Friday, June 12, 2015

Gidget (1959)

She acts sort of teenaged, just in-between age,
looks about four foot three.
Although she's just small fry, just about so high,
Gidget is the one for me.

I discovered Gidget last year. I had seen the 1965 TV show starring Sally Field, which I loved, and decided to see what the movie was like. Best decision I ever made.

Gidget is based on the 1957 novel by Frederick Kohner. The book was based on his daughter Kathy's love of surfing. In 1959, it was made into a film starring Sandra Dee as Frances Lawrence "Gidget."

Click here for an interview with Kathy Kohner and here for a review of Gidget with an awesome photo of the real Gidget with the movie Gidget!

Gidget is the story of a girl who "grows up" over the course of the summer. The film begins with Gidget and her friends going on a man-hunt at the beach. Unfortunately, the boys pay no attention to the girls. All they are interested in is surfing. Gidget doesn't mind though - she didn't want to go anyway. She just wants to be able to hang out with the guys and have fun. She purchases a surfboard and learns to surf - by reading a book! The boys give her the nickname "Gidget" - "girl" and "midget."

Gidget eventually develops a crush on one of the surfers, Moondoggie (James Darren). Since he doesn't seem to be interested in her - all he's interested in is becoming a beach bum like the Kahuna (Cliff Robertson) - Gidget sets out to make him jealous. The plan works, but Gidget is involved in a "beach brawl" and her social life is put in her parents power. Her father sets her up on a date with a co-workers son, Jeffrey Matthews. He turns out to be none other than Moondoggie. In the end, Moondoggie decides the life of a beach bum isn't for him and goes back to college, not before asking Gidget to wear his pin though! And the Kahuna... well, he gets a job too, as an airline pilot. The point to take away from the movie - "A real woman brings out the best in a man." To read a better description of the film, click here.

There are a lot of things that make me love this film: the characters, the music, the clothes, the location - it all comes together to make a delightful film. My only regret is that I didn't discover it sooner!

Sandra Dee plays Gidget, or, as the picture above states, IS Gidget. Don't get me wrong, I love Sally Field as Gidget too but she's a... "different" Gidget. But seriously, Sandra Dee is adorable. I love her dresses and bathing suits (three of which can be seen in the first picture). I wish girls still dressed like that! Here are some of the dreamy dresses she gets to wear:

"You look like you're out to hook some guy."

This one is gorgeous! 

 And I LOVE these babydoll pajamas!!

One of the other girls wearing a Rose Marie Reid bathing suit.

The character of Moondoggie is played by newcomer James Darren. They originally wanted Elvis for the role but he was too expensive. I can't even imagine the film with him! Darren had to record a record to prove he could sing. He sings twice in the movie - the title song and the one below:
"The Next Best Thing to Love" was featured in an episode of The Donna Reed Show prior to the release of Gidget so that Darren would be a little more known and a bigger box-office draw. You can watch the episode on Hulu (free with trial). In another episode, he plays a different character, and someone asks him to sing  a few bars of "Gidget." He doesn't but I thought it was funny that they mentioned it. 

Cliff Robertson plays the Great Kahuna (real name Burt Vail). I love him in this film (literally). He plays a "Korean War Air Force veteran twice the age of Gidget who was fed up with all the rules he had to live by when he flew combat missions and dropped out of normal society. He travels the hemisphere surfing with his pet bird. Kahuna and Gidget enjoy each other's company with Gidget questioning how he can survive an aimless and lonely existence without a job. She questions whether if Kahuna knew then what he knew now would he still make the same lifestyle choice after leaving the Air Force. Kahuna later reflects on Gidget's words after the death of his only friend, the pet bird." source

Cliff Robertson is the perfect "kind" surf bum. His pet name for Gidget - Angel.

The Four Preps, who sing the title song, also sing a song at the big Luau. It's a catchy song called "Cinderella" and I'm sure they were a big draw to the film.

One more character I want to mention is Mary LaRoche, who plays Gidget's mother. She is beautiful and looks like she could really be Sandra Dee's mother.


In the TV show starring Sally Field, the main relationship isn't really between Gidget and Moondoggie, but Gidget and her father, a widower (played by Don Porter). Arthur O'Connell, who plays Gidget's father in the movie, doesn't have that special bond with his daughter. It's the mother/daughter relationship that is more prominent as she gives kind advice to her worried teenage mom. Just listening to her soothing voice makes you think that everything is going to be okay (love-wise).

Though originally filmed in Cinemascope, both the DVD and VHS have the full screen version.
Hopefully it will be released in Cinemascope one day.

The DVD comes with two sequels: Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Gidget Goes to Rome. The actress who plays Gidget is different in each one (Don Porter plays the dad in the third one). The only consistent character is James Darren as Moondoggie. The only reason I like Gidget Goes Hawaiian is that it has Michael Callan in it. He is adorable!

Right here is when I fell in love.

Deborah Walley, however, is a really annoying Gidget. She treats Moondoggie terribly! And I would like to say, NEVER, NEVER watch Gidget Goes to Rome. That is however long that movie was that I will never get back. The plot was SOOOO stupid! I had read somewhere online that anyone who loves Gidget should not watch it but I watched it anyway because of Don Porter. What a mistake!

Getting ready for a shot.

Sandra Dee with her dog on the set.

Gidget is an important film because it basically launched the beach party movie genre (as well as the Teen movie genre) and started the surfing craze. Everyone wanted to be Gidget! And it still hasn't lost it's appeal. Every time I've watched it (and that has been several times already even though I've only known about it about a year) I want to move out to California, learn to surf (after I learn to swim of course), and wear cute outfits like Gidget. Like Gidget says, "It's the absolute ultimate!"

Ad for Gidget. Dee is wearing a bathing suit from A Summer Place (1959).

This post is part of the Beach Party Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Be sure and check out all of the "ultimate" entries here!!

All images found via Pinterest and here.


  1. It is delightful, and no wonder it helped kick off the whole surfing craze. I like all the details you included about the book and background, and all these great photos! Thanks so much for taking part in this event.

    1. Thanks!! I could have included more photos (like, the whole movie) but I had to restrain myself haha. Thanks for reading!!

  2. Gidget's wardrobe is adorable! Sadly, this is a film I've not seen, but your rave review has prompted me to put it on my Must Watch Urgently list. :)

    Thanks for bringing Gidget to the Beach Party blogathon!

    1. Yay!! It's a movie I could watch any time. I've watched it 5 times I think since I "discovered" it last year :)

      Thanks for hosting!

  3. I'll be dreaming about Cliff Robertson tonight!

  4. I enjoyed reading your review about Gidget. I have never seen a Gidget movie, and you made me want to see one. I didn't realize Gidget movies were the beginning of the surfer movies and surfing craze. I love all the background information you included, too. Thanks so much for all of the information and recommendation!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! You definitely need to watch it!!! Let me know how you like it! :)

  5. I don't know that it "started the teen movie genre" (I mean, Andy Hardy was already a staple by then, as were several other popular films we'd now call "teen movies") but Gidget is indeed among the best of the classic ones. It's a shame Sandra Dee didn't come back for the sequels and that they didn't continue in the tradition of the first. I guess the issue is, where do you go with the story after how the original ended? Everyone grew up. It'd be hard to go back after that. Maybe they should have just left well-enough alone.

    1. I probably wouldn't have said that if I was writing it today - with the amount of films I've seen in the past two years - but I do feel like entire families would have been more likely to go see the Andy Hardy movies than Gidget.

      Thanks for reading!