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 22 Apr 1959
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Gidget by Frederick Kohner (New York, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (ColumbiaColor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Gidget


The coming-of-age teen movie has been a part of American pop culture for decades, bridging generation gaps through the shared experience of growing up. The locations and time period might be different, but the theme was always the same: awkward youth on the threshold of adulthood. Gidget (1959), directed by Paul Wendkos, remains a classic of the sun and surf genre that preceded the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello Beach Party films of the 1960s. In it, Hollywood's wholesome teen icon, Sandra Dee, plays the gawky 16-year-old tomboy Frances Lawrence. Nicknamed "Gidget" by the local surfers to indicate a cross between a girl and a midget due to her slight stature, she's more interested in learning to surf with the guys than in dating them. That is, until she meets Moondoggie (James Darren), one of the surfers who's trying to decide between a life of being a beach bum like his older pal Kahuna (Cliff Robertson) or going on to college in the fall.

1959 was a big year for Sandra Dee, the perky ingenue born Alexandra Zuck. In addition to Gidget, she also appeared in two other big films that year - as Lana Turner's daughter in the Douglas Sirk melodrama Imitation of Life, and as Molly, the female lead opposite Troy Donahue in the sexually charged A Summer Place. The success of these movies solidified Dee's status as one of the screen's most promising young actresses.

James Darren (Moondoggie) had been a student of respected acting coach Stella Adler. Like Dee, he too was considered a rising young talent at the time of Gidget's release. Also a singer, Darren lent his vocal talents to Gidget, crooning the theme song and "The Next Best Thing to Love." He went on to record such top-40 hits as "Goodbye Cruel World" and "Her Royal Majesty" later in his career.

Gidget was based on the popular novel of the same name by Frederick Kohner, who based the title character on the adventures of his own daughter, Kathy. The book was adapted for the screen by Gabrielle Upton. But no one could have guessed what a phenomenon Gidget would become. It spawned two film sequels (Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) and Gidget Goes Hawaiian, 1961), two television series (Gidget (1965-66) and The New Gidget, 1986), and several TV movies along the way. Sandra Dee did not reprise her role in any of the sequels, though co-star James Darren portrayed Moondoggie twice more in Gidget Goes to Rome and Gidget Goes Hawaiian. Unknown teenage actress Sally Field made a name for herself as the bubbly surfer girl in the original 1960s TV show. Field, of course, went on to a major acting career that included two Academy Awards for her work in Norma Rae (1979) and Places in the Heart (1984).

Sandra Dee, the original movie Gidget, married pop idol Bobby Darin at the peak of her career in 1960. Though she continued to make movies including two of the Tammy films made popular by Debbie Reynolds and three movies with her husband, her career soon fizzled. When she divorced Darin in 1967, she found that there were few roles at the time for a divorced 26-year-old mother who was used to playing the wholesome role of America's teenaged sweetheart. James Darren went on to co-star in the hit 1980s television show T.J. Hooker, while Cliff Robertson won an Academy Award as Best Actor for the 1968 film Charly.

Producer: Lewis J. Rachmil
Director: Paul Wendkos
Screenplay: Frederick Kohner (book Gidget), Gabrielle Upton
Art Direction: Ross Bellah
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Film Editing: William A. Lyon
Original Music: Fred Karger, Stanley Styne
Cast: Sandra Dee (Gidget), Cliff Robertson (The Big Kahuna), James Darren (Moondoggie), Arthur O'Connell (Russell Lawrence), Mary LaRoche (Dorothy Lawrence), Joby Baker (Stinky), Tom Laughlin (Lover Boy), Jo Morrow (Mary Lou).
C-96m. Letterboxed.

