I recently returned from a trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, but before I went I purposely watched Gidget Goes to Rome (1963) with Cindy Carol to get a feel for what I was in store for in the Eternal City. This was the third in the series that began with Sandra Dee in Gidget (1959) followed by Deborah Walley in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961). Walley should have starred in Rome, but her pregnancy prevented her from taking the role. For me that was a good thing because I found her to be the most whiny and annoying of the bunch. No one can match the sweet vulnerability Sandra Dee first brought to the role, but Cindy Carol makes a good effort and is quite likable.

All three movies co-star handsome clean-cut James Darren as Moondoggie. He charming in all three and looks good in everything from swim trunks to butt hugging chinos to suits! that he wears touring in Italy. A really good actor that deserved meatier roles though I  really like him in these Gidget movies and the two he did with Pamela Tiffin in 1964 – For Those Who Think Young and The Lively Set.

Cindy Carol was appearing as a regular on The New Loretta Young Show under her real name of Carol Sydes when she got the call that she beat out many other starlets including Elvis co-star Laurel Goodwin to be the new Gidget. She had to be released from the TV series (it was cancelled shortly after) and had to sign a contract with Columbia Pictures, which stipulated a name change hence Cindy Carol. Regarding his casting choice, producer Jerry Bresler remarked in Photoplay, “Cindy isn’t the typical kind of beauty, is she?  But she is exactly what Gidget is supposed to be—a girl every girl loves to have as a friend, a girl every boy loves to be with.”

In Gidget Goes to Rome (1963), the surfing sweetie never touches a surf board as she and her friends (wise-cracking Trudi Ames and man-hungry Noreen Corcoran of Bachelor Father fame) leave the sunny shores of Southern California for a vacation in Rome with her boyfriend Jeff/Moondoggie (James Darren) and two college buddies (joker Joby Baker and studious Peter Brooks).  Of course romantic complications quickly ensue as Gidget falls for older suave journalist Paolo Cellini (Cesar Danova) unaware that he is married (to a stunning Lisa Gastoni and has a brood of bratty kids) and secretly befriended Gidget as a favor to her father to make sure she keeps out of trouble. Meanwhile Jeff becomes infatuated with tour guide Daniela Serrini (Danielle de Metz).  The two then try to make each other jealous before taking a more mature approach and allow each other to see other people. You know how that will turn out. Of course, by the end of the film, after the viewer is treated to some spectacular shots of Rome, Gidget and Moondoggie are reunited and head home together but a bit sadder as both their hearts were broken by their Italian loves.

Even though there is no surfing in Gidget Goes to Rome (except for some brief shots on the beach at the beginning) I really like this movie. Carol and Darren have nice chemistry and it is refreshing that the 3rd wheels in their relationships are not villains but likable people. Joby Baker and Trudi Ames deliver their wisecracks as pros. Funniest bits are when Gidget gets mistaken for a high fashion model and is glammed up before being sent down the runway causing a melee and every time Jessie Royce Landis appears on screen as Baker’s eccentric Aunt who has the hots for Moondoggie. Who doesn’t!?! Her come-ons are quite amusing and a nice surprise for a Gidget movie, as is the adult manner in which it handles Gidget’s discovery of Paolo’s marriage and Daniela’s rejection of Moondoggie.



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  • John Black

    I hope you watched the recently remastered version of GIDGET GOES TO ROME that aired on TCM, properly letterboxed and with eye-popping color. That new transfer (which I hope shows up as a Columbia Classics MOD disc someday) puts the older version to shame.

    Sandra Dee was the sweetest of all the Gidgets. What’s the story about why she didn’t star in GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN? Deborah Walley gets major points from me for doing a lot of her own surfing. She was one of the few Gidgets who could actually surf.

    • Yes, I DVRed it off TCM and it looked magnificent. Sandra Dee didn’t do Gidget Goes to Rome because she was under contract to Universal Pictures and they wanted her to take over for Debbie Reynolds as Tammy in the 2 sequels.

      Yes, I do give Deborah Walley kudos for her surfing ability. Dee barely could hold the board let alone really surf.

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