Sporty, cheerful and squeaky-clean, Sandra Dee was the star of Gidget, the 1959 film that inspired a flurry of sun-and-fun surfing movies in the early 1960s. Dee began modelling at age 12 and by 1957 had made it into the movies in Hollywood. 1959 was her breakthrough year, with starring roles in the melodrama A Summer Place and the beach blanket romance Gidget, with Dee cast as a sweet-natured teen blonde adopted by a band of surfers. Gidget made Dee such a star that film critic Leonard Maltin later compared her popularity at the time to that of Britney Spears decades later. After Gidget, Dee moved on to perky roles in films like Tammy, Tell Me True (1961) and That Funny Feeling (1965). She married pop singer Bobby Darin in 1960, when Darin was 24 and Dee was 18. They had one son, Dodd, and were divorced in 1967. Her career went south at about the same time, and she was rarely a starring player thereafter. She appeared in a few TV movies throughout the 1970s (including the 1977 pilot for the series Fantasy Island, with Ricardo Montalban) and made her last feature appearance in the 1983 film Lost.
Dee’s straight-arrow wholesomeness was parodied in the song “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” in the play and movie Grease… Her co-star in Gidget was James Darren, as the surfer Moondoggie. The movie also inspired a TV series, which starred Sally Field as Gidget from 1965-66… Dee was played by Kate Bosworth in Kevin Spacey‘s 2004 biopic of Bobby Darin, Beyond the Sea… Dee’s year of birth is listed by many sources as 1942. According to a 2005 story in The New York Times, “her official age was obscured from early childhood, when her mother added two years to it.”
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