by Andrea Foshee

Gidget

Gidget

The coming-of-age teen movie has been a part of American pop culture for decades, bridging generation gaps through the shared experience of growing up. The locations and time period might be different, but the theme was always the same: awkward youth on the threshold of adulthood. Gidget (1959), directed by Paul Wendkos, remains a classic of the sun and surf genre that preceded the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello Beach Party films of the 1960s. In it, Hollywood's wholesome teen icon, Sandra Dee, plays the gawky 16-year-old tomboy Frances Lawrence. Nicknamed "Gidget" by the local surfers to indicate a cross between a girl and a midget due to her slight stature, she's more interested in learning to surf with the guys than in dating them. That is, until she meets Moondoggie (James Darren), one of the surfers who's trying to decide between a life of being a beach bum like his older pal Kahuna (Cliff Robertson) or going on to college in the fall. 1959 was a big year for Sandra Dee, the perky ingenue born Alexandra Zuck. In addition to Gidget, she also appeared in two other big films that year - as Lana Turner's daughter in the Douglas Sirk melodrama Imitation of Life, and as Molly, the female lead opposite Troy Donahue in the sexually charged A Summer Place. The success of these movies solidified Dee's status as one of the screen's most promising young actresses. James Darren (Moondoggie) had been a student of respected acting coach Stella Adler. Like Dee, he too was considered a rising young talent at the time of Gidget's release. Also a singer, Darren lent his vocal talents to Gidget, crooning the theme song and "The Next Best Thing to Love." He went on to record such top-40 hits as "Goodbye Cruel World" and "Her Royal Majesty" later in his career. Gidget was based on the popular novel of the same name by Frederick Kohner, who based the title character on the adventures of his own daughter, Kathy. The book was adapted for the screen by Gabrielle Upton. But no one could have guessed what a phenomenon Gidget would become. It spawned two film sequels (Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) and Gidget Goes Hawaiian, 1961), two television series (Gidget (1965-66) and The New Gidget, 1986), and several TV movies along the way. Sandra Dee did not reprise her role in any of the sequels, though co-star James Darren portrayed Moondoggie twice more in Gidget Goes to Rome and Gidget Goes Hawaiian. Unknown teenage actress Sally Field made a name for herself as the bubbly surfer girl in the original 1960s TV show. Field, of course, went on to a major acting career that included two Academy Awards for her work in Norma Rae (1979) and Places in the Heart (1984). Sandra Dee, the original movie Gidget, married pop idol Bobby Darin at the peak of her career in 1960. Though she continued to make movies including two of the Tammy films made popular by Debbie Reynolds and three movies with her husband, her career soon fizzled. When she divorced Darin in 1967, she found that there were few roles at the time for a divorced 26-year-old mother who was used to playing the wholesome role of America's teenaged sweetheart. James Darren went on to co-star in the hit 1980s television show T.J. Hooker, while Cliff Robertson won an Academy Award as Best Actor for the 1968 film Charly. Producer: Lewis J. Rachmil Director: Paul Wendkos Screenplay: Frederick Kohner (book Gidget), Gabrielle Upton Art Direction: Ross Bellah Cinematography: Burnett Guffey Film Editing: William A. Lyon Original Music: Fred Karger, Stanley Styne Cast: Sandra Dee (Gidget), Cliff Robertson (The Big Kahuna), James Darren (Moondoggie), Arthur O'Connell (Russell Lawrence), Mary LaRoche (Dorothy Lawrence), Joby Baker (Stinky), Tom Laughlin (Lover Boy), Jo Morrow (Mary Lou). C-96m. Letterboxed. by Andrea Foshee

Sandra Dee, 1944-2005


For a brief, quicksilver period of the early '60s, Sandra Dee was the quintessential sweet, perky, All-American girl, and films such as Gidget and Tammy Tell Me True only reinforced the image that young audiences identified with on the screen. Tragically, Ms. Dee died on February 20 at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. She had been hospitalized for the last two weeks for treatment of kidney disease, and had developed pneumonia. She was 60.

She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin.

Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide.

Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart.

Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years.

The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977).

Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia.

by Michael T. Toole

Sandra Dee, 1944-2005

For a brief, quicksilver period of the early '60s, Sandra Dee was the quintessential sweet, perky, All-American girl, and films such as Gidget and Tammy Tell Me True only reinforced the image that young audiences identified with on the screen. Tragically, Ms. Dee died on February 20 at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. She had been hospitalized for the last two weeks for treatment of kidney disease, and had developed pneumonia. She was 60. She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin. Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide. Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart. Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years. The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977). Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Honest to goodness it's the absolute ultimate!
- Gidget
"You better get out of the sun before you melt."
- Gidget
Surfing is out of this world. You can't imagine the thrill of the shooting the curl. It positively surpasses every living emotion I've ever had.
- Gidget

Trivia

Notes

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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

First film in the "Gidget" series.

CinemaScope

Released in United States 1959